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 – May

In this post, I continue my project for 2017, discussing interesting Canadians who lived around 1867 (the time of Confederation) in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday this year.  For the month of May, I chose to do a little research into Adelaide Hoodless.

Many of Adelaide’s important activities took place well after 1867, but she was born before Confederation, and I am certain she would have remembered the excitement of experiencing the beginnings of Canada as she would have been about nine or ten years of age.   (I wonder how small town Canada celebrated this event?  Note to self, remember to look into this for a future post!)

The early years of Adelaide’s life were fairly ordinary.  She was born Adelaide Hunter in 1857 or 1858 in St. George, Canada West (now Ontario, Canada). Adelaide was the youngest of twelve children, and her father died before (or just after) her birth leaving her mother to manage the farm and family.  Adelaide married John Hoodless in 1881, and they had four children.

Source:  Collections Canada (MIKAN 2890460)

Sadly, Adelaide’s son, John, died at the age of 14 months in 1889.  His death was recorded as “a summer complaint” or “meningitis” but some reports indicate that he died from drinking tainted milk.  Regardless, it seems that Adelaide believed that she was to blame for his death.  This tragic event changed the trajectory of Adelaide’s life and she became a family educator and worked to educate new mothers to try to prevent infant deaths.

Educate a boy and you educate a man, but educate a girl and you educate a family.

Adelaide believed that introducing domestic sciences to the school system would reverse the trends that were reducing women’s roles within the family and leading them to seek employment outside the home.  To support this, she wrote a textbook entitled Public School Domestic Science for use in public schools, stressing the importance of hygiene, cleanliness and frugality.

The aim of this text-book is to assist the public in acquiring a knowledge of the fundamental principles of correct living. (Preface, Public School Domestic Science, 1898).

She became public speaker focussed on the importance of domestic science and successfully lobbied for university level domestic science programs in Ontario and Quebec.  However, she was opposed to the suffragette movement, believing that women exercised their influence through their sons and husbands.  Adelaide co-founded the Women’s Institutes, National Council of Women, the Victorian Order of Nurses and the YWCA (in Canada)

Is it of greater importance that a farmer should know more about the scientific care of his sheep and cattle, than a farmer’s wife should know how to care for her family?

Adelaide died one day before her 53rd birthday in 1910.

Source:  Collectionscanada.gc.ca (MIKAN 2266356)

For more information:

Or visit the Adelaide Hunter Hoodless Homestead National Historic Site.