The Women of Confederation

Canadian women from 1865-1900


Christa3  For a number of personal reasons, I have been having Sir John A. on my mind. Or rather, not so much him – Canada’s own “nation-maker” and soon to be commemorated for the bicentennial of his birth (2015) and in the context of the country’s 150th birthday (2017) – but his wife, Agnes Macdonald.

A few years ago, a colleague at UPEI, Robin Sutherland, and I started to work on a book about Agnes, centred on a transcript of the diary she kept (regularly from 1867-1869, sporadically until 1883 after that). We even caught the attention of The Ottawa Citizen with our project. Our work was interrupted by more pressing concerns for some time, but just a few months ago we returned to it. Re-reading the diary, some letters, and a few published sketches, I found that Agnes’s – Lady Macdonald’s – very own words frequently echoed in my memory.

The more I read, though, the more I found myself returning to the sentiment that largely drives my interest: astonishment. Astonishment that we – Canadians – have been so uninterested in Agnes’s perspective – an insider’s perspective, no less, on the dynamics and demands of life in Canada after 1867 – that the diary has remained unpublished all this time. (As I said, that will change; we’re working on it!) And it’s not just Agnes we don’t know, but so many other women whose ideas shaped how we live today.

The more I felt my astonishment, the more I also felt that I wanted to blog about the women of Confederation, in order to reach (I hope) a wider audience. These women are our foremothers. They were the men’s allies in building the nation. They were the prototype Canadian. And the Internet makes it so easy to get to know them, at least a bit.

So, that’s me now: fired-up blogger and writer.

Looking a bit further back, I’ve written about a few other pre- and post-Confederation women as well as taught English and women’s studies at the UO.



  1. Hi Christa,

    Great idea for a blog! Yes, it is astounding how little attention we have paid to the ‘First Lady’ of the Canadian nation–and to our other foremothers. Good for you for deciding to address this omission. I will check back regularly.

    Janice Fiamengo

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