A Year of Canadian History (July’s Post) 

Well, I’m not sure what happened to July but it just flew by!  So here it is, a few days late, the July post for my year long project looking at some of the interesting historical figures who were around at the time of Confederation in 1867 here in Canada.

This month, I have decided to talk about Emily Pauline Johnson (also known as Pauline Johnson or E. Pauline Johnson), a writer and performer who was popular in North America in the late 1800s.  She wrote this lovely poem describing Canada, which I think fits in nicely with my theme for this year’s set of historical posts about Canada:

Crown of her, young Vancouver; crest of her, old Quebec;
Atlantic and far Pacific sweeping her, keel to deck.
North of her, ice and arctics; southward a rival’s stealth;
Aloft, her Empire’s pennant; below, her nation’s wealth.
Daughter of men and markets, bearing within her hold,
Appraised at highest value, cargoes of grain and gold.

(Canada, by Pauline Johnson)

Pauline was the youngest of four daughters of a Mowhawk hereditary clan chief, George Henry Martin Johnson and Emily Susanna Howells Johnson, an English immigrant.  She was born in 1861 at the Six Nations of Grand River, just six years before Confederation. Her Mohawk name was Tekahionwake, which translates to double wampum or double life.  She lived a life that was strongly influenced by both her English and her Mowhawk heritage.


Source:  Collections Canada

Pauline began to write poetry in her teens and continued through her life.  She wrote to support herself financially and toured Canada and the United States for seventeen years, reciting her poetry. She was reported to be very beautiful and had great stage presence, which made her a popular performer.  She was best known later for how she portrayed indigenous culture and I believe she has a unique approach to using the English style of poetry to portray aboriginal beliefs and legends.

And up on the hills against the sky,
A fir tree rocking its lullaby,
Swings, swings,
Its emerald wings,
Swelling the song that my paddle sings.

(Excerpt from The Song My Paddle Sings by Pauline Johnson)

Pauline Johnson died from breast cancer in 1913.  She wrote the following poem after being told that her disease was terminal:

Time and its ally, Dark Disarmament,
Have compassed me about;
Have massed their armies, and on battle bent
My forces put to rout
But though I fight alone, and fall, and die,
Talk terms of Peace?  Not I.

(Biographical Sketch, page xxx, Flint and Feather, by Pauline Johnson)

If Pauline’s writing speaks to you, take a look at her book Flint and Feather, which is available on the Internet Archive.



A Year of Canadian History – June


Tomorrow is July 1, 2017 and Canadians officially celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation, the beginning of our country as we know it today.   150 years ago, at noon, the Dominion of Canada was proclaimed, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec).  This is a celebration worth having, I believe, even though our past has not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  The Canada of today is a great country and we are trying to make amends for the errors of the past.  I really do love this country and I am so proud to be Canadian.  I love the people, the landscape and our welcoming attitude to other cultures.


There are big celebrations planned across the country and I am sure that the celebrations in Ottawa this year will be a sight to see!  I will be celebrating as we always do, watching the local parade, listening to music and ending with a BBQ with good friends.

It makes me wonder how Canadians celebrated the beginnings of the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867?

Church towers and bell towers rang out across the new country at midnight.  The Queen’s proclamation was published in the news and read out loud in the major cities.  Towns across the new dominion celebrated with military displays, brass bands, illuminations and fireworks.

In Toronto, there were extensive celebrations as described in this article:

At 6 o’clock a.m. an immense ox will be roasted by Capt. Woodhouse, of the barque Lord Nelson, at the foot of Church street. The animal, which was a very fine one, was purchased by subscription from Mr. Joseph Lennox, of Yorkville. The roasting will occupy a large portion of the day, and the meat will afterwards be distributed among the poor of the city.  (The Globe, 1867)

There was great optimism about the new country, as this article from the Globe attests:

We firmly believe, that from this day, Canada enters on a new and happier career, and that a time of great prosperity and advancement is before us.  (The Globe, 1867)

The day was memorable, as a girl in Hamilton described:

There was the dark and then there was the light of a candle … then there was the opening of the great door, and the rush of cool, fresh air, and the deep darkness.  ‘Oh look,’ said a voice.  The sky was suddenly full of shooting stars.  There were fountains of stars, coloured red and green and blue … ‘This is the First of July in the year eighteen hundred and sixty seven,’ (my) father said, ‘always remember this day, and this night.  You are a very lucky little girl, to be a child in Canada, today.’ (Unknown, 1867)

And from the perspective of Agnes MacDonald (the wife of Canada’s first prime minister):

This new Dominion of ours came noisily into existence on the 1st, and the very newspapers look hot and tired, with the weight of Announcements and Cabinet lists.  Here – in this house – the atmosphere is so awfully political that sometimes I think the very flies hold Parliaments on the kitchen Tablecloths. (Agnes MacDonald, 1867)

Things did not go perfectly though.  Apparently, in Ottawa, the military fired a 101 gun salute on Parliament Hill but they forgot to take the ramrods out of their rifles and the rods flew over Sparks Street!  That would have been an exciting but dangerous start to our country!

Happy Canada Day!  Celebrate the past, present and future of our country and the remarkable people who have lived here.


Canada – A People’s History (CBC)

Canada History – July 1, 1867

Confederation Day! (The Globe)

Confederation Day in Toronto – The Program of Rejoicings (The Globe)


A Year of Canadian History – April

Welcome to the fourth instalment of my year-long blogging project celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday.  Each month, I am choosing something (or someone) new to learn about relating to Canada around the time of Confederation (1867).  In January, I looked at how Canada looked like from a geographical perspective in 1867 (much smaller than today).  Then, I researched the first (Isabella) and second (Agnes) wives of Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.


The subject of today’s post is Dr Emily Howard Stowe, the first woman to practice medicine in Canada and an important women’s right’s advocate.  Dr Stowe had a life filled with remarkable achievements:

emily howard stowe

After this, Dr. Emily Stowe founded the Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association in 1889 to fight to allow women to vote. She became its first president and held the position until her death in 1903.

There are so many firsts in this remarkable woman’s life, she is truly inspirational! Do you want to learn more?  You can get started at the following websites that I used to prepare this post:

Library and Archives, Canada

The Canadian Encyclopedia

Women’s College Hospital

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