MEDIA RELEASE: R00114, 3 June 2016
Most Canadians agree that a prominent Canadian woman should appear on our money next year, according to a recent Angus Reid Institute poll. But agreement on exactly who that woman should be is a lot less clear.
As an independent advisory council begins its public survey on a shortlist of a dozen names, Brock University scholar and professor Lissa Paul notes that historical information about women’s contributions to society tend to be hidden, absent or undervalued.
Paul has written a book — and is writing another and editing a third — on English author and teacher Eliza Fenwick (1766-1840). Among her accomplishments, in the 1830s, Fenwick ran a school for girls in Niagara-on-the Lake and was the much-loved mistress of the Boys Boarding House for Upper Canada College in Toronto.
During her research, Paul had to do a lot of creative digging to find materials for her books.
For example, Fenwick was a close associate of William Warren Baldwin and Robert Baldwin, both influential players in the development of parliamentary reform in Upper Canada.
Paul tried to search the extensive, cross-referenced collection of Baldwin family letters and other documents housed in the Toronto Public Library, but did not find a trace of Eliza Fenwick.
“She wasn’t in the correspondence files or in any of the references, but when I pulled up the boxes of letters in the correct date range, sure enough, manuscript letters turned up,” says Paul. “Those documents are not named, because those were not regarded as important enough. References to Eliza were regarded as too insignificant and domestic to record.”
Paul applauds the move to have a woman on a bill and says this could be one way of bringing the lives of neglected women of influence to the surface of public attention, and perhaps one step towards bringing women to other public spaces, such as buildings and streets.
“Men Eliza knew in the 1830s, William Warren Baldwin and Lieutenant Governor John Colborne, live with us every day in Toronto — we can walk up the Baldwin Steps to Casa Loma or along Colborne Street,” says Paul.
For more details of Paul’s research and her take on women’s historical records, see her article in Friday’s Globe and Mail.
Professor Lissa Paul can be contacted directly at email@example.com
For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:
* Cathy Majtenyi, research communications/media relations specialist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 905-688-5550 x5789 or 905-321-0566
* Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University email@example.com, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970
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