Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Gumboot Girls" by Jane Wilde

Do you ever feel out of step with time? My grandmother always said I was born a generation too late because I enjoyed visiting her on the farm so much. Then it took me thirty-five years to get in the spirit of the hippie back to land movement.

http://www.amazon.com/Gumboot-Girls-Adventure-Survival-Columbias-ebook/dp/B00MOPMJPS/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=I’m always on the lookout for books about women who’ve chosen to live in remote locations. Last month on a BC Ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale I found such a book. Gumboot Girls: Adventure, Love and Survival on British Columbia’s North Coast is a collection of thirty-four memoirs that was compiled by Jane Wilde and edited by Lou Allison (Caitlan Press, 2014).

Jane was among many adventurous women who came to Coastal British Columbia in the 1960s and 1970s. This book highlights the lives of fifteen women who landed in the remote islands of Haida Gwaii (known then as the Queen Charlottes). An additional nineteen women made their homes in or near Prince Rupert on the mainland.

From all across Canada, the United States, and even France they came. Many were drawn because of the desire to live a self-sufficient lifestyle away from the pressures of society, some followed men avoiding the draft and Vietnam War, some followed family and friends who had gone before them, and some came just for the experience of a lifetime.

Prince Rupert waterfront cafe in 1994.
Most of the women lived in abandoned cabins, or built their own during a time when government restrictions were minimal or weren't enforced. Gardens were planted, chickens and goats raised, food canned for winter. For money, some fished side-by-side with their men, worked seasonally in canneries, or took traditional nursing or teaching jobs, but their means of getting to work was anything but traditional. Life on the north coast required boating skills, and crossing dangerous waters in all kinds of weather.

Prince Rupert fishing boats in 1994.
Living near like-minded people resulted in communal activities and support. It was a time of free love, living simply off the land, and few responsibilities (except for their own survival). Fresh seafood that we consider expensive delicacies were free for the taking.

Some of the women stayed, but most moved on to finish their education or return to larger cities. Even so, their north coast experience shaped their futures and those years were never forgotten.

These were my formative years too. But it took me a much longer time break my bonds with city life and follow my dreams to Coastal BC. How about you? -- Margy

13 comments:

  1. How brave and courageous these women were back in those days. Another book I would like to read.

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  2. Strong women to accomplish what they did.

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  3. Stephanie and Linda - Much braver and stronger than I was. I was too afraid to disappoint my parents. But now it's my turn. - Margy

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  4. Love those kind of books too. I have read many and now am reading Tomboy Bride "A woman's personal account of life in mining camps of the west". By Harriet Fish Backus.
    Sandra Day O'Connor (Who went on to become a Supreme court judge) wrote a excellent book about her growing up on a ranch in Texas. I could go on if I put my thinking cap on. LOL!!
    MB

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    1. Thanks for the leads. - Margy

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  5. Thanks for your kind words about our stories! We had a good time in the process of capturing our unique piece of north coast history.

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    1. You book deserved more than kind words. I really admire your approach to life, then and now. - Margy

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  6. This is for Jane and the other women.........I SO enjoyed reading Gumboot Girls.......I related to so many of their stories and felt so connected......I myself was not in the northwest but in Central BC outside of PG experiencing my own wilderness adventure(straight from the city). I thought my life was rather unique, but after reading their stories I realize there were so many of us doing the same sort of thing in the 70's...and mine was totally unplanned. Great read! Thankyou....

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    1. Hi Lydia - I thought it was a great book too, and envy the experiences brave people had in those days. I was busy being an elementary school teacher. But at least now is my time and turn to try things a little bit different. My cabin life isn't anywhere near as basic, but it's perfect for someone my age. Thanks for taking the time to write such a long comment. If you want to get in touch with the Gumboot Girls directly, they have a Facebook page under the same name. - Margy

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    2. Thanks Margy...........I will look into that

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  7. Thanks for sharing Margy. Her comment, "I thought my life was rather unique, but after reading their stories I realize there were so many of us doing the same sort of thing in the 70's" is why we wanted to save and share the stories. It was a unique time for women and the rural experience another variation!
    Commented on by Jane Wilde

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  8. And if you ever decide to publish another similar book I would love to be considered for inclusion in it!

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    1. It would be best for you to contact them directly since I only enjoyed reading the book and wrote this review. Try their Facebook page called Gumboot Girls. Leave a comment and I am sure they will get back to you. - Margy

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