Tuesday, November 16, 2010

From a kiss to the courts

Constance Backhouse is giving the 2010 Avie Bennett Historica-Dominion Institute Lecture on "From a Kiss to the Courts: Canada's First Capital L Lesbian Sexual Assault Trial."

Date: Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Where: Robert R. McEwen Auditorium, Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto
When: 7:30pm, followed by a Q and A and reception

This picture is from the promotion for the lecture, not my private collection, I swear. A bit lurid perhaps, but it gets one's attention.

I have heard Constance Backhouse speak on this case before. It's a doozy.
She is described by the announcement as Distinguished University Professor and University Research Chair at the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa and she's all of that. She's also the first non-American to head up the American Society for Legal History, a multiple-prize winning author for her three alliteratively titled legal histories: Petticoats and Prejudice, Colour-Coded, and Carnal Crimes and one of the movers and shakers of the Feminist History Society. And an exceptionally nice person. But more to the point, she is a heck of a story teller, and this is one she tells very well.

Willimae Moore was charged with “indecent assault on a female” in the winter of 1955, when she attempted to kiss a fellow stenographer working in Yellowknife.
It was a romantic overture that was unreciprocated and resulted in what appears to be Canada’s first prosecution of a woman for sexually assaulting another woman.

Renowned legal scholar Constance Backhouse will bring this fascinating historical case to life as part of this year’s Backhouse will provide a glimpse into sexual norms and gender roles at the time in the unusual context of Canada’s far north in the Cold War era. She’ll explore some of the most pressing questions about the case, such as: What forces came together in the Northwest Territories in the 1950s to make this possible? How did the police, the courts and the community respond? How did this case differ from the usual prosecution for sexual assault historically?

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