Skip to Content

Berks Conference: Rural Women and Early Photography

Posted by Jacqueline McIsaac
27 May 2014 - 8:40pm

The 2014 Berkshire Conference on the History of Women provided me with many opportunities to explore the gendered implication within my own research as well as learn much about current research in gender history. My research focuses on early photography in rural Ontario, where most photographers were male. I had never considered the gendered aspects of my topic until encouraged to submit an abstract to the Berks, after which point I began seeing women’s general absence from rural Ontario’s photography as not only significant, but also as a crucial avenue towards a more comprehensive analysis of how photographic acts were understood in the late nineteenth century.

Presenting my (admittedly preliminary) findings on the intersections of gender, rural culture, and photography to a room of insightful historians helped me focus my thoughts on and understandings of rural female photographers as well as gender history more broadly. For me, this was an incredible moment of learning as reviewing my research while prioritizing gender has led to some very exciting findings. The discussion surrounding my panel has already proven quite useful, so I’m sincerely thankful for the insight provided by the commentator and audience members.

  At the same time, hearing about  the research and methodologies of so many scholars was both refreshing and educational. The wide array of topics combined with new and exciting ways of considering women’s history truly showcased the vital contributions of women over time. Of particular importance was the work presented on indigenous women, as this group has too often been overlooked. Historical studies on indigenous women need to be considered while teaching history not only for the sake of correcting many biased historical interpretations, but also to introduce students to an exciting area of research.

 The heart of the Berks is, beyond a doubt, the incredible women who continue to produce insightful, important, and often confrontational historical works. Experiencing their excitement, persistence, and commitment to their craft was motivational for me as a young scholar. The conference organizers and participants should therefore be thanked for organizing such an educational and refreshing conference.