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Gwen Tuinman

Novelist Speaker Advocate

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Delving Deeper

Unwed Mothers and Maternity Home History

A character in my novel, The Last Hoffman, is in trouble.  She is pregnant, young and unmarried. Should she raise the baby? Should she give it up to a childless couple?

(Please enjoy this Wellspring Podcast of Unwed Mothers and Maternity Home History)

Continue reading “Unwed Mothers and Maternity Home History”

Underrepresentation of Women in History Archives

I’ve been thinking about how as a writer, I am responsible for laying down a representation of women that reflects our reality. Many scholars recognize that, in historical archives, there is a limited representation of women on the American Frontier and in early Canada. It’s a commonly held view now that the Continue reading “Underrepresentation of Women in History Archives”

Pioneer Women and the Importance of Their Work

I often contemplate the lives of women who lived in the past. Since girlhood, I’ve always been drawn to stories of yesteryear and so it seems fitting that in the novel I’m currently writing, I inhabit the lives of fictional women characters from the 1800s. To accurately reflect their daily existence through story telling, I comb through historical texts to develop an understanding of women’s lot in life—joys and sorrows, the restrictions they navigated, and in the absence of today’s technology, the never-ending day-to-day work of caring for a home and family. Continue reading “Pioneer Women and the Importance of Their Work”

How Settlers Cleared Their Land

Among the settler families’ first concerns was clearing trees from their allotments so land could be cultivated and crops grown. The prospect of such an undertaking must have been daunting. The second-growth forests of today are very different from the dense forests and huge trees our fore-bearers encountered. Colonel Strickland wrote about measuring a tree 11 feet in diameter with “the trunk rising like a majestic column, towering upwards for sixty or seventy feet before branching off its mighty head.”

Please enjoy this Wellspring Podcast of How Settlers Cleared Their Land.

Continue reading “How Settlers Cleared Their Land”

Julie Oakes: Historical Culinary Expert– Part 2

It’s been such a joy to discuss pioneer living with Julie Oakes, culinary expert and long-time live history enthusiast at The Pickering Museum Village east of Toronto. Part One of our interview is full of fascinating details that are finding their way into my novel. Enjoy the show notes for the equally delightful Part Two.

Please enjoy this Wellspring Podcast of Julia Oakes: Historical Culinary Expert–Part 2.

Gwen: Julie […] I’m going to ask you to finish this sentence. Each time I cross over that bridge at the Pickering Museum Village, and walk along the path that winds into the village, I…

Julie: …I feel like I’m going into the past and I feel like I’m going to have a wonderful day. Because I have to say that the days I’m able to go and just volunteer and go into the kitchen…I really like cooking on the wood stove, that’s my personal favourite. When I have a day that I can just cook on a wood stove and whole rest of the world goes away and there’s no phone, there’s no devices of any kind. But people come and chat and we talk about cooking and all kinds of things. Continue reading “Julie Oakes: Historical Culinary Expert– Part 2”

Julie Oakes: Historical Culinary Expert–Part 1

Julie Oakes set out on her path to historical culinary expertise as a costumed interpreter at the Pickering Museum Village. She eventually embarked on public speaking engagements about era fashion, Victorian funeral customs, and the rise of the women’s movement. Today, Julie also acts in and directs living history events and plays at the museum. I’ve attended the Rebellion of 1837 Spirit Walk, a living history performance guided and narrated by Julie, in character as a temperance movement leader.

Continue reading “Julie Oakes: Historical Culinary Expert–Part 1”

John Wesley and the Methodist Movement

Most of my Irish ancestors indicated Methodist on the census forms of the early to mid 1800`s. This roused my curiosity since I knew nothing of Methodism or its founder. What I discovered is fueling ideas for a character in my new novel!

Had you been strolling a country road, in the early 1740s, near Bristol or London you may have observed John Wesley approaching on horseback. He’d have been oblivious to your presence with his face pressed close to his bible and reins laying slack across the horse’s neck. It may have been difficult to see in him, as the man who’d withstand persecution by the Church of England, argue passionately for prison reform, or urge William Wilberforce to continue in his struggle to end slavery. But he did these things and more.

(Please enjoy this Wellspring Podcast of John Wesley and the Methodist Movement.) Continue reading “John Wesley and the Methodist Movement”

Shoeing Horses

I’m nearly ready to begin writing my new novel in which horses will figure prominently. To that end, I’m venturing back to the eighteen hundreds to see what I can learn about expert horse shoers or farriers as they are known. Continue reading “Shoeing Horses”

Pioneer Food Gardens and Orchards

What must food growing have been like for the earliest newcomers to Upper Canada? Many families arrived with a sack of seed and little else.This spring when we cleared more ground for planting vegetables, I thought about how much more difficult the task must have been for the earliest settlers. Before planting food, settlers first had to cut down an army of trees and remove obstacles  like roots and boulders. I certainly didn’t have to contend with such challenges. Our garden plot will generate produce to can or freeze, but nothing sufficient to sustain us until the next growing season. Plants are just beginning to yield and August is half over.

(Please enjoy this Wellspring Podcast of Pioneer Food Gardens and Orchards.) Continue reading “Pioneer Food Gardens and Orchards”

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