The Canadian Committee on Womens and Gender History English Language Book Prize
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.