I have the honour to present Adele Wiseman, B.A. (Honours).
Adele Wiseman was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, "on the kitchen table in a small house on Manitoba Avenue," of Jewish parents who had migrated from the Ukraine. Adele Wiseman's creative imagination was in many ways shaped by that Eastern European past and by the further experience of people who became immigrants to the prairie city of Winnipeg, where her parents found work as tailors. Adele studied psychology and English at The University of Manitoba, receiving her B.A. (Honours) in 1949. While a student she won, for an early short story, The University of Manitoba Chancellor's Prize.
Like her close friend and fellow Manitoban Margaret Laurence, Adele Wiseman determined early in her life to become
a writer. To support that determination she sought out a variety of instructive jobs; she worked in London, England in an East-End
settlement house; she taught school in Rome. While in Rome she completed the first draft of a novel that had its beginnings in a story she'd
shown to Professor Malcolm Ross, on The University of Manitoba campus. Adele Wiseman returned toWinnipeg and worked again at
a variety of jobs, including a position as Executive Secretary of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, while revising the manuscript.
In 1956, at the age of 28, Adele Wiseman published her first and soon to be renowned novel, The Sacrifice. That novel, in its marvellous range, at once depicts the hardships of the immigrant experience and dares a retelling of the Abraham story in a new world. The idea of sacrifice becomes the test and the redemption of our experience. The Sacrifice received the Governor General's Award for 1956; its immediate effect was to give new impetus and new direction to the literature of the Canadian prairies, to the writing being done by women in Canada, and to the writing that explores the complexities of our urban experience.
In 1974 Adele Wiseman published her second novel, The Crackpot, the story of a prostitute living in the North End of Winnipeg - and again in that story she makes a claim for the moral concerns and the sympathy, for the complex of laughter and care and creativity that must inform a saving vision of the human experience and of our particular place in that spectrum.
Adele Wiseman has written plays, essays and poems. In 1978 she published Old Woman at Play. In that moving and original book she recounts her parents' life-story, and in the process - by looking at her mother's huge doll collection, by meditating on her mother's art of and obsession with doll-making - offers to all of us a theory of creativity that brings together art and life.
And surely Adele Wiseman is that artist, that story-teller, who insists that life and art cannot be separate. As a giver of stories, as a teacher and writer-in-residence in a number of academic institutions, as a traveller (and I was with her in China when she spoke to marvelling audiences about doll-making), as a friend to aspiring artists, as a champion of the complexities and necessities of family and community, she is both the entertainer and spokesperson for our conscience.
Mr. Chancellor, it is an honour and a privilege for me to ask, in the name of the Senate of The University of Manitoba, that you confer on Adele Wiseman, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.