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History Women

Compelled to Act

Histories of Women's Activism in Western Canada 

edited by Sarah Carter & Nanci Langford

University of Manitoba Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2020
Women, Post-Confederation (1867-), Women's Studies
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    Publish Date
    Oct 2020
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    Oct 2020
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    Oct 2020
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"Compelled to Act" showcases fresh historical perspectives on the diversity of women’s contributions to social and political change in prairie Canada in the twentieth century, including but looking beyond the era of suffrage activism. In our current time of revitalized activism against racism, colonialism, violence, and misogyny, this volume reminds us of the myriad ways women have challenged and confronted injustices and inequalities.

The women and their activities shared in "Compelled to Act" are diverse in time, place, and purpose, but there are some common threads. In their attempts to correct wrongs, achieve just solutions, and create change, women experienced multiple sites of resistance, both formal and informal. The acts of speaking out, of organizing, of picketing and protesting were characterized as unnatural for women, as violations of gender and societal norms, and as dangerous to the state and to family stability.

Still as these accounts demonstrate, prairie women felt compelled to respond to women’s needs, to challenges to family security, both health and economic, and to the need for community. They reacted with the resources at hand, and beyond, to support effective action, joining the ranks of women all over the world seeking political and social agency to create a society more responsive to the needs of women and their children.

About the authors

Sarah Carter, F.R.S.C., is H.M. Tory Chair and Professor in the Department of History and Classics, and Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. She is a specialist in the history of Western Canada and is the author of Aboriginal People and Colonizers of Western Canada to 1900, Capturing Women, and Lost Harvests. Sarah Carter was awarded the Jensen-Miller Prize by the Coalition for Women's History for the best article published in 2006 in the field of women and gender in the trans-Mississippi West.

Sarah Carter's profile page

Nanci Langford is an academic coordinator at Athabasca University. She co-chairs the Alberta Women’s Memory Project, an on-line resource on Alberta women for students and the general public. She also teaches a graduate course in life history writing.


Nanci Langford's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Compelled To Act is a fine contribution to women’s and regional history. Digging deep into particular places and people, the volume adds up to a powerful, on-the-ground investigation of twentieth-century women’s activism in all its messiness. It will hopefully inspire others to carry on, uncovering more stories about women’s roles in community building in all its diversity, breadth, depth and surprising twists and turns."

Canadian Journal of History

“For years, Canadian women have found themselves in the middle of community crises and responded to them, often challenging the status quo to change what they saw as wrong. In Compelled to Act: Histories of Women’s Activism in Western Canada, a variety of contributors tell the stories of women who have confronted a range of issues and helped influence the course of history and life in western Canada.”

Winnipeg Free Press

“This highly readable volume offers 10 original essays that explore diverse kinds of political engagements across the 20th century. Compelled to Act is an engaging read that inspires new questions. It is a wonderful addition to an important field.”

Alberta Views

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