Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Biography & Autobiography Women

Great Dames

edited by Elspeth Cameron & Janice Dickin

University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Initial publish date
May 1997
Women, Women's Studies
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 1997
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 1997
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 1997
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.


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.

About the authors

Elspeth Cameron is the author of three award-winning biographies: Hugh MacLennan: A Writer's Life (1981), Irving Layton: A Portrait (1985), and Earle Birney: A Life (1994). Her 1997 memoir No Previous Experience won the W.O. Mitchell Literary Prize. She was the recipient of the UBC Medal for Canadian Biography in 1981 and the City of Vancouver Book Award in 1995. Her biography of Hugh MacLennan was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award. She has written numerous profiles of Canadian cultural figures such as Peter Newman, Jack McClelland, Veronica Tennant, Anne Murray, Howard Engel, Janette Turner Hospital, and Timothy Findley, winning several journalism awards. Her work has appeared in Saturday Night, Chatelaine, Maclean's, Leisureways, and in a number of academic journals. In addition, she has edited seven books, including Great Dames, a collection of biographical sketches, memoirs, and essays about twentieth-century Canadian women from all walks of life. She has taught English and Canadian Studies at Concordia University and the University of Toronto, and is currently an adjunct professor in the English Language and Literature Department at Brock University. Elspeth now lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, and is at work on a biography of Group of Seven member, A.Y. Jackson.

Elspeth Cameron's profile page

Max Foran has been working the field of western Canadian history for over thirty years and has published on various urban, rural, and cultural topics. He is currently a professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary.

Janice Dickin's profile page

Other titles by Elspeth Cameron

Other titles by Janice Dickin