The Canadian Committee on Womens and Gender History French Language Book Prize
Marie-Andrée Lamontagne. Anne Hébert: Vivre pour écrire. Boréal, 2019.
The members of the jury chose to award the prize for the best French-language book in women’s history to Marie-Andrée Lamontagne, for Anne Hébert: Vivre pour écrire, published by Les Éditions du Boréal, a major contribution to the history of women of letters and, more broadly, to women’s history. Drawing on a considerable number of oral testimonies (more than 80 interviews conducted between 2005 and 2015) and on the correspondence of Anne Hébert and her family, Marie-Andrée Lamontagne offers a rich and nuanced biography of a singular writer who, while not representative of all the women of her generation, enriches the picture of potential destinies for women of the petty bourgeois milieu born in the 1910s in Quebec. Marie-Andrée Lamontagne’s work impressed us for the quality of the writing, which is fluid, precise and nuanced. We appreciated the lucid stance, both sympathetic and critical, of the biographer towards her subject; her ability to debunk myths sometimes constructed by Anne Hébert herself; the way she manages to integrate the life and work of the writer without ever over-interpreting. In the background of Anne Hébert’s talented, tormented, timid character, a pre-Revolutionary Quebec is revealed, where we can observe a woman’s relationship with a family (especially a father, brother and sister), with her friends; her relationship to culture, religion, health, and her place in a network of influence that straddles Quebec and France. This work, which is not written by a women’s historian, seems to us nevertheless unavoidable and promises to have a significant influence both within and outside the discipline of women’s history.
Marie-Pier Bouchard. Vivre au coeur de paroisses de femmes: dans la région de Charlevoix (1940-1980). PUL, 2019.
The members of the jury chose to give a special mention to Marie-Pier Bouchard’s Vivre au cœur des « paroisses de femmes » dans la région de Charlevoix (1940-1980). Based on oral interviews with seventeen women who had experienced the seasonal migrations of their husbands-sailors or lumberjacks, this book sheds light on the collective and intimate experience of rural wives and mothers who had to “play woman and man” at the same time. These women reveal themselves to have a great sense of agency in a sometimes harsh context. Marie-Pier Bouchard’s work, based on her master’s thesis, allows us to grasp their vision of the world through their own language, a language rooted in the territory they inhabit. It thus saves these voices from the past that could have disappeared without making a sound from oblivion and reminds us of the great importance of oral history in a world where everything seems to be turning upside down.