“Prime Minister in the Home Department”: Female Gendered Identity in Nineteenth-Century Upper Canada

Spooner, R. (2013) “Prime Minister in the Home Department”: Female Gendered Identity in Nineteenth-Century Upper Canada. Visualising and Materialising Colonial Spaces: Female Responses to Empire, Warwick, UK, 11 Jan 2014.

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.


Anne Langton (b.1804) was in her early-30s when she left Britain for a rural farming community in what is now the province of Ontario in northeastern Canada. Along with her father, mother and aunt, Anne traveled to colonial Upper Canada to join her younger brother John who had settled near Peterborough four years earlier in 1833. Born into a prosperous mercantile family, Anne had grown up in decidedly comfortable material surroundings, and had been immersed in a culturally rich social circle made up of extended family and distinguished wealthy friends. This paper is based on a close reading of the diaries Anne Langton wrote over the course of her first ten years in Upper Canada, and offers an analysis of how her sense of self, particularly her gendered identity, was challenged by the practices and daily routine of this new life. Notions of feminine gentility that Anne brought with her were not always compatible with the nature of colonial society, and it is these discrepancies that this paper explores. It suggests that Anne immersed herself in decorating and arranging the family’s new home according to dominant notions of civility and comfort in the hopes of resolving these conflicts. What is more, the act of writing about these activities, describing them in detailed letters to her older brother in Britain, were fundamental to this process. This assessment draws on a variety of secondary literature and theoretical frameworks, principally those that sit at the intersection of gender studies and women's history, colonial and post-colonial studies and material culture studies.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Keywords:Settler colonialism, gender history, material culture, migration, 19th-century Canada.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Spooner, Dr Rosie
Authors: Spooner, R.
Subjects:F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1001 Canada (General)
J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
College/School:College of Arts > School of Humanities > Information Studies
Related URLs:

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record