Our region has a history of being home to some amazing women. The rugged coast seems to attract strong women – women who could thrive away from the comforts of larger urban centres. I can’t begin to name them all, and there were certainly many unsung heroines. For one, I think any woman who lived in an isolated coastal floathouse and gave their families the comforts of home in these tiny floating shacks, deserves huge kudos. But in honour of International Women’s Day, let’s name a few that have stood out in our region’s history.
Pearl, Marion and Pansy Schnaar. These girls were known for the pet cougars they kept, but what impressed me was how at quite a young age they would take care of the home and garden while their father was gone for many days at a time hand logging or hunting. Their mother died when they were young, so they got to work doing all the chores needed around the homestead – whether it was canning food for the winter, taking care of livestock, or chopping firewood.
Elizabeth Quocksister. Today Elizabeth is often remembered as a gifted photographer who documented life on the Tyee Spit reserve. Her photographs are an invaluable record of that time and place. You can tell from her work that she cared deeply for her community, family and neighbours. Her legacy goes deeper than those photographs however. Together with her mother, Katie Ferry, Elizabeth spent countless hours teaching children traditional singing and dancing, helping to re-invigorate cultural activities in her community and Campbell River as a whole. This was no small feat considering the politics of the time and the restrictions placed on First Nations people – especially women.
Ann Elmore Haig-Brown. Her husband had a certain fame that came with his successful writing career, but without Ann he may not have risen to that level of notoriety. For one, she typed all of his manuscripts for him, enabling him to submit his work to publishers. Ann truly was a remarkable woman in her own right. The list of her accomplishments and contributions to her community is lengthy, but perhaps one of the most remarkable things she did was open her house to women and children in need. Before Campbell River had a transition house (which is now named after her), she opened her doors and offered them a safe place to stay.
Happy International Women’s Day to the women of Campbell River and region – past and present – and to their daughters and granddaughters who are keepers of the stories of our past.