History professor's book wins prestigious prize

Wife to Widow book cover

The Department of History would like to congratulate York History Professor Bettina Bradbury after her book about two generations of widows in 19th century Montreal, Wife to Widow: Lives, Laws, and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal won the Lionel Groulx-Foundation Yves-Saint Germain prize from the Institute of History of French America.

The book follows the lives of women who married either before or after the Patriote rebellions of 1837-1838 and reveals a picture of a city and its inhabitants across a period of profound change. Professor Bradbury offers new insights into the law, politics, demography, religion and domestic life of the time as she explores the little studied phenomenon of the transition from wife to widowhood.

Wife to Widow interweaves the individual biographies of 20 women against the backdrop of the collective genealogy of more than 500 women. Bradbury traces their actions as revealed in notarial, church and court records, censuses, tax documents, newspapers and pamphlets. She shows how women from all walks of life interacted with and shaped Montreal’s culture, customs, and institutions, even as they laboured under the shifting conditions of patriarchy. Immensely readable, Wife to Widow provides a rare window into the significance of marriage and widowhood during key historical moments in the history of Montreal and Quebec.

The Lionel Groulx-Foundation Yves-Saint Germain prize, which is accompanied by a $5,000 award, has been described as "the most prestigious prize awarded by the institute to recognize the best work on any aspect of the history of French America that impresses for its scientific approach".

Professor Bradbury, who also teaches women's studies at both Keele and Glendon campuses, also won the 2012 Clio Award for Quebec from the Canadian Historical Association for Wife to Widow. The book was also short listed for the 2012 Political History Book Prize, as well as the 2012 Sir John A. Macdonald Prize, both from the Canadian Historical Association.