“If there were just one gift you could choose, but nothing barred,
what would it be? We wish you then your own wish; you name
it. Ours is liberty, now and forever.”—Isabel Paterson
January 22, 1886–January 10, 1961
ISABEL MARY PATERSON was born Isabel Mary Bowler and grew up in the Wild West at the end of the nineteenth century. Incredibly to us, perhaps, she called it “rather dull.” Instead, she dreamed of adventures in Australia.
Mary, as she was known as a girl, was one of nine children. She was born in Tehkummah on the Canadian island of Grand Manitoulin, Lake Huron. Her father Francis Bowler owned and operated a grist mill there, grinding grains into various products. But he was not successful and her childhood was spent on the move as the family went rapidly down the economic ladder. The Bowlers moved first to Newberry in Northern Michigan, then to Utah (yet to become a state) and finally to Canada’s Northwest Territories (not yet a province).