Dr. Bonnie Reilly Schmidt receives Dean's Convocation Medal

June 09, 2014

Dr. Bonnie Reilly Schmidt’s experiences as one of the first women in the RCMP gave her a remarkably privileged position for writing her groundbreaking dissertation on the history of women in the RCMP.

Dr. Willeen Keough, her supervisor, says, "Bonnie is a scholar of very high caliber who has made a significant and original contribution to Canadian history and to gender and women's history with her doctoral dissertation. It possesses that rare combination of scholarly sophistication and accessibility to the general public."

In the course of her PhD research, Dr. Schmidt has been interviewed by CBC Radio, Maclean’s, the Vancouver Sun and a number of other media sources. Her article, “Women on the Force”, published in Canada’s History, was nominated for a Gold Award in the 2012 Western Magazine Awards. Her doctoral research has led to six conference papers and four publications, including an article in the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association and a chapter in an edited collection on bodies and national identities, published by the University of Toronto Press. She is also a SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholar.

Women have been noticeably absent from the historical record of the RCMP, allowing the figure of the heroic male Mountie to continue his dominance in official, academic, and popular histories. In contrast, her research argues that between 1974 and 1990, female Mounties renegotiated and resisted the gendered interpretation of the police officer as masculine. She relied on the oral narratives of women in the RCMP to reveal how female Mounties rejected male standards of policing that stripped them of their power and positioned them as inferior, rather than equal, figures of civic authority. Instead, female Mounties actively worked to define themselves as equal members of the RCMP on their own terms, challenging ideas about women as the subordinate sex. The alternative policing methods they brought to the occupation contradicted conventional understandings that equated brawn and physical strength with effective policing.

By recording the very recent past in her dissertation, Dr. Reilly Schmidt’s work may be used by those who wish to understand and learn from the past in order to build a better future for women in the RCMP. She intends to pursue a writing career and follow up on her committee's strong recommendation to turn her dissertation into a book.

Dr. Schmidt adds, "I'd like to thank my senior advisor at Simon Fraser University, Dr. Willeen Keough for her encouragement, strength, convictions, and common sense. I have been very fortunate to have been guided and influenced by such a fine Canadian historian."

On behalf of SFU, we congratulate Dr. Bonnie Reilly Schmidt on her outstanding achievements which are being recognized with the award of the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal as one of SFU's most outstanding graduate students from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

See also: All 2014 Convocation Award Winners

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