Friday, June 22, 2007

Book Review - From this place: Recollections of the Lives of Women in the 20th Century

This book came about through a project known as "A Grandmother's Legacy". This project was overseen by the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario. The oldest member of each Women's Institute Branch wrote a brief "recollection" of their life experience in the early 20th century. The book takes its title from a recollection written by Grace Arnold who begins each paragraph with "It was from this place...."
The recollections are fascinating to read and portray a way of life that is all but lost to most women today. The expectations of women then were likely very similiar to those of women today. For most women, it was a life of service mainly to family, community and during the wars, country as well. It was interesting to read stories from areas of Ontario I am familiar with, such as Brantford, St. George, Chatham and even oddly enough, Cobalt, Ontario.
Some of the stories have unusual twists. For example, in a recollection by June Lang, she writes about surviving her parents divorce in 1925 (certainly unusual for that time), a kidnapping by her mother who reclaimed June and her brother from their father, the birth of 6 children, homeschooling her children, the Depression and permanent separation from her husband.
The book contains numerous photographs unrelated to the story-writers but relevant to the period the book covers. The book would have a more personal, more intimate touch if pictures of the women had been placed within their stories.
This is a very enjoyable read and I recommend it to young women especially. It made me think of my music teacher, Truey Baker, born in the early 1900's, who told me stories of what it was like to live in Alberton in the 1920's.

Book Details:
From This Place. Recollections of the Lives of Women in the 20th Century
Janine Roelens-Grant (Editor)
2000 Federated Womend's Institutes of Ontario (FWIO)

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