Winter Sports
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Winter Sports

Early Voices — Portraits of Canada by Women Writers, 1639–1914

Mary Alice Downie, Barbara Robertson, Elizabeth Jane Errington, Ishbel Marua Gordon

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📖 eBook - ePub

Winter Sports

Early Voices — Portraits of Canada by Women Writers, 1639–1914

Mary Alice Downie, Barbara Robertson, Elizabeth Jane Errington, Ishbel Marua Gordon

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This selection of writings by twenty-nine women, known and unknown, professional and amateur, presents a unique portrait of Canada through time and space, from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries, from the Maritimes to British Columbia and the Far North. There is a range of voices from high-born wives of governors general, to an Icelandic immigrant and a fisherman's wife in Labrador. A Loyalist wife and mother describes the first hard weather in New Brunswick, a seasick nun tells of a dangerous voyage out from France, a famous children's writer writes home about the fun of canoeing, and a German general's wife describes habitant customs. All demonstrate how women's experiences not only shared, but helped shape this new country.

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Dundurn Press

Early Voices

Portraits of Canada by
Women Writers, 1639–1914


The hills all round, as seen from our celebrated platform, are of the most lovely autumn colours, and, covered as they are with red and orange trees, they really look like flames in the distance, or like gigantic flower-gardens; for our trees are quite as brilliant as your best flowers, and if you can imagine your conservatory magnified a million times, and spread over miles and miles of hill and dale, you will begin to understand how we do things in this Canada of ours.
My Canadian Journal 1872–78


Jane Errington contributed far more than she can have anticipated when initially agreeing to write an introduction. Sarah Robertson proved herself her mother’s daughter with her amusing and judicious editorial comments. Merna Summers joined enthusiastically in the hunt for elusive sources. Lynette Nunn supplied unexpected details about the post-Canadian career of her great-great-grandmother, Mrs. Beavan in Australia. Lorne C. Paul provided lively memories about the adult life of his aunt, Maryanne Caswell. Anne Hart led us to the touching memories of Lydia Campbell. Marsha Skrypuch, Frances Swyripa, and Jars Balan were guides to the Ukrainian pioneers.
Thanks to Franklin Foster, Trudy Powlowski from the Saskatoon Public Library, Nadine Charabin, Saskatchewan Archives Board, and Roberta Staples of Lady Margaret Hall Library, Oxford. The Stauffer Library at Queen’s University was, as ever, the mother ship for our searches. The staff of W.D. Jordan Special Collections and Music Library patiently descended many times into the gold mine of the stacks. Paul Banfield, Queen’s University Archivist was as helpful as ever.
Thanks also to Kelly Bennett, Carol Martin, Diana Birchall and P.G. Rooney, J.S. Pritchard, and M-A Thompson for a brilliant suggestion. We are grateful to Jane Gibson and Barry Penhale of Natural Heritage Books for seizing the publishing moment, and to Michael Peterman for his advice and gracious words.
John Downie lived uncomplainingly for months among mounds of books and papers, while sharing both his study and his computer skills. Merriment along the trail was added by five young Abernethys and Eklunds.

Our Assorted Ancestors


Many of the writings of the women who came to Canada during the last four centuries have been published. There are the letters of Marie de l’Incarnation, the intrepid Ursuline who sailed from Dieppe for the New World in 1639, and the journal of Baroness von Riedesel, wife of the general of the Hessian mercenaries during the American Revolution. Letitia Hargrave’s account of life in the remote fur-trading post of York Factory in northern Manitoba is available, as are Juliana Horatia Ewing’s descriptions of the garrison town of Fredericton just after Confederation, and Lady Aberdeen’s expressions of dismay of the violence of hockey in late nineteenth-century Ottawa. (She was later to change her mind and become a fan.)
The books of the expatriate branch of the redoubtable Strickland sisters, Catharine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie, and Winter Studies and Summer Rambles of the Victorian scholar Anna Jameson are valued staples of Canadian literature. Unfortunately, it is specialists rather than the general reader who are familiar with these other illuminating materials. Although feminist scholars are devotedly tilling the field, with some exceptions, they tend to write about the early writers, using brief excerpts to support a thesis.
Some — too many — years ago, Barbara Robertson and I decided to make a collection, providing substantial examples of writing by 29 women, known and unknown, professional and amateur, who visited or lived in Canada between the seventeenth and early twentieth centuries, allowing them to portray their lives in the woods, in the Maritimes, Quebec, in “muddy York,” on the desolate or flower-strewn prairies, in British Columbia, and the Far North. We hope to send people to the library or bookstore — or, increasingly, online — to share their reactions to a frequently difficult, sometimes terrifying, but ultimately satisfying New World. We have Mrs. Jameson, eminent scholar and friend of Browning, exhilarated by her trip with the voyageurs to Lake Superior: “the wildest and most extraordinary tour you can imagine.” Susan Allison, living in a cabin near Kelowna, without potable water, rattlers dangling among the pots and pans, home schooling her 14 children, writes: “I lived a perfectly ideal life at that time.”
What relevance do these letters home, journals, memoirs, and biographies have for the modern reader? Certain themes, significant and minor, recur and resonate still: the welcome breakup of ice, the sweet pleasures of trips to the sugar-camp, the risks of mushrooms, the finding of fiddleheads. We continue to suffer annually from the blight of black flies and “no see ’ems,” to dread that ominous buzz described by “Janey Canuck” in her sprightly riff on mosquitoes. Winter was...

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Citation styles for Winter SportsHow to cite Winter Sports for your reference list or bibliography: select your referencing style from the list below and hit 'copy' to generate a citation. If your style isn't in the list, you can start a free trial to access over 20 additional styles from the Perlego eReader.
APA 6 Citation
Downie, M. A., Robertson, B., Errington, E. J., & Gordon, I. M. (2015). Winter Sports ([edition unavailable]). Dundurn Press. Retrieved from (Original work published 2015)
Chicago Citation
Downie, Mary Alice, Barbara Robertson, Elizabeth Jane Errington, and Ishbel Marua Gordon. (2015) 2015. Winter Sports. [Edition unavailable]. Dundurn Press.
Harvard Citation
Downie, M. A. et al. (2015) Winter Sports. [edition unavailable]. Dundurn Press. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Downie, Mary Alice et al. Winter Sports. [edition unavailable]. Dundurn Press, 2015. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.