Rare Merit

Women in Photography in Canada, 1840–1940

Table of contents


1 The Daguerreans, 1841–61

2 The Livernois Studio, 1854–74

3 Notman’s Printing Room, 1860–80

4 The Maynard Studio, 1862–1912

5 The Moodie Studio, 1895–1905

6 Travel, Photography, and Photojournalism, 1872–1940

7 Commercial Studio Photographers, 1860–1940

8 Artists and Amateurs, 1890–1940


Notes; Selected Bibliography; List of Illustrations; Index

Rare Merit illuminates the impact of women as portraitists, travel documentarians, photojournalists, fine artists, hobbyists, and printers in the early years of photography in Canada.


Rare Merit is a beautifully illustrated and astute examination of women photographers in Canada as it took shape in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Throughout, the camera was both a witness to the colonialism, capitalism, and gendered and racialized social organization, and a protagonist. And women across the country, whether residents or visitors, captured people and places that were entirely new to the lens. This book shows how they did so, and the meaning their work carries.

Colleen Skidmore surveys the professional lives and photographs of nearly eighty women – studio portraitists, travel documentarians, photojournalists, fine artists, hobbyists, and photographic printers – from Lucy Maude Montgomery on Prince Edward Island to Élise Livernois in Quebec City, and from Margaret Bourke-White in the Arctic to Hannah Maynard on Vancouver Island.

Why women? Why not women? Presenting the exceptional range and impact of their work, Rare Merit proves that women’s practices and images – knowingly omitted from founding narratives of photographic history – were diverse, compelling, widespread, and influential.


  • Joint winner, AUPresses Book, Jacket, and Journal Show: Scholarly Illustrated 2023
  • Short-listed, WILLA Literary Award, Scholarly Non-Fiction 2023


"Fletcher’s story opens Rare Merit and skillfully articulates Skidmore’s main thesis: women’s histories are central to the medium, and women played a significant role in the development of Canadian photography."

- Siobhan Angus