Great Dames is a collection of biographical sketches, memoirs, and
essays about twentieth-century Canadian women from all walks of
life. While attempting to capture the meaning of the ordinary lives
of extraordinary women, it also explores the possibility of
challenging, even subverting, the traditional view of life writing
as an endeavour to summarize and fix in time, the public careers of
public men. The fifteen essays represent a variety of alternative
approaches to feminist biography, including chronological
narrative, thematic exploration, multiple biography, conversations
between biographer and subject, interviews, diaries, and even
fictional accounts.In selecting their subjects, from Mennonite
refugee women to an Ojibwa ethnologist, the contributors were asked
to consider women who would be unlikely candidates for longer
biographies; in the course of their research, however, it became
clear that the lives of at least two of the chosen subjects
warranted book-length examination. The selection also attempts to
address perceived gaps in regional, class, racial, and disciplinary
representation in life writing.Together, the essays reveal that the
content, form, and perspective of biography are now bound only by
the creativity, research energy, and taste of the biographer.
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