Welcome to The Great Canadian Blog Bash! I’m delighted to be participating in this party again this year. Last year, I shared some of my favourite Canadian authors. This year, I thought I’d share some remarkable Canadian women and why they inspire me.
Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill
Like Jane Austen, these two sisters were writers in England in the 1800s. They both married late in their lives and then, with their husbands, immigrated to Canada searching for a better life. However, life here was not as easy as they expected. Both women turned to writing again to help support their families, despite the fact that the publishing industry in Canada was just starting out and never paid them much money.
Susanna had five children and lived to the age of 82, while Catharine had seven children and died at age 97. Both were celebrated in Canada during their lifetimes and wrote prolifically.
For more about the sisters, check out Charlotte Grey’s excellent biography. For me, their relationship as sisters during their struggles in Canada is beautiful and touching. I’m also impressed by their persistence and creativity in homesteading in Canada while raising large families.
Charlotte Small Thompson
Charlotte, daughter of a Cree mother and a Scottish fur trading father, married David Thompson in 1799 at the age of 14. She then followed him on his fur trading and exploring trips across Canada, from Saskatchewan to the Great Lakes to northern Alberta, and possibly even across the Rocky Mountains into Washington and Oregon when he made his final great push to find a trade route to the sea.
In 1812, David retired from the fur trade and moved with Charlotte and their children to eastern Canada. Like Susanna and Catharine, they did not have an easy life there; David was often unable to find work and was never recognized during his lifetime for his great achievements. Unlike Susanna and Catharine, who wrote about everything that happened to them, Charlotte left nothing behind about herself and even David’s extensive journals record very little about her.
They had thirteen children and were married for nearly sixty years. Despite the fact that Charlotte was fifteen years younger than David, she died within a few months of him. I’m inspired by her enduring relationship with David and by the fact that she saw way more of Canada, two hundred years ago via boat and foot, than I have seen today with the marvels of modern transportation.
Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys
Marguerite was born in France in 1620, the sixth of twelve children, and lost her mother while she was in her teens. She helped raise her younger siblings before joining the Congregation of Troyes, helping to teach poor children who couldn’t attend regular school. In 1653, she traveled to New France to open a school for children there.
Marguerite taught young women not only reading, writing and arithmetic, but also household skills. She soon came to realize she needed help and recruited more young women from France, establishing an uncloistered order of teaching sisters known as the Congregation of Notre Dame. By Marguerite’s death in 1700, sisters of her order were teaching in most cities in New France. She was canonized in 1982. I find her story inspiring because she was clearly a deeply spiritual woman, yet also a deeply practical one who responded to the needs of her time.
Laura Beatrice Berton
Laura is the mother of the well-known Canadian author Pierre Berton. She is also an author and her biography, I Married the Klondike, is an amusing and inspiring book about her life in northern Canada in the early 1900s. Laura left her home in Toronto at age 29 for a teaching position in Dawson City. She stayed there for the next twenty-five years, marrying her husband Frank and raising a family. I love reading her book because, like the other women I’ve mentioned, she lived in a difficult place in a difficult time, yet she makes that life sound beautiful and charming.
What other Canadian women would you add to this list?