Book details

Publication date: September 2017
Features: Full colour, over 60 photographs, 4 maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Series: Mountain Cairns: A series on the history and culture of the Canadian Rocky Mountains
Keywords: Photography / Women’s History
Subject(s): PHOTOGRAPHY / Individual Photographers / Monographs, History, Art & Performance, Gender & Sexuality, Gender & Sexuality / Women’s Studies, Photography / Women’s History, Photography, Travel, Biography, HISTORY / Women, PHOTOGRAPHY / History, Social & cultural history, Gender studies: women & girls, Photography / Women’s History, Mountain Studies, Women's Studies, Humanities
Publisher(s): The University of Alberta Press

Colleen Skidmore. Colleen Skidmore is a photography historian and Professor at the University of Alberta. Her research focuses on women’s photographic practices and archives of women in photography in North America from 1860 to 1920. She is the editor of This Wild Spirit: Women in the Rocky Mountains of Canada (UAP).

"In her new book, Skidmore portrays Schäffer in a nuanced way by discussing the scientific and artistic communities she came from, as well as the lives of the people she travelled with. She also dissolves some of the more persistent stereotypes people use to describe Schäffer.... Readers of Skidmore's new book will better understand why Schäffer's work has moved people for so long."

Madeleine Cummings, Edmonton Examiner

"Skidmore is a social historian of photography, and with this perspective she examines Schäffer’s influence. From this publication, you can expect a feminist, academic and analytical approach to discovering Schäffer.... Throughout the book, Skidmore unpacks several fallacies in previous interpretations of Schäffer’s life, character, writing and photography. Pairing these commonly misconstrued ‘facts’ and assumptions with thorough research on existing literature – as well as newly examined material – Skidmore brings forth a new layer to the reconstruction of Schäffer’s character and meaning of her work." [Full article at]

Tera Swanson, Canadian Rockies Annual 2018

"Skidmore’s monograph offers a robust introduction to Schäffer’s work and contributes to recent scholarship in American art that attends to work produced across the North American continent.... Overall, Skidmore delivers an analysis of Schäffer’s prolific career as an artist and writer that will be of specific interest to scholars interested in the history of photography, women’s studies, and the history of science.... Skidmore offers a refreshing alternative to other studies in her emphasis on the collaborative practices that Schäffer engaged in alongside other women who were drawn to the Canadian Rockies during the early twentieth century." [Full review at]

Katherine Mintie, Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art, Spring 2018

"...a full and fascinating narrative of Schäffer's adult life, including her four-month summer excursions, in 1907 and 1908, into remote areas of the Rockies of Alberta and BC.... In this detailed book, Skidmore writes Schäffer, deservedly, into a historical narrative heretofore populated mostly by men.... [I]t is a significant achievement."

Stephen Ross Smith, Alberta Views Magazines, July/August 2018

"In this book, Skidmore considers four basic themes - women, wilderness, travel, and science. She asks questions, tells stories, and makes full use of material in the archives of Canada and the United States."

Alberta History

[T]his book makes a significant contribution to the field of Rocky Mountain studies, and others, too, will find use in its probing reflections on the unreliability of authorial voice, the subjectivity of photography, and settler/Indigenous relationships.... Skidmore’s readers will be left not only with an alternate interpretation of Schäffer’s life and work, but with useful strategies for tackling the mythic auras of other figures that loom large in the public imaginary."

Stéphanie Hornstein, RACAR 43.2

Searching for Mary Schäffer is an important contribution for historical geographers and for those interested in nineteenth-century Indigenous-settler points of contact and mapping, feminist historians seeking to decentre predominant Edwardian travel narratives, and historians of photography, expanding the field of the Canadian historical imaginary." [Full review at]

Lisa Binkley, Journal of Historical Geography

Book Design of the Year | Alberta Book Publishing Awards, Book Publishers Association of Alberta, Canada
Author’s Note on Names

1 She Who Colored Slides
Exploring, Challenging, and Comprehending
Rethinking Mary Schäffer Studies

2 Philadelphia, Paris, and the Rocky Mountains of Canada, 1889–1903
Photography in Philadelphia
Photography Aesthetics and the Photographic Society of Philadelphia
Exhibition of American Women Photographers
Beauty, Realism, and Mountain Landscapes

3 The Rocky Mountains of Canada, 1904–1906
1903: Wealth and Widowhood
1904: Meeting Molly Adams
Civilization and Wilderness
1906: Imagination, Literary Licence, and Five Women on the Trail
Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies

4 Maligne Lake, 1907–1911
Seeking Chaba Imne
Finding Chaba Imne
The Beaver Family
Photographing the Beaver Family
Sketching Chaba Imne
Surveying Maligne Lake
Mistaken Identity

5 Japan, 1908–1909, and Banff, 1909–1939
Interest in Things Japanese, October 1908–January 1909
Photographing in Ainu and Atayal Villages
Writing the Rockies, 1909–1939


Appendix 1: Mary T.S. Schäffer and Families
Appendix 2: Mary W. (Molly) Adams and Family
Illustrations and Permissions
ISBNs: 9781772122985 978-1-77212-298-5 Title: searching for mary schaffer