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Bettina Bradbury

Bettina Bradbury

The François-Xavier Garneau Prize


Bettina BradburyWife to Widow: Lives, Laws, and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.

Wife to Widow: Lives, Laws, and Politics in Nineteen-Century Montreal by Bettina Bradbury reveals patterns in several critical life-course events experienced by women of different social circumstances and cultural backgrounds during a tumultuous period in an endlessly fascinating colonial city.   “To become a widow,” as Bradbury explains, “it was necessary to be recognized as female, marry a male, and outlive him.”  These points frame a book that then exceeds these bounds, because as the chapters advance through the life course, they expose the constraints of class and patriarchy as well as the struggles and grief attending life’s vicissitudes.   By careful analysis of biographical information collected from a structured sample of two generations (1823-1826; 1842-1845),  Wife to Widow superbly integrates life-course stages with the unmistakable development of capitalism and with politics at a turning point in Canadian colonial history.

This captivating book unobtrusively presents the author’s versatility, for it combines a flowing narrative style, feminist insights, and an array of research skills.   Contemporary records, a legacy from Montreal’s religious communities and Lower Canada’s legal arrangements, provided hard-won information that Bradbury linked to form collective genealogies.   An exemplary social history that structured its core observations around these genealogies, Wife to Widow merges the quest for history from the bottom up with colonial politics, municipal chicanery, community identities, and Catholic social assistance.   Divergent legal practices are a central concern.   An exploration of conflicting civil and common law practices draws together women’s history, family history, urban history, economic history, and political history.  Wife to Widow isa consummate exposition of authority, gender, and property.

For these reasons and more, Wife to Widow is richly deserving of the François-Xavier Garneau Medal, the most prestigious prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association.

Sorthlisted Books:
Béatrice CraigBackwoods Consumers & Homespun Capitalists: The Rise of a Market Culture in Eastern Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.
Nicholas TerpstraLost Girls: Sex and Death in Renaissance Florence. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
Joy ParrSensing Changes: Technologies, Environments, and the Everyday, 1953-2003. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010.
Leslie A. Robertson et le Kwagul Gixsam. Standing Up with Ga?xsta?as: Jane Constance Cook and the Politics of Memory, Church and Custom. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012.