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Biography 26.1 (2003) 167-170



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Anne Innis Dagg. The Feminine Gaze: A Canadian Compendium of Non-Fiction Women Authors and Their Books, 1836-1945. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2001. 346 pp. ISBN 0-899-20355-5, $45CDN.

Women's non-fiction in Canada has received scant attention, and so this volume is most welcome and timely. The editor, Anne Innis Dagg, bears one of the most illustrious names in Canadian intellectual history—that of the political economist Harold Adams Innis—and is the inheritor of another, that of Mary Quayle Innis, about whom she writes, with integrity and passion: "as her daughter I know that [Mary Quayle] Innis (1899-1972) felt frustrated about the unwillingness of other academics to treat her seriously, probably because she was a woman and wife of one of their peers" (143).

The focus of these 476 Anglophone writers—who span the period of settler culture thirty years prior to Canadian confederation, in 1867, to the last year of World War II—is on history, (auto)biography, travel, social issues, religion, and education. 1 The writers are themselves members of the "elite" (5), and tend to fall into five major categories: professional women, professional writers, religious women, visiting British women, and high-profile women. Authors of cookbooks have been excluded, but we are told that Elizabeth Driver has a bibliography forthcoming. Absent, as well, are "non-Anglo immigrants, working-class people, Native women and members of other [End Page 167] marginalized groups" (5), though there are a couple of aristocrats, including the Countess of Dufferin (1843-1936), aunt of Harold Nicolson.

This overview, elaborated by Dagg in her analytical introduction, does not begin to hint at the riches that lie within, however. There we learn that Forty Years of Song (1911) is the autobiography of Mme. Marie Louise Emma Cécile Lajeunesse Gye (1847-1930), one of the most famous operatic sopranos of the previous century, written under her stage name of Emma Albani (later, Dame). Maud Allan's (1880-1956) autobiography, My Life and Dancing (1908), recounts the life of yet another international Canadian celebrity, more popular in her lifetime than Isadora Duncan, though Dagg does not mention the notoriety of Allan's connection to the post-Wildean scandals recounted by Michael Kettle in Salome's Last Veil: The Libel Case of the Century. Marie Dressler (1869/73-1934), born Leila Koerber in Ontario, became the most famous film star in the United States in the early 1930s; her autobiography (1924) was subtitled The Life Story of an Ugly Duckling. Her consoeur, Mary Pickford (1892-1979), born in Toronto and co-founder of United Artists with husband Douglas Fairbanks and friends Charlie Chaplin and D. W. Griffith, wrote her 1935 autobiography, My Rendezvous with Life,as an alcoholic recluse. Anna Buchan (1878?-1948) wrote a biography of her brother, John Buchan, known from 1935 to 1940 to Canadians as Lord Tweedsmuir when he served as our Governor General—and when he wasn't governing generally he wrote novels, including The 39 Steps (1915), which Alfred Hitchcock famously turned into a movie (1935). Kathleen Cannell's (1891-1974) 1945 memoir Jam Yesterday doesn't mention Ernest Hemingway, whom she knew in Paris, though he based one of the characters in The Sun Also Rises on her. Julia E. K. Cruickshank's (d. 1921) memoir, Whirlpool Heights (1915), detailing the planning of her (unbuilt) house above Niagara Falls, became the basis of Jane Urquhart's 1986 novel, The Whirlpool. Anna Leonowens (ca. 1831-1915) was most famously the Anna of The King and I, but after she left Siam (as it was then called) she moved to Nova Scotia, where she helped found the art school now known as the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, which remains one of the major centers for conceptualist art.

In the educational field, Helen McMurchie Bott (1886?) wrote books on the education of children, and co-authored a book on child development with her husband, E. A. Bott (whose research on sensory...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1456
Print ISSN
0162-4962
Pages
pp. 167-170
Launched on MUSE
2003-05-15
Open Access
No
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