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Canadian Review of American Studies 1992Special Issue, Part II Crossing Borders: The Influence of American Women's History on the Writing of Canadian Women's History Linda Kealey 279 Any Canadian who has crossed the border into the United States feels a certain trepidation at the point of entry, particularly those who lived through the era of Woodstock, the Vietnam War, student protest or, more recently, the anti drug campaigns. There is a sense of crossing into genuinely "foreign" territory, into a country with a different system of government, different social and political traditions, and different expectations. A recent Canadian filmby Bruce McDonald,Highway 61 (1991), contains a.:quintessentialscene that underlines these clashes of cultures, recognizing some commonalities between Canadians and Americans, yet at the same time accentuating the ambivalences. In the film, an unlikely pair of protagonists-a young, naive, small-town barber and a tough, experienced woman roadie, drive up to the border with a coffin strapped to the roof of his car. The barber had discovered the body in an old bathtub in his back yard; the roadie, fleeing with drugs from a heavy-metal rock band, arrives in town and convinces the barber , the undertaker, and the town that she is the sister of the dead man. Contriving to be alone with the body, the resourceful woman plants the dope in the corpse and sets off for New Orleans hitchhiking with the coffin. Enter the young barber, itching to free himself from a staid existence and longing to take to the open road and see America (Highway 61 stretches from northern Ontario to New Orleans), and a modern picaresque journey begins. 280 Canadian Review of American Studies Drawing up to the smallborder crossing to the United States, the unlikely pair are separated and grilled by two customs officials, caricatured as simultaneouslysuspiciousand protective on the one hand, and terribly naive on the other. The scene is a send-up of American values and of the Americans who eventually let the pair cross despite their unlikely cargo and the long criminalrecord of the roadie. Here we have Canadian resourcefulness, even wiliness, overcoming American watchfulness, patriotism, and ambivalence toward Canadians. As the intensely shy barber gradually loosens up and begins to enjoy himself, he also begins to assert himself and takes a detour into North Hibbing, Minnesota, childhood home of Bob Dylan and composer of "Highway61."1 Film-maker McDonald deftly subverts Canadian-American historical patterns of American dominance--the flow is not from the heartland of America to Canada but rather the reverse. America is portrayed as parochial and defensive in the film, and American tendencies either to ignore their neighbour to the north or to assume that Canada is no different are parodied. This turnabout resonates because of the historical tensions and ambiguities characteristic of Canadian-American relations. Just as Canadians have repeatedly questioned their relationship economically ,politically, socially,and culturally to their powerful neighbour to the south, so too have Canadian academics, past and present, questioned the influence of American academics on intellectual life in Canada. Rarely has it been the other way round. This article focuses on a specific aspect of this relationship: the influence of American historical writing, especially in women's history, on the writing of English Canadian women's history. To what extent has the writing of English Canadian women's history been influenced by developments in the United States? What theoretical and paradigmatic concepts have influenced us? Is it a question of flow from centre to margin? Do we continue to acquiesce in a colonial relationship to the United States in intellectual terms, vis-a-viswomen's history? Indeed, is this an adequate conceptualization of the link? I propose to explore these questions in a variety of ways, first by examining the question of colonialism/colonizationin women's history. Second, by looking at reflectionsfrom somehistorians of Canadian women to determine what has been influential in writing our history. And third, by examining Linda KealeyI 281 somerecent work in Canadian women's history with the aim of pinpointing exactlywhat the nature of that influence has been. I will argue that Canadianwomen 's history exhibits more than just a straightforward flow from the...


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pp. 279-300
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