By Barbara E. Kelcey
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Extra resources for Alone in Silence: European Women in the Canadian North before 1940
Who was ill or had died? While these were important bits of news, there was always the possibility that something might need a reply, and the letter had to go on the ship about to leave. Some women kept annual diaries so they would be prepared to write their letters when the ship arrived; some simply sent the journals home intact. Keeping the journals meant real self-discipline. ”13 More than one woman noted it was easy to put off recording daily events, knowing the ship would not arrive for months.
By describing climatic conditions, writers portrayed hardships in terms that relatives and friends could understand, without actually whining. Descriptions such as those of Dorothy Page at Hay River in 1914 are commonplace: “Half of our winter is past now and it has not been nearly so severe as last year. It has registered forty-six degrees below zero at two different times, but [that] lasted only a few hours. ”23 From Fort Norman in 1903, Rose Spendlove told Letter Leaflet readers that “the thermometer had read between fifty and sixty degrees below zero for some time.
This does not suggest a bigoted attitude as much as it does the understanding of a bond shared by women of common cultures, and the belief of white women that they would be a comfort to each other in the isolation of the north. 60 Her presence provided the men she encountered with a “soft” aspect to their harsh environment and a visible link with the wives and families left in the south. She nursed them when they were sick and entertained them when they came to visit. She also taught shorthand to sailors wintering at Herschel in the mission school.
Alone in Silence: European Women in the Canadian North before 1940 by Barbara E. Kelcey