You’ve probably walked past it countless times on St. Catherine St. between Bishop and Mackay. St. Jax Church (formerly known as St. James the Apostle Anglican Church) houses a lovely large sanctuary, behind which, tucked in a corner, is a small room known as the Writers’ Chapel. That’s where you’ll find a number of plaques paying homage to Montreal writers. The honourees include John Glassco, Hugh MacLennan, Gwethalyn Graham, Louis Hémon, Mavis Gallant and A. M. Klein, with a new plaque added each fall. This year, the Writers’ Chapel Trust, the group behind this very commendable effort, commemorates author Constance Beresford-Howe.
Beresford-Howe’s novels portray women’s lives, conveying a feminist message that in her day was considered ahead of the times. Born in 1922, she was raised in Montreal. After earning a BA and MA at McGill and a PhD at Brown University, in the U.S., she taught English literature and creative writing at McGill. Later, she and her husband moved to Toronto, where she taught at Ryerson Polytechnic Institute.
She experienced success while still in her early twenties, when her very first novel, The Unreasoning Heart, set in NDG, was published by Dodd, Mead, in the U.S., and soon after appeared in a condensed version in Redbook magazine. She went on to write nine other novels, including The Book of Eve, still in print and considered a classic, in which the 65-year-old heroine leaves her domineering husband and becomes involved with a much younger man. The Book of Eve was published in a number of countries and adapted for the stage and the screen.
After retiring from teaching, she moved to England where she died in 2016.
The plaque honouring Constance Beresford-Howe will be installed on Friday, October 11 at 6 p.m., to be followed by a wine and cheese reception. All are welcome.
St. Jax is located at 1439 Saint Catherine St. W. The entrance to the Writers’ Chapel is on Bishop St.