Sunday, October 5

Canadian Women of the Prairies

In honor of Women's History Month and it's theme, Women in the Lead, I researched the lives on women who came to Canada to settle in the prairie provinces.

On November 7, 1885, the last spike was driven in British Columbia and the Canadian Pacific Railway stretched all across this great nation. Soon after, Canada's Minister of the Interior, Clifford Sifton, had thousands of pamphlets printed and sent to the US, England and European countries urging people to leave their homes and settle on Canada's prairie provinces where thousands of acres of fertile land available. Representatives were sent to tell people in Europe of the golden Canadian west, where there were thousands of acres of fertile land to be had for free. This wasn't entirely true because the land cost $10 and certain stipulations had to be adhered to according to the Dominion Lands policy. One was that a home had to be established at the minimum of 18 x 24 feet. Each parcel of land was 160 acres and all stipulations had to be met within 3 years.

The offer of free land was a dream come true for many European families and they left their homes and came to the land of milk and honey - namely the Canadian prairies. They endured traveling across the rough Atlantic on filthy steamships only to arrive in Canada to board steam trains and travel for days. When they disembarked, they found that they had arrived in land that was dry, empty and flat and had no mery and stole the lives of their loved ones. Yes, conditions were harsh.

The first thing these immigrants had to do, and it had to be done quickly, was to build shelter. There were no towns nearby and few neighbors. The families were isolated and lonely. Because there were few trees on the prairie, soddies were the only shelter that could be built.
Women toiled beside men to plough the rough prairie grasses and collect sod to make their homes. These women slugged heavy pieces of sod into carts and wagons from dawn until dusk. These pieces of sod then had to be stacked grass side down in double rows to make the walls of the soddies. Often the only wood available for roof supports were the very wagons that hauled the sod.

Soddies took weeks to complete and even though they were small, dark and had leaky roofs, the women turned them into cozy homes. Many prairie women covered the walls of their soddies with paper or cloth, while others plastered them with clay and straw. Once the walls were covered the women whitewashed them to brighten them up a little.

Some soddies had windows, but many didn't. Curtains, in the form of blankets, were hung from twine or poles for a bit of privacy. These inspiring women made quilts for the beds to bring a bit of cheer into the room. They stitched samplers to be hung on the walls while having no modern conveniences to make their work load easier. They fell into bed at night, exhausted, only to get up before dawn and do it all again. They mopped up water day after day when rains pummeled the prairies and leaked through the sod roofs. The old saying goes that if it rained for three days outside, it rained for six indoors.

Besides all of this, many times these women peformed this hard manual labor while pregnant and still nursing the last baby that had arrived months earlier. There were no doctors, so the women learned to use the prairie plants to nurse ill children and husbands. Still, these women forged on, kept homes, raised their children and worked side by side their with their husbands in the fields.

The women who helped settle the Canadian prairies to make Canada what it is today were strong, brave women who met obstacles head-on without complaint. They were women who fit into the 2008 Women's History Month theme - Women in the Lead.

If you would like to see what these women endured, click HERE to watch the video.

Enjoy your Sunday and remember to take time for yourself this weekend. Read a book or take time to enjoy a favorite hobby. ~Blessings, Mary~


  1. I am so loving this history of women in Canada, Mary.
    It is amazing how hard women worked...sometimes we don't think about the fact that they had to do manual labor which is physically harder for women than men, AND take care of their children.

    Mary, I so appreciate your saying that you were willing to help me with making a button! I just think this is so gracious of you...
    And yes, that would be exciting if you could contribute with science and art ideas! I love that!!!

    I do have a couple picture ideas and the words...would you like me to e-mail them to you?
    Thank you so much, dear Mary, for being willing to lend a hand!

  2. I am just getting caught up on blog reading and love your last two posts. History is so interesting and we should admire and remember the brave and strong women who helped build our nation.

  3. Mary,

    A great post in honor of the brave women who came to Canada to settle and toiled along with the men, to make new lives for themselves, and helped build a great nation.

    And the book review in the post below is exceptional as well.

    I always enjoy my visits with you. Have a wonderful Sunday.

    Hugs and blessings,


  4. I just can't imagine the hardships that these women faced. They worked like men outside plus had all the care of the children, cooking and housework inside. They are to be commended for all that they did. Great post Mary, always enjoy your writing!

  5. Thank you so much for posting this. I had ancestors in Canada for many years, some relatives are still there. Since I have done genealogy research on them this info gives me a better glimpse into their lives.

  6. Good evening Mary. I can't believe that I missed stopping by this morning, but I sure did.

    These articles that you're writing for Canadian Women are just super. That sod hut looks like what my great grandparents lived in when they first came here to the states. It's amazing what they can and DID endure in life...they were a strong people!

    Amazing and wonderful history lesson once again.

  7. That sounded just like House On The Prairie.I loved watching that when I was growing up.
    Women were something tried and true. I do think that life was hard but in a way so much more simple. I think I would have enjoyed living during this time.
    I wonder is there is any of these women in us?

  8. How interesting to learn of these commonalities between our countries ‘history’ … and the strength of women.
    Hugs and blessings,

  9. I love to read your history posts Mary. They are always just what I need to keep this prairie woman motivated.

    God bless.

  10. Good evening Mary, a very interesting story about the Canadian Women and their lives..our lives will never be as hard as the women in this story had to endure..It amazes me how strong and wise they were in such conditions..thanks for sharing... hugs, Baba

  11. This is a great story. I wonder how hard our life will look in 100 or so years.
    Compare to this we have it made in a cake.

    Coffee is on.

  12. We often wish for a simpler life like in the old days but then when you watch that video and think of the back breaking work that had to be done on a daily basis, it makes you realize how lucky we are to have all the modern conveniences! We have to be proud of our ancestors!!! xoxo

  13. The women were and have been the backbone of our nation and yours. I am like Pea....... we talk about the good old days but they were hard days for those precious women. I do not know if I would have had the backbone as they did...... They were born for such a time as that, and we are born for such a time as this.........

    Hugs girl friend!

  14. Great post, Mary! I enjoyed reading about these strong, brave women - they are an inspiration. Their story is similar to that of the women here in the US who migrated westward to settle our new frontiers. hugs, Tina

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