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Gwen Tuinman

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women

The Lost Daughter

On the advice of another author, I read Elena Ferrante’s novel The Days Of Abandonment. Her storytelling is direct, often addressing uncomfortable and socially taboo feelings about marriage divorce and motherhood. Parts left me cringing. The novel reaffirms that a character’s unabashed honesty pulls readers deep inside their point of view.

Netflix is showing The Lost Daughter, a small budget indie film directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal. She wrote the script based on Ferrante’s novel of the same title about Leda, a middle-aged divorcee whose long-awaited vacation leads to painful introspection. I once binged on episodes of Actors Roundtable that featured Gyllenhaal. She asked why women actors arrived on set in full makeup and dress like bridesmaids while male panelists dress casually in T-shirts and jeans. She also pointed out that the male-dominated film industry generates movies to satisfy the male gaze.

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Canadian Women During WW1: New Freedoms and Old Pressures

My keen interest in the lives of Canadian women during WW1 stems from the novel I’m currently writing set in that same era. Prior to the war, women of middle- and upper-class families were monitored by chaperones. Working-class women, in whom I’m most interested, were unchaperoned but constrained by what society deemed “good” behaviour. The status quo took a drastic turn when, starting in 1914, the number of young women moving far from home began to climb. More women earned their own money, spent at their individual discretion. The sight of women smoking and drinking in pubs caused an uproar among traditionalists who were further shocked with changes to fashion. With so many women in the workplace finding long hair unsafe and dresses impractical, hairstyles grew shorter (and masculine in the view of some), hemlines continued to rise, and trousers became common.

Many shared concerns that the women flooding the workforce would result in the erosion of morality, a quality equated with patriotism. Anxieties rose around concerns of sexual impropriety and the sanctity of marriage.

Continue reading “Canadian Women During WW1: New Freedoms and Old Pressures”

How to Make Butter in a Churn

In the novel I’m currently writing, one character— a farm wife living in the early 1900s—operates a home dairy and sells butter to local families. I recently discovered an inspiring historical document about a farming couple in the butter business—Samuel and Jane Spares from Northfield, Hants County, Nova Scotia.

Between 1885 and 1890, the Spares sold $770.00 of produce generated by their farm. Three quarters of those funds were generated by livestock products, but the remainder was owing to butter, oats, hay and wool. “The 350 lbs. of butter sold (an average of 58 lbs per year) was the most important of these products. Churned in the kitchen by Jane Spares and her daughters, home-produced butter remained an important element of this farm’s commercial output until the establishment of a dairy factory in the district after the turn of the century.”

With an interest in butter-making, I set out to learn the process used by our early families.

Continue reading “How to Make Butter in a Churn”

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