A book by a York professor about two generations of widows in 19th century Montreal, Wife to Widow, has not only drawn much praise, but has won the Lionel Groulx-Foundation Yves-Saint Germain prize from the Institute of History of French America.
History Professor Bettina Bradbury, who also teaches women’s studies at both Keele and Glendon campuses, explores the little studied phenomenon of the transition from wife to widowhood offering new insights into the law, politics, demography, religion and domestic life of the time. Wife to Widow: Lives, Laws, and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal (University of British Columbia Press, 2011) follows the lives of women who married either before or after the Patriote rebellions of 1837-1838 to reveal a picture of a city and its inhabitants across a period of profound change.
Weaving together the individual biographies of 20 women against the backdrop of the collective genealogy of more than 500, Bradbury traces their actions as revealed in notarial, church and court records, censuses, tax documents, newspapers and pamphlets. She shows how women regardless of religion or status, whether Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, wealthy or working-class, interacted with and shaped Montreal’s culture, customs and institutions, even as they laboured under the shifting conditions of patriarchy.
The Lionel Groulx-Foundation Yves-Saint Germain prize, which comes with a $5,000 award, is described as “the most prestigious prize awarded by the institute to recognize the best work on any aspect of the history of French America that impresses for its scientific approach”.
Director of York’s Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies Colin Coates, along with Cecilia Morgan, won the prize in 2003 for their book Heroines and History: Representations of Madeleine de Verchères and Laura Secord (University of Toronto Press, 2002) and history Professor Vivian Nelles took the prize in 2000 for his book, The Art of Nation-Building: Pageantry and Spectacle at Quebec’s Tercentenary (University of Toronto Press, 1999).
“It highlights the strength of our historians in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and at Glendon in Quebec history,” says Bradbury.
Wife to Widow also won the 2012 Clio Award for Quebec from the Canadian Historical Association and was short listed for the 2012 Canadian Political History Book Prize, as well as the 2012 Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, both from the Canadian Historical Association.