1858 engraving of Victoria

Colonial History Vancouver Island

Maureen Duffus - Author and Historian


Women's History

On Writing About Women of the Past

In the introduction to her book, By Snowshoe, Buckboard and Steamer,
author and archivist Kathryn Bridge asks -


Writers and historians tend to research what they would like to read. I like to read about women in the past and have a personal "need-to-know" fascination with the subject. It provides the stimulus for my delving. As the research progresses - clue piling upon clue - the fascination quickly becomes an addiction.

I am intrigued by the almost undocumented, hidden, female strength of colonialism. I want to discover, and sometimes uncover, the life stories and personalities of nineteenth century women, - women who journeyed far from their birth places to begin new lives in the British colonies, in places like British Columbia, now a province of Canada; women who were strong in character and remarkable in achievements.

The British Columbia (B.C.) Archives is an irreplaceable repository of great historical wealth, and the information contained in the diaries, letters, manuscripts, journals, photographs, sketches and paintings, oral and published reminiscences (collected and) stored in this institution is of particular value. Each document provides a clue to gather and build upon - little pieces of evidence which, when viewed together, flesh out the lives and circumstances of early settlers.

Only a small percentage of personal records have survived through time, and unfortunately, men have written most of these historical documents. At times these records can provide information about women, but they do not contain the voices of perspectives of women. It is this quest for female voices that keeps me searching, focussed and energized.

(The book highlights writings of four remarkable 19th century women.
Also by Kathryn Bridge: Henry and Self, The Private Life of Sarah Crease.)

Find out more about Kathryn Bridge.

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