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Sojourning Sisters

Sojourning Sisters: The Lives and Letters of Jessie and Annie McQueen

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 336
  • Book Info
    Sojourning Sisters
    Book Description:

    Drawing on family correspondence, Jean Barman offers a new interpretation of early settlement across Canada in the stories of two young sisters from Pictou County, Nova Scotia, who took the train west to British Columbia in 1886.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8007-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. [Maps]
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Chapter One Sojourning Sisters
    (pp. 3-10)

    Two strong women have lived with me for a long time. They’re hung around the house, woken me up in the middle of the night, become real nuisances. Tell our story, they say. Parts of it I have already put in print, but they are not satisfied.¹ Write it all down, they say, so we can be on our way. The time has come, they prod me, and so I do so here.

    Each of the McQueen sisters has told me what she wants me to say. She left a trace during her lifetime. Indeed, that’s how Jessie, Annie, and...

  6. Chapter Two Pictou County Origins
    (pp. 11-34)

    The house still stands where Jessie was born on Christmas Eve, 1860, and her sister Annie, in the summer of 1865, to Daniel and Catherine McQueen.¹ Cape Cod style with clapboard siding, many small-paned windows, and a stone chimney, its one-and-a-half stories look remarkably as they did at the sisters’ births. The farmhouse sits on a rise, facing over the valley of Sutherland’s River. Below the farmhouse is a bridge crossing the river to the Presbyterian church that can be glimpsed from the upper hall window. A spire has been added, but otherwise the church too is mostly unchanged. The...

  7. Chapter Three Nova Scotia to British Columbia
    (pp. 35-49)

    When Annie McQueen and then, nine months later, her sister Jessie boarded the train for British Columbia, they embarked on a trip taking just eight days. It was, however, much longer in the making. The decision as to whether they would be allowed to go was not taken easily and consumed a considerable period of time. The circumstances that finally permitted them to leave were far older than they were. The trip from Nova Scotia to British Columbia was no small undertaking.

    The idea of sojourning, of going elsewhere to work for a time, as Annie was now invited to...

  8. Chapter Four Sisterhood’s Bonds
    (pp. 50-65)

    By the time Jessie joined Annie in March 1888, her younger sister had already encountered and, she considered, mastered the frontier. The freedom the frontier gave meant that social conventions, at least for the moment, could be set aside. Boundaries for interaction and behaviour were more fluid across much of British Columbia than in Nova Scotia.Expectations were different. Older sister Eliza pronounced not long after Annie’s departure: ‘No doubt any faithful Christian will find plenty to do in such a country. These stories of shooting and Indians show what the West is like.’ Well aware of Annie’s character, Eliza added:...

  9. Chapter Five Taking a Chance on Love
    (pp. 66-85)

    Even as sisterhood’s bonds were being reconnected in the Nicola Valley, the seeds had been sown for their sundering. Teaching was well and good for a time in the life cycle, but women were expected to marry. Jessie had already reached the optimum age by Pictou County standards, and Annie was on her way there. Not unexpectedly, given their personalities, it was Annie who first took a chance on love, and Jessie who followed in her wake.

    The reasons for the McQueen sisters’ change in direction are not difficult to fathom. To be a single woman, even as charmed a...

  10. Chapter Six Domesticating Everyday Life
    (pp. 86-108)

    The sad ending to Jessie’s hopes for intimacy turned her inward on herself. In doing so, she drew on a part of her character that had always been present. From her very first days in British Columbia, Jessie lived a contradiction. However contagious Annie’s enthusiasm, Jessie took comfort in Nova Scotian norms. She once wrote to her mother, ‘there’s nodaringin me.’¹ As a sojourner, committed to a three-year exile to sustain the McQueen family economy, she had little impetus to move beyond the familiar any more than was absolutely necessary.

    Jessie retreated, not through a single swoop but...

  11. Chapter Seven Daughterhood’s Obligations
    (pp. 109-129)

    When Jessie went west to British Columbia in March 1888, she had intended to stay, as did Annie, for three years and then return home to Pictou County. She did so, but there was a complication. Her family simply could not survive without her financial support, and she knew it. Daughterhood’s obligations entrapped her.

    So the long anticipated return home in the summer of 1891 was, in the months before Jessie’s departure east, refashioned into a visit. In March she shared with the superintendent of education her ‘natural longing to see that home (in Nova Scotia) once more, but do...

  12. Chapter Eight Enduring Bonds of Sisterhood
    (pp. 130-152)

    In settling down, in modest fashion, at Nicola Lake, Jessie assumed that she would continue to sojourn in British Columbia on her own. Annie had long since left her behind without much thought, and her cousin Jessie Olding Hunter was installed at remote Granite Creek. Jessie’s solitary state was not to continue. When the newly wed Annie abandoned British Columbia in the beginning of 1889, she was firmly convinced that it would be ‘for good.’¹ Thereafter the sisters corresponded, but it seemed as if they had gone their separate ways. Then, four years into Annie’s marriage, they came together again...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. Chapter Nine Annie on the Frontier
    (pp. 153-179)

    When Jessie departed British Columbia for Nova Scotia at the end of August 1894, she left Annie behind just as Annie had abandoned her almost six years earlier upon getting married and moving east to Ontario. Once again the sisters’ lives diverged. Annie engaged the frontier at Salmon Arm, whereas Jessie returned to her earlier status as, in a literal sense, the dutiful daughter of Pictou County.

    The long months Jessie sought to sustain domesticity on the McQueen family farm at Sutherland’s River saw her sister Annie do much the same at Salmon Arm. Annie wrote home more often than...

  15. Chapter Ten Jessie in Charge
    (pp. 180-207)

    When the McQueen sisters came together at Salmon Arm in the spring of 1896, it had been Jessie who made the running. Jessie sought to resolve the Gordons’ woes by getting a teaching job in Rossland. Even though loosened by circumstances of sisterhood’s bonds, she stayed four years in Rossland. Much of the reason Jessie did so was that for the first time in her life she understood what it meant to take charge, and she did so.

    Jessie’s departure from Pictou County for British Columbia in May 1896 differed from March 1888 and August 1891. The passage of time...

  16. Chapter Eleven Sisters Full Circle
    (pp. 208-235)

    In the final years of the nineteenth century, the McQueen sisters seemed, once again, to have gone separate ways. Jessie was settled in the boom town of Rossland, content and quite prosperous. Mother to three children, Annie was living on the frontier, discontented with her lot and isolated from the way of life familiar to her from Pictou County. The dynamic between the two sisters had shifted. Previously, Annie served as Jessie’s protector in venturing into the larger world. In return, Jessie was quick to respond, as she had done at Kamloops in 1893 and Salmon Arm in 1896, when...

  17. Chapter Twelve Reflections
    (pp. 236-246)

    The McQueen sisters had far more with them than baggage and some food when they headed west to British Columbia shortly after the completion of the transcontinental railway. They brought a way of life that was so accepted, so expected, it need not be declared, much less questioned. Until then, the sisters had been embedded in a social landscape whose components they took for granted. Normal in Pictou County was to be rural, long settled and committed to family, to be Scots and Presbyterian, and to be literate. Normal in the colonial world to which Nova Scotia and Canada adhered...

  18. Chronology
    (pp. 247-250)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 251-292)
  20. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 293-294)
  21. Index
    (pp. 295-304)