Gender Performativity in Mina Benson Hubbard’s A Woman’s Way Through Unknown Labrador

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Douglas Rasmussen


In 1905 Mina Benson Hubbard, the widow of explorer Leonidas Hubbard, began the project of exploring and mapping the Labrador region from the North West River to Ungava Bay initially undertaken by her late husband (who perished on the original expedition), Dillon Wallace, and his guide, George Elson, who would later accompany Mina Hubbard in her expedition. The press and the public both expressed shock that a woman would venture into the field of travel and exploration, which was conceived as a man’s occupation. Moreover, women were not considered capable of the physical abilities or the scientific rigor necessary for such arduous endeavours. Mina Hubbard’s published account of her exploration traces her arc from an inexperienced, middle-­‐class woman to an accomplished cartographer of the Labrador region. This essay uses Judith Butler’s theories of fluidity in gendered identity to examine the complicated roles female explorers in early twentieth-­‐century Canada had to negotiate.