Historians have told us much about the hardships of Canadians in the early 1900s. They have told us that for all of its growth and promise, Canada was not a paradise: many workers suffered low wages, dangerous working conditions, recurring unemployment, and uncaring, if not repressive bosses; aboriginals, visible minorities, immigrants, Catholics, and Jews faced discrimination and hostility from the native-born; women of all classes and ethnic backgrounds were treated as second-class citizens before the law; rural depopulation in central and eastern Canada splintered families and eroded communities, while rapid urbanization and industrial growth produced congested, dirty, and unhealthy cities. These hardships were all very real.
Historians have said little, however, about the romantic hardships of the time. And yet these, too, were very real.1 Canadians would have found things like poverty and discrimination easier to endure alongside someone special with whom they could share their troubles. In the spring of 1906, a lonely westerner sent a poem to the Family Herald called “The Bachelor’s Complaint.” Two of the verses went as follows:
“When plunged in deep and dire distress,
When anxious cares my heart oppress,
Who whispers hope of happiness?