Visiting Scholar receives Governor General's Award for History

Professor Sarah Carter (Alberta), Visiting Scholar in 2010-11, has been awarded this prestigious award for her book, Imperial Plots: Women, Land, and the Spadework of British Colonialism on the Canadian Prairies, written, in part, while at Edinburgh.

Sarah Carter is a professor and the Henry Marshall Tory Chair in the Department of History and Classics and the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. Her book—published by the University of Manitoba Press in 2016—examines how women were the victims of land dispossession during the development of the Canadian West.

Imperial Plots looks at a chapter in Canadian history between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, explaining the formation of the Canadian West as a British-Canadian colony. The book reveals how homesteading denied property rights to women when the territory was being developed and occupied. It highlights the ongoing struggles around gender equality, Indigenous rights, and people’s relationships with their environment.

“How land on the prairies was divided up and handed out free to some and denied to others is central to understanding the history of the region. Women, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, were virtually denied the right to homestead land. Yet they sought and fought to obtain land of their own on the prairies and to farm that land. Though largely forgotten, a few were successful, beginning with the Indigenous women farmers of the plains. They faced constraining myths about women as farmers that persist to this day,” explains Sarah Carter.

Sarah Carter’s book offers incisive reconsiderations of what it means to be “Canadian,” demonstrating that gender, race, and property have been central to the making of this country. Ms. Carter effectively moves from the macro level of national and imperial visions to the micro level of particular women. While none should be surprised that imperialism was central to the colonization of western Indigenous lands, the author exposes just how far Canadian policymakers of the time went to exclude women from enjoying a right to property.