Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Sojourning Sisters: The Lives and Letters of Jessie and Annie McQueen

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Sojourning Sisters: The Lives and Letters of Jessie and Annie McQueen

Article excerpt

Jean Barman, Sojourning Sisters: The Lives and Letters of Jessie and Annie McQueen (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), x + 304pp. Cloth. £32. ISBN: 0-8020-3697-X.

In June 1887, just before her 22nd birthday, Annie McQueen left her home in Pictou County, Nova Scotia, to take up a teaching post in Nicola Lake, near Kamloops, British Columbia. The following March her older sister, Jessie, also traveled west to teach at a school in another remote bc community, Lower Nicola. Their exile was meant to be a temporary one, but led to the sisters making the long journey across the continent on several occasions. Jean Barman's very readable and carefully crafted book explores the lives of the two women through their letters to each other and to their mother and other siblings over a fifty-year period. In so doing she reveals much about the development of British Columbia and its gradual adoption of a Canadian identity.

The sisters were the last two of seven children. Their parents had financial difficulties throughout their lives and the intensely religious and manipulative mother, Catherine, relied upon the money that Jessie, in particular was able to send home from British Columbia. Annie married while teaching there and soon moved with her husband to Ontario but they eventually returned to British Columbia and Annie, after years of hard work as a farmer's wife and postmistress, became, after her husband's death, a public figure in Victoria. In her old age she became as hard and demanding as her own mother, ensuring that two of her children never married. Jessie spent, in three visits, just under twelve years in the province, but never truly regarded it as her home and eventually was forced by her mother's circumstances to return to Pictou County. She blossomed for a while in the fevered atmosphere of the mining boom town of Rossland, bc, before reluctantly returning to Nova Scotia to look after her mother and run the family farm. …

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