Past and Present: Advocating for Rural Education

In my ongoing SSHRCC project regarding the history of parental advocacy for children’s schooling in rural parts of BC, issues of methods and methodologies have become paramount. In the project, we are comparing two data sets: one historical and one contemporary. My research assistants, both PhD students in EDST, are asking key questions about the difficulties in bringing these sources into conversation with each other. What are the methodological challenges in doing so? What needs to be taken into consideration, from an analytical point of view, when one is working with sets of data that speak to similar issues and yet are decades apart? Stay tuned for some ongoing posts about this tricky issue.

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Pleased to announce two awards…..

I am so delighted to be the 2018 recipient of two awards from affiliated committees of the Canadian Historical Association (CHA).  As a former postdoctoral student of the late Dr. Neil Sutherland, a trailblazer in the history of children and childhood in Canada, I was particularly proud to receive the Neil Sutherland Prize for the best article in the history of children and youth from the History of Children and Youth Group of the CHA. It was also gratifying to be awarded the best article in the history of sexuality in Canada from the Canadian Committee on the History of Sexuality (CHA). I have included the citations here:

Neil Sutherland Prize, 2018

Mona Gleason, “Avoiding the Agency Trap: Caveats for Historians of Children, Youth, and Education,” Journal of the History of Education (Vol. 45, no. 4, 2016): 446-59.

“Gleason’s exploration of the scholarly roots, opportunities and limitations of the concept of agency in the history of children and youth offers a timely and compelling reflection. It effectively recasts the discussion around the “agency ideal” by laying out its pitfalls while pointing out new ways that the field may move forward in its efforts to engage more fully with the complexity of childhood. The committee was impressed by how Gleason skillfully uses a collection of family letters from the British Columbia Department of Education to explore new ways that the concept – and limitations – of children’s agency can be approached; mainly through empathic inference and a closer reading of age through the prisms of relational and power dynamics. Gleason’s masterful discussion of the lessons of similar debates in anthropology, women’s studies and the history of children and youth serves as both a historiographical roadmap and a discussion point for new ways to approach an essential question in the field.”

Canadian Committee on the History of Sexuality Prize, 2018

Mona Gleason, “‘Knowing Something I Was Not Meant to Know’: Exploring Vulnerability, Sexuality, and Childhood, 1900-1950”. Canadian Historical Review 98, 1 (March 2017).

“Gleason makes an argument for “social age” as a useful category in the historical analysis of sexuality and, in doing so, stages an historiographical conversation between two different subfields: the history of children / youth and the history of sexuality. Using a wide range of sources, Gleason also furnishes a complex analysis of the historical meanings and dynamics of vulnerability in the first half of the twentieth century. On the one hand, we see the often-devastating real-life impact of “expert” control over medical and social discourses aimed at children, which often rendered them more, not less, susceptible to harm and abuse. On the other hand, from the perspective of the young, we learn that shielding children from sexual knowledge generated ignorance rather than protection, which, in turn, fostered misinformation and feelings of shame and confusion about sex and bodies among young people. Gleason’s article asks us to think hard about the always-fraught nexus of childhood and sexuality, both in the past and in the many ramifications of that history in our present.”

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New SSHRCC Insight Grant – “Talking Back to Victoria: Parental Advocacy for Rural Education in British Columbia, 1920 to the Present”

My new research project, which returns to the archival records of the Elementary Correspondence School in British Columbia’s early twentieth century, has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC).  The project will fund graduate student researchers to assist me on this project. We will focus on what the archival documents reveal about how and why parents “talked back” to the educational administrators and to governmental inaction on the rural education file in Victoria. The project will also focus on how this history informs present struggles of parents who continue to advocate for more attention to rural education in the province. Watch this space as we move forward with the project and making our findings available to interested readers.

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Two New Publications – Embodiment in Education and Families without Schools

I’ve published two new articles of note recently. The first is the Keynote Address that I gave last year (2017) at the International Standing Conference on the History of Education (ISCHE)  in Chicago.  Entitled “Metaphor, materiality, and method: the central role of embodiment in the history of education,” the paper can be found in Paedagogica Historica at DOI: 10.1080/00309230.2017.1355328.

My latest research project focusing on British Columbia’s Elementary Correspondence School (ECS) has also been published. This paper relies heavily on an amazing collection of archival letters between the ECS and British Columbian families – parents and children – and can be found at Mona Gleason, “Families Without Schools: Rurality, Correspondence Education, and the Promise of Schooling in Interwar Western Canada.” History of Education Quarterly 57: 3 (August 2017): 305-330.

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Oxford Bibliographies in Childhood Studies article “History of Childhood in Canada” has just gone live!

Authored with my colleague, Tamara Myers, our Oxford Bibliography entry for the history of children in the Canadian context is available at We are delighted to contribute to this important resource in the field and to be able to highlight how much excellent work has been done in the last decade or so. The field in Canada is now well past its infancy!

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The Problem(s) with Adult Constructions of Children’s Vulnerability – Lessons for the History of Sexuality and Sexual Health

I’ve published a new article in the March 2017 issue of the Canadian Historical Review  ( that employs the concept of “social age” to interrogate adult constructions of children’s vulnerability, particular in the realm of sexuality and sexual health. Historically, adults have used assumptions regarding young age to keep children in the dark about their bodies and about sexuality. My research suggests that keeping children ignorant in the realm of sexuality often produced unintended consequences: they become more not less vulnerable to feelings of shame, confusion, and abuse at the hands of others.

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Bringing Children and Youth into Canadian History – New Book Published!

I am happy to announce that Bringing Children and Youth in Canadian History: The Difference Kids Make (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2017) has just been published. Co-edited with my colleague Tamara Myers, the book is a collection of readings particularly tailored for instructors teaching history courses for students at the college and university level. A number of the articles in the book have not been previously published and we are thrilled that they appear for the first time here. We have also included useful primary documents that pair with each article. We hope this book supports students and instructors who want to learn more about the remarkable contributions that young people have made, and continue to make, to Canada’s history.bringing-children-and-youth-into-canadian-history


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Keynote Address at the 38th International Standing Committee on the History of Education, Chicago, August 17 – 20th, 2016

Next week, I travel to Chicago to join my history of education colleagues around the world at the 38th ISCHE conference. This marks a unique opportunity for historians of education from around the world to come together to present their research. The theme of this year’s conference is “Education and the Body.” Over 90 parallel sessions will fill our four day conference.

The conference features daily keynote addresses and I am pleased to offer the first Keynote Address, presented in conjunction with the opening of an exhibit on the body in the history of education at the Newberry Library. My address is entitled “Metaphor, Materiality, and Method: The Central Role of the Body in the History of Education.” The paper reflects on how the body has been instrumental in shaping our histories over the last decades and I extend three “inspiring provocations” to scholars to develop new questions, new theories, and new methods in the field – all based on thinking through and with the body in educational settings.

For more information on ISCHE and the program of the Conference, see:

Main Page

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Forthcoming Article: “Avoiding the Agency Trap…..”

My latest article entitled  “Avoiding the Agency Trap: Caveats for Historians of Children, Youth, and Education,” will appear in a special issue of History of Education in the next few months. The issue focuses “Marginalized Children and Vulnerable Histories” and is edited by Johanna Sköld and Kaisa Vehkalahti.

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Spencer Foundation Grant and New Research Project

I’m delighted to be a recipient of a Spencer Foundation Grant for my latest research project entitled Families without Schools: Rurality and the Promise of Schooling in Western Canada, 1920s to 1960s. The project re-visits the family letters of the Elementary Correspondence School files at the BC Archives and asks the following questions: 1) How did settler parents and children negotiate the demands of their rural settings in order to get an education? 2) How did they articulate the purpose and value of schooling and what impact did their rural location have on these articulations?  3) What can this history reflect about contemporary efforts to ensure that parents and students feel included in school communities?

At the end of March, 2016, I presented the first paper from the project at the European Social Science History Conference, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain. My powerpoint presentation for that paper, entitled “Families Without Schools: Rurality, Remoteness, and the Promise of Schooling in Western Canada, 1930 to 1960,” is linked here:

ESSHC 2016 Valencia POWERPOINT Families Without Schools

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