A New Woman in Print and Practice: The Canadian Literary Career of Madge Robertson Watt, 1890-1907

  • Kristin Hall Laurentian University
  • Linda M. Ambrose Laurentian University
Keywords: Linda M. Ambrose, Kristin Hall, HIC, 2007, Literature

Abstract

Madge Robertson Watt was a successful female Canadian writer, editor, and reviewer whose literary career flourished between 1890 and 1907. Robertson wrote prolifically for numerous publications such as the University of Toronto's student paper The Varsity, the Ladies Pictorial Weekly (which she also edited in 1892), The Globe, and the British Columbia-based Victoria Times. During this period, a form of feminism emerged in Canada expressed by women who associated themselves with the phenomenon known as "New Womanhood." Some of the social changes New Women advocated included increased access to higher education, paid work for women, and marriage reform. The purpose of this paper is to consider the journalism career of this Canadian, university-educated woman and to explore the New Woman ideas that are implicit in Watt's writing. Watt's writing contained many of the ideas that were typical of New Woman writers, but compared to the better-known New Woman novelists of the 1890s, her writing was at once both more popular and more conservative because it also perpetuated an air of Victorian propriety by praising traditional female gender roles. Indeed, throughout her writing career, Robertson reflected the ambiguities that Canadian women faced as they adopted elements of New Woman thinking into their writing and their lived experiences.

Author Biographies

Kristin Hall, Laurentian University

Kristin Hall KL_Tessier@laurentian.ca is a Master of Arts Candidate in the history department at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. Her research interests include twentieth-century Canadian women's history and the history of popular culture in Canada during the interwar period. Her Master's thesis examines the gendered nature of the advertising and marketing practices of Lysol Disinfectant in North America from 1920-1939.

Linda M. Ambrose, Laurentian University

Linda M. Ambrose lambrose@laurentian.ca is Professor of History at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario where she teaches historical methods, Canadian women's history, family history, and gender history. Her publications include several articles on rural women's organizations and related topics in a variety of academic journals. She is currently completing a biography of Margaret Robertson Watt.