Women, Gender and Sexuality in Canada, 1600-1920

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
HIST 2260
Women, Gender and Sexuality in Canada, 1600-1920
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hours per week / semester Seminar: 2 hours per week / semester
Method(s) Of Instruction
Learning Activities

Class sections will be divided between lectures and seminar discussions. The seminar discussion sessions will serve as a forum for the analysis and discussion of scholarly literature and as a testing ground for student hypotheses. The instructor will encourage students to elaborate, refine and revise ideas. Discussion sessions will also include tutorials in conducting historical research, the exploration of primary source documents, and practice in oral presentations. Participation in both lectures and seminar discussions is required for the successful completion of the course.

Course Description
This course examines the history of gender and sexuality in Canada from precontact to the industrial age, with a particular focus on Canadian women’s lives, work and place in the historical record. It examines the experiences of women within the family, the labour force, and religious, political, social and cultural movements. It investigates the intertwining constructions of gender ideology and sexual identity, exploring the diversity of women’s experiences, and interrogating how class, race, ethnicity, age, and region shaped the contours of women’s and men’s lives in different historical periods in Canada. Topics to be considered include the role of gender in Aboriginal-settler relations, women in European colonization, family economies and the gendered impact of industrialization, militarism and Imperialism, and campaigns for moral reform.
Course Content


Note: Content may vary according to the instructor’s selection of topics


  1. Review of historical methods. Gender and sexuality in the research and writing of history
  2. Aboriginal women’s lives pre and post contact
  3. Missionization, gender and sexuality
  4. Women, men and families in New France
  5. Separate spheres: Private and public life in British North America
  6. Domestic work and waged work in industrializing Canada
  7. The feminization of teaching and the masculinisation of childbirth
  8. Restructuring Aboriginal women’s lives: The impact of the Indian Act, schooling, and missionization
  9. Moral panics, reforms and scenes of sexual danger
  10. Men and militarism in imperial culture
  11. The Woman’s Suffrage movement
  12. The Great War and the Federal Franchise
  13. Women, men and popular culture before the Great War and after
  14. Concluding themes: Equality and difference
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:


  1. Examine historical sources critically and analytically (reading history). These sources include not only survey texts and scholarly articles, but also short monographs and extended primary sources.
  2. Create and communicate personal interpretations of historical problems (writing history). Forms for communication of personal interpretations include medium-length essays (from 1500-3000 words), comparative book reviews, short interpretive essays, primary source studies, and final examinations.
  3. Independently analyze the ideas of other students and the instructor in class in both tutorials and seminars (discussing history).
Means of Assessment

The evaluation of this course will follow Douglas College policies. During the first week of classes the instructor will provide students with a printed and online course outline clearly setting out the evaluation scheme of the course. A general guideline for evaluation follows:


Any combination of the following totalling 100%:


Primary source document analyses


Research proposal and annotated bibliography


Midterm examination


Seminar presentations


Class participation


Research essay (or short essays)


Final examination


Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students


Texts will be chosen from the following list, to be updated periodically:


Cavanaugh, Catherine, and Randi R. Warne, eds. Telling Tales: Essays in Western Women’s History. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2000.

Chambers, Lori, and Edgar-André Montigny, eds. Family Matters: Papers in Post-Confederation Canadian Family History. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press, 1998.

Christie, Nancy, and Michael Gauvreau. Mapping the Margins: The Family and Social Discipline in Canada, 1700-1975. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.

Comacchio, Cynthia R. The Infinite Bonds of Family: Domesticity in Canada, 1850-1940. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.

Epp, Marlene, Franc Iacovetta, and Frances Swyripa, eds. Sisters or Strangers: Immigrants, Ethnic and Racialized Women in Canadian History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Gleason, Mona, and Adele Perry, eds. Rethinking Canada: The Promise of Women’s History, 5th ed. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Janovicek, Nancy, and Joy Parr, eds. Histories of Canadian Children and Youth. Don Mills: Oxford University Press Canada, 2003.

Kelm, Mary-Ellen, and Lorna Townsend. In the Days of Our Grandmothers: A Reader in Aboriginal Women’s History in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.

McLaren, John, Robert Menzies, and Dorothy Chun, eds. Regulating Lives: Historical Essays on the State, Society, the Individual, and the Law. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2002.

McPherson, Kathryn, Cecilia Morgan, and Nancy M. Forestell, eds. Gendered Pasts: Historical Essays in Femininity and Masculinity in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Pickles, Katie, and Myra Rutherdale, eds. Contact Zones: Aboriginal and Settler Women in Canada’s Colonial Past. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005.