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Dear Editor and Friends

Letters from Rural Women of the North-West, 1900-1920

Norah L. Lewis

Publication Year: 1998

How did women in the early twentieth century, newly arrived in North-West Canada, cope with their strange new lives — so very different from the lives they used to lead? How did they see themselves and their role in frontier life?

In the early twentieth century, drawn west by the promise of free land, economic success or religious and political freedom, women moved from eastern Canada and overseas to farms and ranches in North-West Canada. They discovered that it was not the utopia touted by government propaganda or land agents. They also discovered that there was a select but diverse group of rural women who shared their common experiences of isolation, of hard work and duty, of poverty and neglect. But, more importantly, they shared knowledge of independence and self-reliance and of pride in what they had accomplished.

Through letters written to the women’s pages in agricultural newspapers, they forged a vital network that supported, encouraged and educated women in ways to improve their rural lives. Their letters show how these rural women made significant and vital contributions to the settlement and development of the Canadian North-West.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Life Writing

Title page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. v-vii


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pp. ix-xi

List of Illustrations

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pp. xiii

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pp. xv

I am grateful to Neil Sutherland and Jean Barman for their helpful suggestions and sage advice, to Linda Hale for her encouragement, and to Joyce McLean and Sharon Olding for their close reading of the letters. I also thank Margaret Whitehead and Jacqueline Gresko for...

"The West Is Calling"

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pp. xvi

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pp. 1-17

In 1902 my maternal grandparents, Lillian and Wesley Waddell, migrated from Parry Sound, Ontario, to a homestead in north-central Saskatchewan. Grandfather built a house and barn, cleared and seeded the land, and supplemented family income by working in lumber camps in the winter. Grandmother reared five daughters,...


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1899 Icelander

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pp. 21

Will you kindly permit an Outlander to join your charming circle? But please do not laugh, G.C., if my English is a little bit crude. I am only eighteen years old, and trying to improve it, if slowly, because I have very little time, being a farmer's daughter, with plenty of work...

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1900~Tom Boy

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pp. 21-28

I live near the lovely Turtle Mountains of Manitoba. In the summer they are beautifully dressed in living green, the wild morning glories climb and trail over every shrub and bush, but alas! they are all gray now. The wild hops are so thick one can hardly climb...

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1901 ~Sour Grapes

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pp. 28-30

Will you please thank Doris for her kindness in sending me some reading matter? I ought to have written before, but I am kept too busy, and the mail only comes once a week. I have also received some Ladies' Journals and nice pictures. I don't know if I have to thank Doris for them too. It is very nice of the G.C.C. to...

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1902~ Cowgirl

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pp. 30-32

I have been thinking that some of the readers would be wondering what a cowgirl is. Well, it is a girl who looks after a bunch of cattle on the open prairie. It is a nice job in summer when it does not rain or the mosquitoes are not too bad. If it rains, then the cows...

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1903 ~ Maid o' the Mist

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pp. 32-35

I have long been a silent reader of Good Company, and I enjoy your weekly talks very much. It is a great pleasure to me to sit down and read for an hour or so, but my eyes trouble me so much that I can read but a little at a time. I, too, am a farmer's wife, and only nineteen....

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1904~ Frank's Mother

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pp. 36-38

I should like to join your Friendly Circle if I may. I read the G.C. letters with great interest. We have taken the Family Herald for a long time and would not like to give it up. We are renewing our subscription for next year, and I send 15 cents for the Flannel Fund. We came from...

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1905~Sage-Brush: From a Dry Climate

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pp. 38-48

I have been a constant reader of the Family Herald for some time. I like the paper very much and always turn to Page 7 first. I will describe the country we live in. We have a very dry climate, in fact some seasons it is too dry. It is a great cattle-raising country with fine rolling hills of bunch-grass. We have a telephone through here,...

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1906~Western Teacher: A Western Teacher's Advice

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pp. 48-55

I should like to answer Fortune Seeker through your column. She asks if the difference between the pay in the east and in the west is worth the sacrifice of home and friends. I, in answering for British Columbia, say no. The new school system came into force...

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1907~Marie [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 55-76

That was a capital idea, viz., organizing a mutual help association. It will fill a real want for the women on the prairie. The name is splendid. The Free Press is a weekly visitor. I am so glad you thought of this: let us all help a little to make it a splendid success. Living, as many of us do, on the bleak...

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1909~ Teresa: An Englishwoman's View [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 76-92

The letters of some of your correspondents are amusing. "Verdant Green," for instance displays the very fault for which most Englishmen are disliked by Canadians: he comes over here and talks about the superior knowledge and attainment of Englishmen, etc.,...

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1910 ~Addariah: A Vexed Question

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pp. 93-103

May I, too, have a small corner of your valuable page? I have been a reader of the Weekly Free Press and consider it a very interesting paper. I liked A Widow's letter very much. I, too, think women should stand together more. Almond Rock you have touched the right key. I hope to see more follow your example. Then there will be...

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1911~Settler: Graham Island

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pp. 103-105

Would you be interested in Graham Island of the Queen Charlotte Group? This island is the most northerly one of the group and Skidegate Harbor—with the towns of Graham City and Queen Charlotte City, and the Indian village of Skidegate, is only 90 miles from...

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1912 ~Tired: Tired's Letter of Thanks

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pp. 106-113

I received your letter with the $11, and there was another letter before Christmas with ten dollars and no name; and one dear sister sent me $5, and there have been letters with one dollar and $2. I have received $32.00 altogether, and two sisters sent me such beautiful...

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1913~ Beacon: Matrimonial Laws in Saskatchewan

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pp. 113-115

Since many of the readers seem to have the "dare" spirit when it comes to matrimony, I would like to point out that in this Province of Saskatchewan there is a certain law in force, which possibly it might be someone's duty to point out since, indeed 'tis a strange and extraordinary law. It declares, in effect, that "a man may die...

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1914~ Sweet Idaho: Children Given Away [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 115-128

I have been a silent reader of your page for nearly a year and like it fine. Dear Miss Laurie, I have come for help, I am only sixteen years old and am adopted. I have a lovely home. My father left my mother with three children, and of course, it was in Canada, and you know how hard it is to get work...

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1915~ Brother Bachelor: A Voice from Vancouver

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pp. 128-134

Those who have read Girls' Friend's letter in your issue of May 3rd will see that she has a good grasp of the present situation between bachelors and spinsters, and has given the best advice on the subject. I thank her much for joining our club and I am sure all girls...

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1916~Farmer: A Pitiful Heart

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pp. 134-146

With regard to the collecting of insects I wondered if there couldn't be a better way to destroy them other than pinning them on a pad. I think everything of that kind should be done in a way that would prevent all unnecessary suffering. The same thing also applies to...

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1917~New Country-Woman: Query?

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pp. 146-150

I am not long arrive in this country and what you call a foreigner. In your page I yet sometimes read, so will you please what I ask to me explain. In this country, Saskatchewan; Manitoba and Alberta, the people do for prohibition speak absolute. I am so told this is not so, it must not, cannot be, for why, because long, long time...

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1918~Prairie Maid: Brave Little Girl

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pp. 150-156

I have often thought of writing and I hope that this short letter will be welcome. I am only fifteen, but that doesn't matter, I hope. I am keeping house for my brothers and sisters. My mother died last winter. She used to be a member of the H.L.H.'S page. There...

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1919~ Rosie Cheeked English Girl: Takes Issue With Frenchy

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pp. 157-160

I have never written your page before, although I have read it with interest for a long time, but I could not keep from writing any longer, after seeing a letter in your issue of July 9, signed by "Frenchy." She speaks of the English bragging about their country and being palefaces living on crackers and tea. Well, "Frenchy," that is better than...

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1920~Peggie: To Can Beef and Pork for Summer

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pp. 160-162

I have enjoyed your page ever since I started taking the paper. Some letters are fine while others I don't agree with at all. Well, harvest is about over and threshing begun, and I think most farmers will have plenty of feed for their stock this...

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Conclusion: Was It Worth the Journey?

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pp. 163-168

By 1920 settler women were able to look back and take stock. Much of the arable prairie land was under cultivation and farmsteads were located almost every mile or so. The farms of British Columbia's interior valleys and the southern portions of Vancouver Island produced hay, vegetables, and fruits. The arid grassland areas of the three...

Appendix: Papers, Clubs, and Editors

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pp. 169-172

Additional Readings

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pp. 173-176


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pp. 177-180

E-ISBN-13: 9780889207325
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889202870
Print-ISBN-10: 0889202877

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 1998

Series Title: Life Writing

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Rural women -- Canada, Northern -- Correspondence.
  • Rural women -- Canada, Western -- Correspondence.
  • Women pioneers -- Canada, Western -- Correspondence.
  • Canada, Northern -- Social life and customs -- Sources.
  • Canada, Western -- Social life and customs -- Sources.
  • Women pioneers -- Canada, Northern -- Correspondence.
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