‘She of the Loghouse Nest’: gendering historical ecological reconstructions in Northern Ontario

Kirsten Greer, Sonje Bols


This paper brings together feminist historical geography with historical ecology as a means to integrate “gender” as a category of analysis when conducting historical ecological reconstructions. Northern Ontario’s ecological past can be discovered in the vast natural history collections housed in museums across North America and the United Kingdom. Natural history specimens reveal important scientific information about past habitats, climates, and ranges and distributions of species. However, while such cumulative data have been crucial to works in historical ecological reconstructions, the ways in which such gendered knowledge has been produced and circulated remains under studied. In 1927, Swedish immigrant Louise de Kiriline Lawrence (1894-1992) settled on Pimisi Bay, Ontario, and became an authority on the breeding behaviours and ranges of several northern Ontario bird species. Material remnants of her contributions exist as records, bird skins, and nests in the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, as well as in professional ornithological publications. As this paper demonstrates, de Kiriline Lawrence gained authority in “the field” through  the domestic sphere of her “Loghouse Nest” home. Her expertise included the breeding behaviours of birds, such as courtship, nesting habits, and rearing of the young, areas deemed suitable for women in the first half of the twentieth century. De Kiriline Lawrence’s natural history specimens, therefore, can also be conceptualized as cultural artefacts reflective of gendered situated knowledges, an important consideration when engaging in critical historical ecological reconstructions of past environments. 


colonialism; ornithology; northern Ontario; museum collections

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ISSN: 2331-7523