Was Laura Secord a heroine during the War of 1812? Or was she a heroine for the women's rights movement? In George Ingram's article, "The Story of Laura Secord Revisited", Mr. Ingram examines the effect of Laura's walk upon the outcome of the war, as well as her later role in the women's right's movement. Laura led the way for women's rights and feminism in the 1890's and early 1900's. In Cecelia Morgan's article "Of Slender Frame and Delicate Appearance: The Placing of Laura Secord in the Narratives of Canadian Loyalist History", Ms.
Morgan looks at women's rights in terms of the movement, with the spirit of Laura Secord being its representative, and how Laura Secord was added to the narratives of Canadian history. "Secord became part of the narratives of Loyalist Crown primarily - although not solely - because of the attempts of women historians and writers who, from the 1880's on, strove to incorporate women into Canadian history and to dislodge the masculine emphasis of the 19 th Century Loyalist myths of suffering and sacrifice." The later of the articles does not look as critically at Laura's part in the war as Mr. Ingram's does. The ideas brought forth in these two articles both look at the same thing, which is Laura's role in the women's rights movement, but they have been examined in a contrasting manner. Regardless, both historians do agree that Laura Secord is an important part of Canada's history, and are aiming to find a place for her in our history.
When analyzing these two articles, it is very visible to notice a contrast between their writings. Ingram looks mainly at Laura Secord as a wartime heroine, who later became the figurehead of the women's rights movement, whereas Morgan looks at Laura's role in the women's rights movement which was primarily brought on by her role in the War of 1812. "1812 was during the time that Laura Secord became one of the most significant female symbols of Canadian nationalism." This quote was one of particular interest, because according to Morgan, Laura Secord was a figurehead from the time that she took her perilous journey to De Cou. But as Ingram's points out, Laura Secord did not release her story until 1845, when her son wrote a letter in The Church.
He also pointed out that Laura's story did not become a factor of the women's rights movement until the 1880's, when women's suffrage groups needed a representative to support their cause, and what better person, than one helped to save our nation from the attack of the Americans. One interesting fact was that although Morgan claimed that Laura was the figurehead of women's rights, she didn't mention anything about how Laura sustained a life for herself and her children, because if she had spoken about this, she would have come to the same conclusion than that of Ingram, which is that after countless petitions to receive reimbursement for her good patriotism, she was never taken seriously, and "this was harsh testimony of the shock that 'officialdom' in Upper Canada placed in Laura's feat." Over the years, the story of Laura Secord has been transformed into many different versions of basically the same story, but because of these transformations, it has made it very hard for her story to hold any credibility. "Laura Secord was a woman, and this in itself accounts for the avid interest shown by those of her own sex whose whimsical approach to historical study added details of decidedly doubtful validity." Her story has been very much romanticized, and Ingram believes that "newly discovered evidence shows that the 'debunking' has gone too far." Commonly known as the figurehead of a candy company, Morgan explains that Laura Secord was more than someone who just took a walk to convey pertinent information. She states that there is a little-discussed issue of how Laura became a heroine during the late 19 th and early 20 th century. This is because at that time, historians tried to create heroes in order to promote patriotism and loyalty in one's country. It has also been argued that Laura's information came too late, and had no real effect upon the outcome of the war, but Ingram holds strong to the fact that Laura was an important part of the war, in more ways than just traveling to De Cou.
Morgan argues that Laura Secord was written into the narrative of Canadian history shortly after her perilous journey, and therefore became the main subject of the suffrage movement, but if one refers to what they have learned earlier in their schooling, they would recall that the only information on Laura Secord taught in school is that of her initial walk. There is very little about how she was the figurehead of such an enormous movement. This is because, as Ingram put it, "since World War I, and since the formal achievement of women's right, Laura has been ridiculed or neglected." This could partially be because of the lack of accuracy when recalling her story, but for the most part, as Ingram summarized, many women's rights organizations needed to have an example of the potential that women had if only they could attain their rights, and as soon as they did, they no longer needed the history of Laura, so her name was taken in 1913 and used as an emblem for his new chain of candy stores. It was quite interesting to see how both of the authors approached their viewpoint, but in opposite ways. When looking at this, one must also look at the gender of the historian writing the articles, because George Ingram seems to take on a role almost that of a feminist, by stating that she was basically the unofficial leader of women's rights, as well as how the community embraced Laura's patriotism, but for many years, they did not even know that she had done such a thing for their country.
Cecelia Morgan speaks about the women's rights movement, but takes to particular regard for Laura's role in the war. Morgan does want to preserve the narrative of Laura Secord in Canada's history, yet at the same time, she wants to make sure that people know that Laura was just a face of many. She may have taken a risk, but one must remember that after settlement in Canada, women were expected to do a number of things that men would have traditionally done, including fulfilling their patriotic duty to their country. "Laura Secord was not an isolated figure. Ranged behind and about her was a whole gallery of women in Canadian history." Also when analyzing these two articles, the way that the author's viewed Laura in terms of her physical strength was contrasting.
George Ingram did not focus at all on her physical appearance on the day of the journey, but rather the point of her journey, whereas Morgan, on two distinct separate occasions mentioned her extreme delicacy and frailty. "Her delicacy and slight build was frequently stressed by those who commemorated her." As well as "while her supporters did not make explicit their motives in stressing her frailty, it is possible to see it as a subtext to counter medical and scientific arguments about female physical deficiencies that made women, particularly white, middle class women, unfit for political participation and higher education." These conclusions were a bit strange, because Cecelia Morgan is in fact a woman, which seems rather strange that she would be commenting so much on how frail Laura was during her journey, all the while George Ingram who is in fact a man did not mention her physical state as being a downfall at all, but rather commented on her strength to be able to carry out a twenty mile walk through forest and bushes and through enemy lines. In conclusion, these two articles, written by two separate authors are very interesting, because they do in fact look at the same issues, such as the validity of the information that Laura Secord passed on to Fitzgibbon, the validity of her walk, whether she started the women's rights movement, or if she was just a figurehead for it, and finally, her state during the journey, both physically and mentally. Theses articles are also interesting in the sense that Ingram seems to look specifically at Laura Secord and her personal story, and how she later became an integral part of the women's rights movement, whereas Morgan looks at the women's rights movement on the whole, rather than the story of Laura, but she uses Laura as an example of how the women's rights movement was started by plain women settlers who were just trying to fulfill their patriotic duty to their country in a time of need. Also, Ingram is intent on the re installation of respect for Laura Secord. He maintains that it is needed immediately, because not enough people know about her, and what they do know of her is more than likely a myth, rather than what actually happened.
Morgan on the other hand seems to be satisfied with the information of Laura Secord to date, but says that she wants to maintain the fact that Laura Secord will stay in Canadian history for a very long time. Was Laura Secord a heroine during the war? Or the face of the women's rights movement? Both, but it is imperative to understand what she did for Canada in 1812. Had she not risked her life for Canada, the war could have ended differently, and she would have been unable to represent the women's rights movement, and as pop culture places her, she wouldn't have been able to be the pictorial representative of a chocolate company. Ingram, George C. "The Story of Laura Secord Revisited" in Reappraisals in Canadian History. 2 nd ed.
Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall, 1996. 264 - 275. Morgan, Cecilia. "Of Slender Frame and Delicate Appearance: The Making of Laura Secord in the Narratives of Canadian Loyalist History" in Reappraisals in Canadian History.
2 nd ed. Scarborough, ON: Prentice-Hall, 1996. 276 - 295.