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Gwen Tuinman

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1800s

Pioneer Illnesses: Catarrh and Ague

I’ve nearly worn out my DVD box set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman from having watched it so often. Dr. Michaela Quinn had the cure for almost everything and often sought the council of her First Nation Cheyenne friends who taught her about medicinal plants growing in the wilds. Episodes often mentioned people suffering a catarrh or ague. These terms appear in a number of pioneer journals as well and I’ve always been curious about their meaning.

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A Call for Temperance: Canada 1800s-1900s

In the early 1900s era during which my novel in-progress is set, patriarchal power frustrated women’s need for social change, specifically prohibition and ending domestic violence. We’d yet to attain the right to vote and in Canada, women were disallowed from holding public office because we didn’t qualify as “persons” under the definition set forth in the Constitution. Research deepens my understanding of the characters whose stories I tell. I’m feeling their aggravation.

When women unite, mountains move. How true this was when women spearheaded the temperance movement, an international campaign during the 1800-1900s to end social issues stemming from widespread alcohol abuse. Too often, Canadian women and children were impacted by a host of ills associated with alcoholism: domestic violence, poverty, disease, family breakdown, immorality, unemployment and workplace accidents.  

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Nova Scotia’s Bessie Hall: Mariner and Heroine

I’ve been reading Women at Sea in the Age of Sail by Donal Baird, a fascinating account of seafaring women from Canada’s east coast in the 1800s. For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, I was drawn to the book at a Halifax book store in 2018.

Gender roles of the Victorian era barred women’s aspirations taking to the sea for the purpose of being part of a ship’s working crew. None the less, a number of women in the 1800s travelled along with their husbands for some semblance of family life rather than be left behind to raise children alone. They often gave birth at sea without the care of doctor or midwife, suffered the lack of female companionship, and endured stormy weather and shipwrecks.

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