The following are my editorial comments for the Summer 2016 Issue of Folklore Magazine. To subscribe to the magazine and to become a member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, go here and complete this form. Also follow SHFS on Facebook. Cover Photos: See Bottom of Page
As I sat down to plan this issue of Folklore, I realized that we had a wealth of submissions written by or about women, and that this wealth provided the perfect opportunity to dedicate an entire issue to highlighting the voices of women from Saskatchewan’s past and present.
I remember the moment I realized that history was not just memorizing dates and reading about wars and politics and other male-dominated topics. That history also happened in people’s homes. That history happened to individuals and to families and to minorities and women. It was my contemporary American history class in the third year of undergrad. We were assigned Elaine Tyler May’s Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era, which looks at how Cold War hysteria affected people in their homes and, most importantly, how it affected women and children. For the first time I directly related to the topic I was studying. This moment was the same point at which I decided that I wanted to become a historian.
Although women’s and gender history has grown in popularity since the 1970s, women’s stories are still often underrepresented in the historical record. This underrespresentation is largely due to the fact that a majority of the records – such as government and corporate records – on which historians base their work are devoid of women’s voices.
Folklore stands in a unique position to give audience to the voices of women and other individuals who would not necessarily be given audience elsewhere. I cannot highlight enough the value that the stories that you provide have to both contemporary readers and individuals in the future who will have access to these personal accounts of the past that will not exist elsewhere. Your memories are cultural treasures. Your individual experience matters.
Many of the pieces in this issue are based on personal memories or the memories of family members. Joyce Becker Lee paints a portrait of the Jewish experience in a rural Saskatchewan community based on the memories of her aunt.
The vibrance of childhood memories once again plays a major role in the reminiscences of Folklore writers. Catherine R. Fenwick beautifully connects her adult restlessness to a childhood experience. Myrna Garnis relates how the song, “Red Wing,” and a violin unearth memories for both herself and her mother and aunt. In an interview by Bill Armstrong, Lill Jardine remembers her school-age years, and Evelyn Rask looks back on the games and her mother’s cooking that helped to define her childhood. And Shirley Lomheim provides a relatable and heartwarming tale of school-age precociousness.
Some of my most vibrant childhood memories take place at my village’s post office. I grew up in a small, rural community, and the post office served as our communal nexus; our postmistress, MaryAnn, was a pivotal figure in all our lives. I knew that when my mother went to the post office she would be gone for an hour or two, hearing the latest gossip from MaryAnn and catching up with our neighbours. Ruth Lee-Knight illustrates a similar scene in her portrait of Dorintosh’s longtime postmistress, Ruth Ridsdale. Beryl Forgay’s piece on Homemaker’s Clubs further illustrates the essential role that women play as community organizers.
Lois Borland Lee and Joan Soggie’s pieces feature the specific experiences of women who immigrated to Canada to find a new and better life. Soggie adeptly portrays the heartbreaking divide between childhood hopes and dreams and the realities of adulthood. The collective and individual strength of all of the women in this issue jumps from the page. This issue is dedicated to the women in our lives that gave us life, fought for themselves, their families and, communities, and continue to enrich our experience.
(Left): From Amy Jo Ehman: “The two flapper gals: Angela Ehman (left) and Monica Ehman (right). They were cousins and best friends. The picture is taken on my family farm at Craik, where my Aunt Monica grew up. Monica was born in 1910 so this might be circa 1928-9?”
(Top Right): Submitted by Victoria Murphy. From left to right: Irene Gossen, Grace Vandale, and Mary Oickle, circa 1940, Saskatchewan.
(Bottom Right): From Amy Jo Ehman: “Elizabeth O’Hara (left) and her daughter-in-law, Jo O’Hara. The picture was taken in Swanson. Jo (short for Josephine) was my grandma. Her maiden name was McNulty. At first I thought this was my grandma and her mom. But it’s really my grandma and her mother-in-law. Grandma married in 1937 when she was 21 so I’m guessing this picture was taken around 1937.”