WOMEN PIONEERS IN THE CANADIAN WEST HAVE MADE GOOD IN MANY VARIED LINES OF ENDEAVOR, INVOLVING EVEN “HARD LABOR”
WOMEN and THEIR WORK
E. L. CHICANOT
A SLIM, youthful figure clad in riding breeches, leather leggings, a three-quarter coat, and a boyish cap set jauntily on the back of the head came round the corner of the barn whistling merrily. A boy? No, a girl! A girl farmer of Southern Alberta. When the Canadian Pacific Railway established its ready-made farm colony in Southern Alberta the officials encountered a situation they had made no provision for, when Miss Jack May, daughter of Admiral May, of Norfolk, England, applied for one of the farms. When they came to investigate her claim, however, as they did
that of all applicants to judge as to their likelihood of fulfilling conditions and making good, they found they could not consistently refuse her claim, as she had farmed for many years in England and occupied every agricultural position from that of laborer to manager. She was accordingly allotted a little homestead near Sedgewick, and settled there with a friend, Miss I. M. Wittrick.
The arrangement between the two was an admirable one, and one which might commend itself to bachelors of the other sex similarly circumstanced. True to her name, Miss May was essentially the man about the place, whilst Miss Wittrick contributed the distinctively feminine element to the partnership and did the cooking and housework and presumably sewed on buttons and repaired the rents of her partner’s garments. “Jack” wore man’s garb, because she liked it, she said.
Scorned the Lighter Duties
THE duties Englishwomen were called upon to undertake during the war trained them to follow lines of work they had never previously considered and also engendered in them a love of the out o’ doors. When these tasks ended with the
Armistice it not unnaturaily suggested itself to many of them to find livelihoods in pursuits which would permit them to lead an out-of-door life. In company with the scores of war brides who arrived from the other side were hosts of other girls, many of them former members of land battalions, seeking a broader, freer, less conventional and tax-ridden life than the homeland promised for some time to come. Not a few of these girls were equipped with small capital and sought small pieces of land to follow general lines of farming and extract a livelihood. Many such are to be found in the Maritime provinces and
in the gentle valleys of British Columbia’s lakeland and on the Pacific coast cultivating orchards, keeping bees, and running poultry farms.
Though the Prairie Provinces, with their farming enterprises conceived the frame of the boundless provinces, with vast cattle ranches and limitless wheat stretches, are not such as would appeal to most women to engage in agriculture, some have been found sufficiently courageous and possessed of enough confidence in their capabilities to enter upon what is essentially the man’s issue in pioneering.
Miss May is one of these. Another outstanding instance of success achieved in the operation of a large agricultural establishment is that of a former London feminine journalist who for many years has owned and run a large grain and mixed farm in Central Alberta. She was a good journalist, but not so good but that she realized she had limits in the profession, and the world is none too kind to scribblers who fail to attain and stick on one of the higher literary branches. She had visions of independence, but a London newspaper office did not enter into the dream. Being a newspaperwoman, her courage was unquestionable and she had likewise faith in her ability
to turn her talents into an entirely new and novel field.
Even when deciding on agriculture she scorned the lighter phases of farming and went to Alberta where things are conceived and performed on a Titanic scale. She was able to make a commencement with a substantial amount of capital and was able to hire help continuously, so that her work entailed mere supervision and has been rather along business lines. She has, however, entirely alone and unaided, been responsible for the operation of a largê acreage, and the credit is solely hers for the success of the farm. Any working day, passers on the trail might see her, a picturesque figure on horseback, riding over her domain directing the various operations.
How Four Nurses Fared
D ATHER different conditions faced Tv four ex-army nurses who left the Canadian metropolis in 1921 for Northern Alberta. Their enterprise involved neither the ample funds which work miracles in smoothing the way, nor a farm on which all
the preliminary work has been done and is ready for occupancy. The Misses Elizabeth I. MacLean, M. R. MacLean. Helena M. Ellis, and Amy MacNish were suffering from the returned soldier’s disease. They hated the prospect of the confinement and daily routine of a hospital, were nauseated at the thought of witnessing more wounds and sickness, and longed for some out o’ door existence which would at the same time provide them with a livelihood. What capital they had was limited to their discharge gratuities, but they had great resources of grit and confidence.
With boundless optimism and resolutely poised to confront the severest conditions such life had to offer, they went up into the Spirit River section of the Peace River country, a region that is still very much in the pioneering state, and miles from the railroad and all thatis known as civilization. They even sc rrned to take loans from the Soldiers’ Settlement Board, which they might have done, but,, exercising their soldier’s right to homestead, filed on four quarter sections of land. They erected a cabin in the centre of the block where the four quarters met, and in the following spring began their farming operations. The greatest testimony to their
success, their content, and their faith in their ultimate independence and prosperity is the fact that they are still there, proceeding undaunted in their novel and heroic enterprise, combating every possible rigor of the life of the pioneer homesteader.
Not a few Canadian widows have exercised their right to homestead in the Prairie Provinces and the case of Mrs. Stauffer, of Sexsmith, Alberta, suffices to illustrate what a valorous and purposeful woman can accomplish, under the rigorous farming conditions of Western Canada. The death of her husband in France, in 1917, left her with two young boys to support and no apparent means of doing so. With the assistance of the Soldier Settlement Board, she took a homestead at Sexsmith, and has stayed with it to be able to see success and ultimate prosperity and independence within reach. For four years she has lived alone with her two boys upon the homestead in the house she erected with her own hands. She has done her own clearing and brushing, erected her own fencing, and hired male help merely to break and seed and in the fall to help to harvest. She has suffered hardships sufficient to damp the courage of the bravest man—cattle dying from poison weed, crops hailed out, and other misfortunes—but her undaunted spirit has carried her through to where easier times await.
An earlier and definitely established success is that of Mrs. Mary J. Blackburn, of Hardisty, Alberta, who last year added another one hundred and sixty acres to an already substantial farm. Mrs. Blackburn left Eastern Canada in 1912, and took up a western homestead , her sole resource being one bull, two heifers and two calves, with seventeen dollars in cash. The first summer she lived in a tent and the following winter rented a sod shack. Her ten years history is pithily summed up in the fact that in 1922 she owned fifty-nine head of purebred Holstein cattle and raised one hundred bushels of oats to the acre, whilst her farm buildings are as fine as any to be found in the Hardisty district, house and barn each costing in excess of $1,600. Alone she has lived on the farm, milking her cows, raising the calves, cutting and stacking the hay crop, and performing the multitudinous lesser chores of a dairy farm. As she is wont to say herself, if a lone woman can accomplish such things on the prairie without capital, w hat should not a man be able to do with a few hundred dollars.
A most outstanding example of women’s pioneer agricultural effort which came under the notice of the writer is that of tw o English sisters, Clara and Beatrice Forward, who in the Brandon district of Manitoba are operating a maleless Eden in the shape of 1,120 acres of mixed farm. Here man is never seen save as an admiring visitor and the two girls unaided have wrought miracles of accomplishment in transforming the bald, uncultivated sod into one of the fairest and richest farms in the area. Even to-day, wriien their efforts have been crowned with the fullest success and they have attained a high degree of prosperity, they perform all the tasks of the large establishment without outside help.
The father of the two girls came from the British Isles to Manitoba many years ago and settled with his wife and daughters in the Oak Lake district. He was city bred and his children as unfamiliar with rural or farm life as any whose activities have been limited to urban boundaries. Misfortune overtook them rapidly, for the breadwinner of the family died leaving the wife and daughters unprovided for, their only asset a farm heavily encumbered with mortgages.
Girls Lift the Mortgage
THE natural thing one would have expected to happen would have been the abandonment of the farm and the flocking of the family of three to the nearest town or village. The two girls, however, were made of sterner stuff.
Since the father died a man's hand has never guided a plough or seized a fork on the place. Ploughing, seeding, haying, stocking, harvesting, feeding, the thoussand and one tasks of farm life have been performed solely by the two girls, and the excellent reputation tire farm has among the province’s agriculturists to-dav is the greatest tribute to their sustained effort and determination. Whilst the mother, w ho is now old and almost blind, remains as housekeeper, the girls have, in the
best and every sense of the term, proved themselves the men of the family and overcome any handicaps their sex might have been expected to impose on them.
When the father died the farm consisted of a homestead of 160 acres encumbered with a mortgage: to-day the girls have extended their holdings until they comprise a section and threequarters, or 1,120 acres. They started out themselves with seven horses and ten cattle: there are now on the farm twentythree horses and ninety head of cattle.
Withal they are no Amazons. Their manlike occupation with ceaseless work in the open has never robbed them of their girlish charm. They are still two modest, unassuming, English girls, with all the allurement of their sex, despite the fact they faced the necessity of becoming the men of the farm. They have always held a large place in the affections of the people of the district, who watched with admiration their gallant struggle to success and independence and are immensely proud of their dwelling in their midst.
The province of Saskatchewan làst year decided it was not paying sufficient attention to agriculture and accordingly decided to add a demonstration car on bee-keeping to the Better Farming Train run through the agricultural districts of the province through co-operation between the government and the Canadian Pacific Railway. When they came to the matter of selecting a demonstrator to take charge of the train they were forced to admit that the fittest person for such a position to be found in the province was a woman and, although against all precedent, she was appointed.
MISS ETHEL MAY BRAYFORD, of Cannington Manor, Saskatchewan, telling her own story, says that bees have been a passionate life study and honey culture engrossed all her efforts. She learnt beekeeping from her mother in Eastern Canada and coming West experimented and developed new methods to suit the climate and conditions. What she commenced as an interesting hobby grew into a profitable commercial undertaking and to-day she is Saskatchewan’s premier apiarist. “I have had fifteen years’ successful experience with bees,” she says, ‘‘and ha\% proved that a very profitable side line is being neglected. Thousands of dollars are being lost which western farmers might add yearly to their incomes and the culture could successfully and profitably be taken up by more women. Last year I gathered 915 pounds of honey from nine hives and sold it at forty cents a pound, in addition to which I disposed of several hives to neighbors.”
It was a rather drastic transfer, from the quiet apiary to the busy train and from the simple communing with bees to addressing gatherings at the various stops and answering questions rapidly hurled at her, but the deep and thorough knowledge of her subject with the proven success of years begot perfect confidence and carried her through safely.
It was a novel experience for many farmers to derive their agricultural knowledge from a feminine source and
they were often inclined at first not to take the bee car of the train very seriously, but her obvious mastery of her profession gradually swelled the classes at her lectures and compelled the attention and later the emulation of farmers throughout the province.
IN THE same province in the past few years certain clay resources have been attracting attention owing to their value, arising from their wide variety and limitation in Canada. The pioneer in this movement, the individual probably to the greatest extent responsible for bringing these deposits and their value to public attention, and most active in endeavoring to give Saskatchewan a prosperous clay products industry, is a woman, Miss Helene Pachal, artist, scientist, business woman, and explorer.
Miss Pachal is a Regina girl and a graduate of the New York school of Ceramics. Since graduating she has been actively interested in the china business, successfully operating a studio for china painting in the Saskatchewan capital. The delay and inconvenience in obtaining fine china to paint set her to wondering if it would not be possible to produce a suitable china in Canada, and she became more than ever convinced of the national value of such an industry when she discovered that the Prairie Provinces were importing annually about $5,000,000 of foreign product. She visioned a wonderful future for anyone who discovered fine china clay quantities and decided to set about making this discovery herself.
The work of prospecting she undertook alone. From the geological formation of certain hills in South-Western Saskatchewan she was convinced that suitable clay was hidden under the soil. She started out in the summer attired in prospector’s garb with pick and shovel and a four inch pole augur. A day’s travel brought her to the range of hills, where she was left by the livery driver with her food supply and camping outfit. Throughout the summer she followed an arduous routine, rising at seven and tramping during the day from fifteen to twenty miles with her tools and supplies in a pack. She discovered many beds of clay, but tests made by herself in. the following winter of 1920-21 proved them worthless for her purpose.
She returned to the quest in the summer of 1921 and after the same failure had dogged her efforts for months she was rewarded towards fall by discovering the long-sought clay. She took samples to Medicine Hat and spent many months testing it and making it into fine china dishes. The results were eminently satisfactory also at New York, and there remained no doubt Miss Pachal had discovered what was probably one of the richest china clay deposits in the world.
Miss Pachal is now preparing to commercially exploit her find by erecting a plant for the manufacture of dishes and insulators. To those closely following the situation there is no doubt but that in the not far distant future Saskatchewan will have an elaborate and prosperous clay products industry, and in the creation of this, a single woman, through her unaided efforts, will have played no small part.