The CCWH English-Language Book Prize in Women's and Gender History is awarded every two years to the best book published in the field in the previous two years, in English. Books in Canadian history are eligible for the prize. Books in other national fields are also eligible for the prize, provided that their authors live and work in Canada.
Valerie Korinek. Prairie Fairies : A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018.
This year’s winner of the Canadian Committee’s Women’s and Gender History (CCWGH) Book Prize is Valerie Korinek’s Prairie Fairies: A History of Queer People and Communities in Western Canada, 1930-1985. The prize is awarded on a bi-annual basis to the best scholarly book published by a Canadian historian in women’s or gender history. Dr. Korinek’s book explores same-sex desire in five major western Canadian cities: Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg. Bringing together a rich collection of oral testimony and textual documents, Dr. Korinek paints a rich and sensitive portrait of the everyday lives, places, communities, and activist organizations of queer women and men. By historizing same-sex desire among women, Prairie Fairies fills a major gap in the field of Canadian women’s and gender history, as well as Canadian history more broadly. We congratulate Dr. Korinek on her important contribution.
Julie Guard. Radical Housewives: Price Wars and Food Politics in Mid-Twentieth-Century Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019.
Dr. Guard’s book examines the history of the Housewives Consumers Association (HCA), a national organization of activist consumers that advocated for fair pricing and a more responsive government when it came to the needs of working-and-middle class Canadians. Active from 1937 until the early 1950s, the HCA drew on maternalist rhetoric and leftist politics in the fight against food insecurity. Dr. Guard’s analysis provides important new insight into the interconnected ways in which direct action and women’s activism shaped broader societal debates about citizenship rights and the responsibilities of the state.
Christabelle Sethna and Steve Hewitt. Just Watch Us: RCMP Surveillance of the Women's Liberation Movement in Cold War Canada. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2018.
Drs. Sethna’s and Hewitt’s book draws on the surprisingly rich RCMP surveillance files regarding the women’s liberation movement in Canada. By contextualizing these files within the larger framework of the “red prism,” Drs. Sethna and Hewitt explore the nature of state surveillance during the Cold War and the particular ways that this impacted women’s organizations fighting against gender inequity. In a broader sense, their book makes clear the shocking extent to which women’s groups were watched, highlighting both the frustrating realities of state repression and the tremendous potential for resistance from those deemed politically dangerous.
Gail G. Campbell, ‘I Wish to Keep a Record’: Nineteenth-Century New Brunswick Women Diarists and Their World. University of Toronto Press, 2017.
Gail Campbell’s ‘I Wish to Keep a Record’ is a beautifully written and methodologically impressive analysis of 28 nineteenth-century New Brunswick women diarists over multiple generations. By examining broad themes in the life course of New Brunswick women, including dating, marriage, family, community, paid labour, education, and politics, Campbell demonstrates that 19th century women lived within overlapping and interdependent “concentric circles” of family, community, and society. Drawing on insights from literary theory, the close historical reading of each diary tells us about the daily lives and lived experiences of New Brunswick women and how they were actors in the larger world around them. The book draws the reader into the day-to-day life of a diverse group of Anglophone New Brunswick women, some older and some younger, some single, married or widowed, some living in towns and cities and others on rural farms. Campbell acknowledges the emotion that arises when reading about the intimate lives of women in the past, and her historical sensitivity and compassion is evident in the chapters dealing with death, grief, and loss. Campbell’s book is a remarkable contribution to the fields of women’s history, family history, and the history of the Maritimes and New Brunswick within the context of the transatlantic world.
Susanne. M. Klausen, Abortion Under Apartheid: Nationalism, Sexuality, and Women’s Reproductive Rights in South Africa. Oxford University Press, 2015.
Abortion Under Apartheid is a beautifully written, multi-dimensional, and convincingly argued examination of women’s reproductive choices under the South African apartheid regime. Utilizing a rich range of sources including government policy, court records, medical records, and oral histories, Klausen argues that control over women’s bodies and sexuality was fundamental to the functioning of white supremacy and to the construction and maintenance of apartheid. Her nuanced research examines how race, location, and class impacted the experiences of women seeking abortions, demonstrating that women took an active and often creative role in deciding their reproductive fates even when their choices were constricted by government and medical policies. Klausen’s book contributes to a wide range of fields, including histories of South Africa, women, nationalism and citizenship, sexuality, health and medicine, and reproductive politics.
Elsie Paul in collaboration with Paige Raibmon and Harmony Johnson. Written as I Remember It: Teachings From the Life of a Sliammon Elder. UBC Press, 2014.
Written as I Remember It is a sophisticated and original contribution to indigenous history, the history of the Sliammon people, women’s history, and the methods and practice of oral history. The focus on Elsie Paul’s teachings and the way in which she tells her life story and the story of her community speaks to the power of oral history and transformative story-telling. Paige Raibmon’s introduction on the birth and evolution of the book models ethical collaborative research practices and challenges historiographical binaries of ‘tradition’ vs. ‘modernity’ in indigenous history. Written as I Remember It is a living history which reminds us that history is a fundamental part of our present lives.
Leslie A. Robertson with Kwagu’? Gixsam Clan, Standing up with Ga’axsta’las: Jane Constance Cook and the Politics of Memory, Church, and Custom (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012).
When women’s history emerged as a field in the 1970s, one of its original goals was to reclaim women from the shadows of history. It is fitting that the first CCWH book prize goes to a book that does this and so much more. Ga’axsta’las life story illustrates the vital, multidimensional, and sometimes seemingly contradictory roles that indigenous women played in politics at the community level, as well as in negotiations with the state, in the early twentieth century. Traditional historiographies have misinterpreted her support of the potlatch ban. Standing up with Ga’axsta’las explains how advocacy for women and children, as well as Christianity, informed her criticism of cultural practices that put women in vulnerable positions. The committee was impressed by the interdisciplinary methodology and the range of sources used to reconstruct her life. Robertson and the Kwagu’? Gixsam Clan have set a new standard for politically-engaged collaborative research.
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