In 1891, Alice Barrett moved from Port Dover, Ontario, to the Okanagan Valley to keep house for her brother and uncle. She soon married Harold Parke, a former NWMP officer, and spent the next decade recording her experiences in a series of notebooks sent to her Ontario family.
Few women’s diaries have survived from that time, and Barrett Parke recalls a period of profound transformation in a region newly opened to white settlement by the railway. She was an astute observer and an exceptional writer, and her diaries provide invaluable insights into work, health, religion, race and gender relations, and women’s lives. On a personal level, her writings show the conflict between her independent spirit and women’s traditional roles. Although wary of the emerging feminism of the time, Alice was co-opted into the “vice-regal circle” of the Countess of Aberdeen, who stayed at nearby Coldstream Ranch, and became the first corresponding secretary of the Vernon chapter of the National Council of Women.
Careful editing and additional research to contextualize the social and historical background, as well as biographical details, photos, and maps enhance the reader's understanding and appreciation of this remarkable woman’s life, and the lives of those around her.
Selected as a BC Book for Everybody.
An engaging character with a fine eye for social and cultural observation. The editor's sensitive additions to the diaries allow the reader the opportunity of understanding the broader personal, regional, and historical significance of [the diaries] ... The [editor's] sensitivity to historical issues of culture and ethnicity is one of the characteristics that make this such a good local history.
“Quite away from all my people”: Arriving in the Spallumcheen Valley
“The real, the useful, the necessary – these occupy one here”: Life in the Spallumcheen Valley
“A very cosy, happy home”: At Home in Vernon
“How many people I have got to know!”: Vernon Friends and Acquaintances
“Oh! I do hope I’ll be able to do something useful and good”: A One-Woman Social Welfare Service
“A great many people have ailments here”: Health and Social Issues in the 1890s
“How I love them all”: Some Members of the Barrett Family
“Oh! I wish I could hear someone who would stir me up”: Religion in the West
“A man of Mr. Parke’s ability”: A Husband of Unusual Accomplishment
“I have been as busy as I could be”: Life at the BX Ranch and Encounters with the Chinese
“There is much of the untamed animal nature in me”: Confessions to the Diaries
“The women work much harder than the men”: Attitudes towards Other Races
“Hob-nobbing with a Countess”: Early Feminism in Western Canada
“I think if I were a man I’d want to go in for [politics]”: Political Life at the End of the 1800s
“People really seem to be getting sanguine over the mining prospects around here”: Exploration and Prospecting in the Okanagan
“It really is shameful the way I neglect my poor old diary lately”: The End of the Journals
“I wonder when I’m a grey haired old woman if I will enjoy reading these papers!”: The Final Years
Appendix: Chronology of the diaries
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