My research explores relationships between provincially sanctioned history curricula, textbook narratives, pedagogical practices, and Canadian women’s history.
Canadian Historical Association (CHA): Reconsidering History Annual Conference and Meeting
May 17, 2022: Program Rose Fine-Meyer, “Engendering Local Stories, Public History & Field
Studies in History Studies in Schools.
OWHN Conference, Oct 22-23, 2021 “Ontario Women’s History Network: Including Women in History Education in Schools”
see: “The Ontario Women’s History Network: Linking Teachers, Scholars, and History Communities in Catherine Carstairs and Nancy Janovicek, eds., Feminist History in Canada: New Essays on Women, Gender, Work, and Nation (Vancouver, UBC Press, 2013)
“Women teachers and history curricula: challenging norms” in a panel, Women and Education: The Work of Feminist Teachers to make Social Change” submission to Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE), Western University 2020.
Field studies as a platform for the integration of historical thinking, Indigenous knowledges, and place-based learning. submission to Canadian Society for the Study of Education, Western University 2020.
Title: Narratives of War and Identity Building: The power of stories, messages, and images in History textbooks and films in Ontario and Quebec classrooms.Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE), Vancouver 2019
The New Liberalism: Revisions to Ontario History Textbook Narratives and Images, 1950-1970, to Reflect New Interpretations of Canada’s Role in the First World War
Canadian History of Education Association Association canadienne d’histoire de l’éducation, Fredericton, New Brunswick October 18-21, 2018
Exhibiting Gender: Telling Her Stories: HerstoriesCafe in Public Spaces. October 26-28 Canadian Museum of History/ Musée canadien de l’historie Ottaw/Gatineau
“Women’s votes would speak for those who had given their lives:” Suffrage narratives in Ontario history textbooks 1922-1972” (panel, Putting Women’s History in Action: Women, Agency, and History Education) Sponsored by CCWH, Canadian Historical Association (CHA), Ryerson University, Toronto May 29-June 6 2017
“A reward for working in the fields and factories:” Canadian Women’s Suffrage Movement as portrayed in Ontario Texts” (“1916 to 2016 – A World of Changes: The Right to Vote, The Right to Fight, The Right to Care,”The Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) Conference and Journal (Fall, 2016) October 21-22, 2016.Winnipeg Manitoba
“Seeking out Signs of a Buried River: Incorporating Place-Based Student Investigations into Social Studies Curriculum” (The Manitoba Social Sciences Teachers’ Association conference) October 21st, 2016. Winnipeg MB
“History Curriculum in Schools: Sites of Gender Inequality,” CHEA/ACHÉ Conference, Waterloo, Ontario October 27-30th, 2016
“Teaching National Identity and Ideals of Citizenship: The First World War in Ontario Textbooks 1922-1952” as part of Panel Title: Educational practices: Opportunities to Loosen or Maintain state military narratives, Rose Fine-Meyer, Cate Duquette, Mary Chaktsiris, CHEA/ACHÉ Conference, Waterloo, Ontario October 27-30th, 2016
“Hypervisibility and Invisibility”: Oral Histories, Women, and Canadian Education” roundtable papers have been accepted for the Canadian Historical Association (CHA), Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, University Of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, May 29-June 5, 2016
“Signs of a Buried River: Place-Based History as a Method of Student Engagement in Post-Secondary History Education,” paper submitted to Historians Teaching History: What Works and What Needs Work?| One-day symposium, Mount Royal University, Calgary, Alberta, May 28, 2016
Ottawa April 2016
Thrilled to be part of Canada’s History Society Knowledge Mobilization Conference and discussion with the Governor General. For Topic 1: How can educators encourage youth to engage with the study of Canadian history, civics and governance? And, how can educators adapt their strategies to reach and be inclusive of diverse communities (including Indigenous people and new Canadians) I wrote:
I am currently teaching at OISE, faculty of education at the University of Toronto but was previously a history secondary school teacher in a school deeply interested in history. My work at the University is a continuum of my earlier work recognizing that students first learn about the past through their family stories, through their communities, and their religious, social and ethnic environments. The history they first know is personal, rooted in place/space, and foundational to their own conceptualizations of identity. So if we want youth to engage in meaningful and relevant ways with Canadian history, we need to link to the places they know and listen to their stories. They better understand national stories if they look through a regional lens. I believe that the history of Canada is the sum of our parts
This works in small steps: First as single field trips, to historic houses, to memorials and local museums to listening to community elders and knowledge holders; then as projects, personal stories, unknown histories. Our school also engaged students in research on the history of the land (First Nations and colonial), their houses, local parks, and community sites. I eventually wrote a course for Ontario that pulled the best of these projects together, culminating in an archaeological dig and a school/community archive.
My current work seeks out ways in which we can fully integrate place-based history research investigations into provincial curricula. Classes begin with a study of a buried river than runs through the University of Toronto. Investigations help them develop a more nuanced understanding of the pedagogical approaches history teachers employ and the narratives they privilege. My students design lessons that engage in critical thinking, seeking out historical truths; exploring diverse communities, how environment and physical regions impact people differently, how culture and language create diverse understandings. Students investigate the history of the place by networking with community members, Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Holders and take action to make change in their own communities. To find common ground despite, or maybe because of, our historical differences.
Thank you Paul Zanazanian for the nice mention in the review of the book Becoming a History Teacher: Sustaining Practices in Historical Thinking and Knowing in the new issue of Historical Studies in Education/ Revue d’histoire de l’éducation
Book Reviews / Comptes Rendus edited by Ruth Sandwell and Amy von Heyking, Becoming a History Teacher: Sustaining Practices in Historical Thinking and Knowing (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014. xii, 345 pp. by Paul Zanazanian, McGill University
October 2015. I was honoured to speak at Canada’s History Forum, October 15 2015, at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa. The panels focused on the theme: “Telling Canadian Women’s Stories.” More information can be found on Canada’s History Society website. http://www.canadashistory.ca/
Here is a copy of my speech and the powerpoint that I included.
Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer Researching the lives of Canadian women
GG Fine-Meyer Canadian Women History Forum Ottawa 2015(powerpoint) (2)
Thank you for inviting me to be part of this panel today. I am very honoured to be here. I’d like to thank the CHA and Canada’s History Society and congratulate the award winners. I’d like to talk about my work in history/social studies education, which explores the relationships between curricula, teacher pedagogical practices, and place-based learning experiences as it relates to Canadian women’s history. As a scholar of curriculum, teaching and learning, and as a curriculum developer and practitioner, my scholarship is deeply informed by my practice, in particular, the work I have done to ground history education in community based knowledges and understandings. My investigations tend to be rooted in oral histories; exploring the ways in which educators, community members, reformers, activists, and others, have an impact in the classroom, in schools, many whom are women. I was invited this year to be guest editor of the journal Ontario History, (vol. CVII no. 1 spring, 2015) on the theme of Women and Education in Ontario, which resulted in a collection of articles, based on oral history sources, which reveal the ways meaningful change came into specific educational institutions and communities as a result of the work of women educators. The articles explore, for example, the work of three Six Nations women teachers, Emily General, Julia Jamieson and Susan Hardie who lived and worked at the Six Nations Grand River; Ruth Home, a leader in museum educator at the ROM, and Matila Martin, an Anishinabe teacher-learner at the Day School, Ojibway First Nation Reserve. These women developed a variety of creative initiatives; their community outreach and progressive ideas altered education in the province, and these articles provide a venue in which to share their particular stories; something that could be used in classrooms.
The stories of women’s lived experiences in Canada can be found in the communities in which they were actively engaged or in which they lived. Women have historically taken a leadership role in a wide range of organizations, developing multiple and diverse networks, that help support families and communities. Women have actively lobbied governments and institutions to press for reforms. This was true for women’s activism in obtaining the vote, or in pressing for the right to hold seats in the Senate, or in demanding equal rights, access to education, ownership of property, to open women’s shelters or community centres to support a wide range of community needs.
Women’s networking and activism in fact has been key to making societal change. Dr. Emily Howard Stowe’s Toronto Women’s Literary Club (1876) which became the Toronto Women’s Suffrage Association (1883) for example, focused on obtaining the franchise but also for improved educational opportunities for women. In my work to explore women’s history in curricula, I found that the inclusion of women in schools can be directly linked to the work of women. Women’s history resources used in classrooms beginning in the 1970s were the direct product of networking between women’s history scholars, women’s organizations, feminist publishers, and individual women’s activism. Feminist and social history scholarship throughout the 1970s and 80s (key scholars such as Alison Prentice, Veronica Strong-Boag, Joan Sangster, Ruby Heap, Jean Barman, to name only a few) gave voice to women’s particular lived experiences and exposed women’s absence from course studies. Teachers interested in including women in their history courses actively networked outside their schools, seeking out supplementary resources; many through membership in women’s organizations. One example was the Federation of Women’s Teachers Association of Ontario (FWTAO); another was The Ontario Women’s History Network (OWHN) who organized conferences to promote teaching and research in Canadian women’s history. I explore their work in a chapter in the book Feminist History in Canada: New Essays on Women, Gender, Work, and Nation (UBC Press, 2013). OWHN continues as an organization today, with annual conferences that still bring together scholars and educators. There are others, including the Canadian Committee on Women’s History (CCWH).
My doctoral research looked at how social movement widespread activism during the 1970s spilled into a range of educational circles and influenced history teachers in altering curricula to include women. Women’s organizations developed and broadened networks, created and published resources, and lobbied governments. But what Wendy Robbins notes, while the women’s liberation movement was international, “its organizational forms were typically small and local.” I drew on a wide range of sources – including private collections and oral histories— to uncover the multi-layered relationships between parents, governments and teachers. The fundamental work to include women in history curricula, then, relied heavily on grassroots networks that allowed for women’s experiences to leak into classrooms. At the forefront were women’s committees, teachers, librarians and Affirmative Action representatives. Within the broader public sphere, contributions by parents, activists, publishers, reformers. The substantive grassroots activism demonstrates the ways in which community “bottom-up” initiatives can be a powerful force in curricular change.
Unfortunately there still remains in place today a lack of women’s lived experiences or narratives within history courses studied in schools. I suggest that History/Social Studies teachers must apply pedagogical approaches that reach out to local communities where women’s voices are strong, and which brings forth diverse perspectives to their historical examinations. I think a focus on the diversity of women’s experiences is crucial. Teachers can do this in two ways: First, by taking a non-traditional perspective, one not explored in the teaching resources, to explore a missing women’s narratives, a voice not present, an untold story. (For example, that women’s suffrage did not extend to First Nations women until the late 1960s) Second, teachers can bring in local narratives as a lens to broader national stories. Bringing in local women’s stories allows for broader narratives to examine women’s leadership in their communities. [For example, Anne Maria Jackson and her 7 children who escaped through the “underground railroad” and built a new life in Toronto or Rosemary Brown, the first black woman in Canadian history to be a member of a Canadian parliament, dedicated significant community work to promote equity] Teachers can give voice to those omitted from the dominant narratives; the voices of Indigenous women, of immigrant women, and women who challenged the status quo. By including historical narratives that honour diverse women, teachers are also honouring the diversity of their own students and communities.
My current research explores the ways in which school texts present the First World War. In examining the history of the war (grade 10 history course, and only mandatory Canadian history course in Ontario secondary schools) texts briefly acknowledge the work of Canadian women-as nurses and volunteers- in the war. At one time, side bars in the textbooks, or captured within a few sentences to acknowledge women’s “charitable work”, they have grown to full page narratives, however, they remain outside the dominant story and within the same constructs. Most history texts recognize women’s munitions factory work, but provide limited discussion about the working conditions or daily life. (Over 40,000 women working in factories). The Home front chapters contain references to supply and food production, with an overall narrative of citizens as “cogs” in the Great War machine—one textbook calling them “citizen soldiers”—briefly filling the gaps “due to the absence of men.” Texts frame the experiences of women within supportive roles/fulfilling duties of good citizenship/good Mothers/ and as benefiting from war participation.
Texts acknowledge, “Farm women worked long hours in the fields…they were needed to replace farm workers fighting overseas.” But that still does not allow for the lived experiences of individual women. In her work on the “farmettes,” Margaret Kechnie notes that women on the farms were making less than $4 a week, expected to pay for room and board. The conditions were extremely difficult. This is an opportunity for teachers to explore those particular narratives, beginning with the examples provided by Canadian women’s history scholars; seeking out online documents to explore diverse narratives; examining local archives to seek out the experiences of women in the school community. Home front narratives might include the efforts of girls as well, evident in schools; in lunch programs and after school programs, such as the “Home Guards/Girl’s Cadets/Junior Red Cross Clubs, Community fundraising, use of “Victory gardening” and allow students to seek out the ways in which girls and women played a leadership role.
Counter narratives, also generally missing, but a place where we find women’s voices. Labour unrest across the country, peace activists, Indigenous peoples, religious groups, farmers, women’s organizations, all argued against the war. Agnes Macphail, social advocate and politician, pressed the government for peace. Lorna McLean has written about Julia Grace Wales served as a delegate at the International Congress of Women peace conference, in the Hague 1915, where her plan to stop the war was adopted as a resolution or, after the war, members of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, undertook a survey of history textbooks in Canada to assess support for militarism. They hoped to remove the glorification of war.[i] So these stories provide alternatives to narratives of military heroism, and provide another lens into women’s lived experiences.
Finally, textbooks that include more than a single sentence about women make the error of uniting women’s experiences into a single voice; an assumption that women’s experiences were the same. In Canada, some women were sent to internment camps for having affiliations with the enemy. Labelled in Canada as “alien enemies,” were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in government work camps. (In the years 1914 to 1920 there were 20 plus camps and 56 “receiving” stations that held 8,579 prisoners, including women and children.) Other women worked long hours on farms and in factories, others took care of extended families, others worked as nurses in field hospitals, and still others maintained humanitarian work with organizations such as the Red Cross. These women would have had widely different experiences. Their placement as a unified voice supports state narratives of a united nation, but also limits the individual and diverse voices of women and provides students with a false understanding of the varied perspectives of the war.
Bold steps are needed to reframe the categories and dominant narratives employed in our history studies— including the study of war —to explore more deeply the diversity of voices affected by conflict and seek out new opportunities for students to deconstruct what it means to be a citizen. Teachers today can access hundreds of websites for primary and secondary documents that incorporate the narratives of women, including resources from herstoriescafe.ca, a grassroots women’s history talk series that I initiated which has developed some online curriculum resources. Perhaps students might develop their own Canadian women’s history series that provides a forum for community members who explore issues of equity-gender-class-race, and are specific of place—fluid, and across subjects. And, just like the Canadian women in our collective past, educators today must recognize that incorporating the lived experiences of women in schools rests on the work of individuals and communities. Scholars and educators have developed history resources and materials that focus specifically on the experience of Canadian women, and they are available if you look for them. As well, educators can bring more women’s historical experiences into the classroom by developing partnerships with different communities; bringing in an elder; getting students to think about some of the inherent gender bias in their sources (textbooks, archival etc); engaging students in research in local archives, historic houses, and museums; engage in oral histories by documenting the history of local women or creating a documentary about local women leaders, or engage in walking tours that incorporate the diverse stories and multiple perspectives of women in their communities. 50% of the population is women, let’s seek out ways to give voice to their lived experiences through 50% of our Canadian history curriculum. Thank you.
[i] See L.R. McLean, “The Necessity of Going”: Julia Grace Wales’s Transnational Life as a Peace Activist and a Scholar” and R. Fine-Meyer, “The Ontario Women’s History Network: Linking Teachers, Scholars, and History Communities,” both in Catherine Carstairs and Nancy Janovicek, eds, Feminist History in Canada: New Essays on Women, Gender, Work, and Nation ( Vancouver, UBC Press, 2013) See also: S. Glassford & A.Shaw ed., A Sisterhood of Suffering and Service: Women and Girls of Canada and Newfoundland During the First World War (Vancouver, UBC Press, 2012) and Pat Staton, It was Their War Too (Green Dragon Press, 2006).
blog: An update on my research, teaching and publications since 2012. Thank you thenhier.ca for asking me to contribute to your blogs.
Dr. Rose Fine-Meyer. Since graduating with my PhD in 2012, I have continued to write and research in the area of history/social studies education in Canada, specifically in Ontario, which explores the relationships between provincially sanctioned curricula, teacher pedagogical practices, and place-based learning experiences, both in the past and in the present. I have also been teaching in the Master of Teaching program at OISE/University of Toronto.
Using my doctoral work as a springboard, which looked at how social movement widespread activism spilled into a range of educational circles and influenced history teachers in altering curricula to include women in course studies, I have subsequently published work on the activism of the Ontario Women’s History Network (OWHN), a group of feminist academics and educators in Ontario, formed in the 1980s, to address the problems faced by teachers in accessing resources about or by women. OWHN organized workshops, conferences and networks to promote teaching, research, and public accessibility to Canadian women’s history. My chapter, “The Ontario Women’s History Network: Linking Teachers, Scholars, and History Communities,” is in the book edited by Catherine Carstairs and Nancy Janovicek, Feminist History in Canada: New Essays on Women, Gender, Work, and Nation UBC Press, 2013) explores their work. I include a set of oral histories with members of OWHN to demonstrate the ways in which grassroots activism was instrumental in affecting educational outcomes and an essential part of bringing women’s historical experiences into schools in Ontario.
A number of my publications incorporate narratives with educators who approach teaching with an equity lens. In an article I contributed to in Curriculum Inquiry, (March 2014), I provide the results of research on the relationship between teacher work and policy development in advocating for new equity courses in Ontario. My research uncovered how teachers developed stand-alone courses that addressed what they perceived as gaps in the curriculum. I argue that their curriculum development (curriculum activism) found its way from classrooms into provincial-level courses; specifically in my research, for the gender equity course, now offered as a grade 11 course in Ontario. For this study, I interviewed teachers who were on the writing team for the Ontario Ministry of Education. The study took place a few years before the new equity courses were launched so it provides insight into curriculum development.
My scholarship is also deeply informed by my practice, in particular the work I have done to ground history/social studies education practices in community based knowledges and understandings. My investigations explore the ways in which committed educators, community members, educational reformers, activists, and others, have an impact in the classroom, in schools and in the community. In short, how the world around the school, and the socio-historical/geographical moment of a place leaks into the classroom and can affect real change within the curricula and within students’ experiences.
My work challenges the traditional school model that separates the experiences students have outside the schools, from that which they experience in the classroom. I begin each new class at the University of Toronto with a walk through the grounds of philosophers walk and ask students to find evidence of a buried river. They look at the trees, the bridges that cross the path, and the ways in which the land dips and curves. For many, this is their first direct engagement with this space. I am currently completing an article that explores the impact of place-based initiatives within a Faculty of Education that is based on my teaching the past 3 years. What I have found is students’ ability to connect with themselves as learners—reflecting on the very personal lens they employed in completing the tasks and suggesting the beginnings of historical/geographical consciousness. I explore the advantages and challenges of place-based initiatives for history/social studies teachers in my chapter, “Engendering Power and Legitimation: Giving Teachers the Tools to Claim a Place for History Education in Their Schools” in the publication Becoming a History Teacher in Canada: Sustaining Practices in Historical Thinking (Ruth Sandwell, Amy von Heyking, 2014). My chapter represents a strategy that was already in practice, a place-based Interdisciplinary course (IDC4UI) that I was commissioned to write for the Ontario Ministry of Education, which was offered in the school in which I taught, and for which I received a Governor General’s award. This year, I will be testing some of the course materials that I have developed as stand-alone units for Social Studies classes in Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec, and welcome any interested teachers in their involvement in this project!
My work also involves networking within a wide range of communities. As a member of THEN/HiER, I led Approaching the Past workshops. More recently I have developed a teacher/teacher candidate mentorship program to provide opportunities for educators to test and share best practices in classrooms in Toronto. I also initiated a grassroots women’s history talk series HerstoriesCafe.ca, funded by THEN/HiER and the city of Toronto, which has developed online curriculum resources for teachers. The talk series won a Heritage Toronto Community award in 2012, providing curriculum resources for use in classrooms and continues today. I have written about this work in an unpublished article (submitted for publication) with Kate Zankowicz, using HerstoriesCafe as a case study for museum practitioners who are seeking to recognize diverse community knowledges in their museums. I am also vice-president of the Ontario Heritage Fairs Association (OHFA) which was recognized this June with the 2015 Ontario History Society (OHS) President’s award and, as well, I was Guest Editor of a special edition of Ontario History journal (“Women and Education in Ontario,” Ontario History Journal (Toronto: OHS, Vol. 107, No. 1 Spring 2015) which recognizes my work in women’s history, heritage and education. I am currently in talks with a colleague on a joint project in oral histories and women teachers.
My current research focuses on history textbooks and teacher pedagogy. I have been fortunate to work with Cate Duquette (UQAC) on a joint paper that compares the teaching of the First World War in both Quebec and Ontario textbooks. This cross-provincial approach is deeply enriching in terms of the kinds of historical analysis and comparisons one can do with the research. As well, I have just completed a chapter “Our duty is to produce more and to waste nothing”: Reconfiguring the gaps between home front and battle narratives in school history textbooks in Ontario, 1921-2001″ that I have submitted as part of an international peer-reviewed book collection (Palgrave/Macmillan) on the History of Textbooks and War, which was in response to a paper that I presented at the ISCHE conference in London, UK, 2014, with expected publication in 2016.
This year, several book chapters were also published, including a chapter that explored teacher’s pedagogical focus on peace education in a book on the history of anti-war activism in Canada that builds on work I did around teachers and activism, by honing in on the experience of teachers who were activists and how they dealt with the glorification of war, and ideas about war, within their classroom during a time of great conflict and pacifist action 1960s-90s. My chapter, “A Good Teacher Is a Revolutionary: Alternative War Perspectives in Toronto Classrooms from the 1960s to the 1990s” in Lara Campbell, Michael Dawson, eds., Worth Fighting For: Canada’s Tradition of War Resistance from 1812 to the War on Terror (Toronto: BTL Press, 2015) is part of a collection of essays documenting the history of war resistance in Canada. My chapter explores how teachers, active in Vietnam anti-war activism, and anti-nuclear war activism, brought their social activism to help shape what was taught in the classroom. The networking between parents, teachers and communities to bring anti-war narratives and peace education into the classroom was central to the Toronto scene, affecting curriculum development, teacher pedagogy and resources teachers could access.
My research expands the study of curricular change. My work provides an analysis of the interplay between official curricula, teacher pedagogy and practice, and student learning. I regularly give papers at academic conferences, for the CHA and CSSE, at The Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and at CHEA, and ISCHE. This May, 2015, I gave papers at the “Contesting Canada’s Future,” International Conference at Trent University, as part of its 50th
Anniversary Celebrations, and at the CSSE as part of The Congress in Ottawa. I also recently published an article for Rapport (OHASSTA) magazine about inquiry-based learning (June 2015). I also give workshops and talks.
You can find me at: rose.fine.meyer at utoronto.ca