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Gwen Tuinman

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Seeking Inspiration

Indentured Servitude in Canada

In mid-1800s Canada, there existed the core ingrained settler values of independence and self-reliance that dissuaded municipalities from lending financial assistance to the poor in rural areas. As urban populations grew, the incidence of poverty and crime escalated. Poor laws, like the ones that obligated Englands municipalities to assist impoverished locals, did not exist in Canada. With no effective welfare infrastructure, communities responded by “auctioning off” able-bodied poor children and adults who had neither family nor local relations to help them.

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Women of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House”

Among my favourite girlhood books was the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Late 1800s pioneer life captivated me. Kathryn Adam, a scholar in midwestern women’s history and literature, regards Wilder’s female characters as historical resources that reveal “role expectations and feelings of western women”.

In her essay, Laura, Ma, Mary, Carrie, and Grace: Western Women as Portrayed by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Adam says that Wilder shows us “women engaged in the rigors of homesteading, women building community and culture on the frontier, women working to preserve the family in the face of bitter adversity (…) in a series of vividly realized frontier landscapes.”

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Fall Fairs in Upper Canada: A Brief History

One of the pleasures of October is attending the fall fairs so prevalent across Ontario. After discovering archived images of fairs held in the early 1900s, I became curious about the origins of such events. These curated details will find their way into my writing one day.

Agricultural Societies appeared in Upper Canada as early as 1793 when the first one began at Niagara. In the eighteen-thirties and forties, the societies grew in popularity. Their membership activities provided an opportunity for socializing among farmers. The farmers’ wives, however, were disallowed from participating in the society. Women rarely broke the monotony of their daily routine except to visit a neighbour or a general store. To join in men’s activities was considered improper.

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