Mary Schäffer was a photographer, writer, botanical painter, and mapmaker from Philadelphia, well known for her travels in the Canadian Rockies and Jasper at the turn of the twentieth century. In Searching for Mary Schäffer, Colleen Skidmore takes up Schäffer’s own resonant themes-women and wilderness, travel and science-to ask new questions, tell new stories, and reassess the persona of Mary Schäffer imagined in more recent times. Public and private archival collections in the United States and Canada set the stage for this engrossing exploration of Schäffer’s creative, collaborative, and competitive enterprise amid the cultural complexities of Philadelphia’s science and photography communities, and the scientific, tourist, and Indigenous societies of the Rocky Mountains of Canada.
“In this impressive book, Colleen Skidmore uses her considerable skills as a social historian of photography to shed new light on the remarkable life of Mary Schäffer. She knows the stories, the characters, and presents a social history that is fresh and convincing. Skidmore’s conclusion is brilliant and will certainly serve as a catalyst for further research and study of Mary Schäffer.” Donna Livingstone, President and CEO, Glenbow Museum