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list price: $25.00
also available: Paperback
category: History
published: Oct 2016
publisher: University of Manitoba Press

Imperial Plots

Women, Land, and the Spadework of British Colonialism on the Canadian Prairies

by Sarah Carter

tagged: women, social history

Sarah Carter’s "Imperial Plots: Women, Land, and the Spadework of British Colonialism on the Canadian Prairies" examines the goals, aspirations, andchallenges met by women who sought land of their own.

Supporters of British women homesteaders argued they would contribute to the “spade-work” of the Empire through their imperial plots, replacing foreign settlers and relieving Britain of its "surplus" women. Yet far into the twentieth century there was persistent opposition to the idea that women could or should farm: British women were to be exemplars of an idealized white femininity, not toiling in the fields. In Canada, heated debates about women farmers touched on issues of ethnicity, race, gender, class, and nation.

Despite legal and cultural obstacles and discrimination, British women did acquire land as homesteaders, farmers, ranchers, and speculators on the Canadian prairies. They participated in the project of dispossessing Indigenous people. Their complicity was, however, ambiguous and restricted because they were excluded from the power and privileges of their male counterparts.

Imperial Plots depicts the female farmers and ranchers of the prairies, from the Indigenous women agriculturalists of the Plains to the array of women who resolved to work on the land in the first decades of the twentieth century.

About the Author
Sarah Carter FRSC is Professor and Henry Marshall Tory Chair in the Department of History and Classics and the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta.
  • Short-listed, Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, Canadian Historical Association
  • Short-listed, Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize, Center for Great Plains Studies
Editorial Reviews

“Imperial Plots provides a valuable correction to the masculinist lens through which prairie history is so often viewed.”

— Canada’s History

“Every chapter of Imperial Plots adds new and interesting details and their cumulative effect is enlightening. By considering the wider context so carefully and fully, Carter has made a major contribution to the scholarship on women and moved our thinking far beyond the heroism of individual homesteading women. Equally, she firmly drives a nail in the coffin of scholars who still insist that gender played no role in the formation and implementation of imperial policy. In sum, she has changed the terms of our historical questions.”

— Canadian Journal of History

“This book is more than a tribute to pioneer women and a lament for lost opportunities. The present keeps peering at us through the past. Then, as now, lines drawn on maps — be they borders or homestead boundaries — determine who will and won’t have access to the resources of this world. Too much of humanity’s always-limited intelligence is devoted to plotting out the reasons why some people deserve to be one side of the line and some on the other.”

— Winnipeg Free Press

“Carter shows how history can be well documented, provocative, and entertaining.”

— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Sarah Carter’s ambitious study of British women’s empire building on the Canadian plains takes a truly multi-national approach to questions of women’s place on the land, dealing as it does with policies and ideologies in Britain, Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere. It does an impressive job of examining the concept of ‘whiteness,’ and it appropriately fits the spirit of the Chaudhuri award, focusing as it does specifically on ‘WOMEN in rural environments.’”

— estern Association of Women Historians
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