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also available: Paperback
category: Biography & Autobiography
published: Jan 2017
publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Travels and Identities

Elizabeth and Adam Shortt in Europe, 1911

edited by Peter E. Paul Dembski

tagged: historical, essays & travelogues

Elizabeth and Adam Shortt first visited Europe in 1911 and this book shares their diaries and letters from that trip. In 1908 the Shortt relocated his family to Ottawa to take up a commission overseeing civil service reform under Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. Shortt had convinced the ruling Liberals that onsite investigations of four European countries would expedite his improvement of Canada’s bureaucracy, and his wife convinced him that she too needed a change of scene. This book chronicles their Atlantic crossing and extended visit to England, as well as trips to Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands. The last chapter considers their return to London and their voyage home to Canada.

Elizabeth Smith Shortt was one of the first three women to obtain a medical degree in Canada. After practicing medicine in Hamilton, Ontario, she taught at Kingston Women’s Medical College until she left to raise her family and manage the household. She continued to advance feminist principles through such organizations as the National Council of Women where, in 1911, she served as the convenor of its Public Health and Mental Hygiene Committee. Meanwhile, Adam Shortt enjoyed a highly successful career as a professor of politics and economics at Queen’s University in Kingston, where he facilitated the growth of the institution’s library, the establishment of the Queen’s Quarterly, and the secularization of his alma mater. His greatest achievement, however, lay in the introduction of political economy as an integral part of the Queen’s curriculum.

The Shortts were generally pleased with England and its values but Elizabeth sharply criticized the behaviour of British nurses. Her diaries and letters critiqued of the lands and peoples she visited in Europe. Moreover, leading foreign feminists such as Lady Chichester and Mrs. Maud of the Mothers’ Union in England sought out her advice, as did Alice Salomon in Germany, the corresponding secretary of the International Council of Women. The diaries and letters presented in this volume reveal the multifaceted nature of Adam and Elizabeth Shortt, from public figures to difficult employers to a couple who liked to live beyond their means, resulting in serious debt. Peter Dembski’s introduction paints a picture of a couple who lived as moderate liberals with occasional conservative or radical views, who blended both science and an adherence to protestant Christianity in their thinking. Their travel experiences, during a period of building political upheaval, provide a valuable snapshot of pre-First World War European society and culture.

About the Author

Peter E. Paul Dembski

Peter E. Paul Dembski is an historian with B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D. from the University of Guelph. He has taught Canadian history at several universities, most recently the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University. His articles have appeared in journals such as Ontario History and scholarly collections such as the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

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