Canadian History in the News: Fall 2016 Edition

Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them and I offer my opinion on the subject.

Game of Furs

Sometimes I come across news articles or stories that I think would be great to talk about on this blog—–except for the fact that they are pretty short and therefore wouldn’t make for much of a blog post by themselves. Solution? Every now and then I pull a few together. In this late fall edition we have a follow up to a Spring 2016 story, a new television show loosely based on the fur trade era, and an update on the discovery of the HMS Terror. Continue reading

Veterans’ Stories: Morkin and Strachan


Lt. Harcus Strachan, Fort Garry Horse, Dec 1917. Photo digitally colourized by Canadian Colour. Would you be able to charge towards machine gun fire on a horse with a sword as your only weapon like Strachan did?

On November 11th every year, we honour the millions of Canadians who have fought, served, and died in for their country over the past century. However, most stories don’t get told. Many acts of bravery and sacrifice are forgotten. That’s why for Remembrance Day this year I thought I would changes things up and share two veterans’ stories: Martha Morkin, a Nursing Sister from World War I and Harcus Strachan, a veteran of both world wars and a Victoria Cross recipient. Although (spoiler alert) both survived, their experiences exemplify the horrors of war and why working towards maintaining peace is never a fool’s cause. Continue reading

Canadian History in the News: Spring 2016 Edition

Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them and I offer my opinion on the subject.

Excavation of a possible new viking site in Newfoundland. Source: National Geographic.

Sometimes I find news articles or stories that I think would be great to talk about on this blog—–except for the fact that they are pretty short and therefore wouldn’t make for much of a blog post by themselves. Solution? I decided to pull a few together. Here are three recent Canadian history-based stories that are worth nothing: Continue reading

Spotlight: Thanadelthur

Image from the book, The Peacemaker: Thanadelthur by David Alexander Robertson

In the early 18th century,  a young Chipewyan woman named Thanadelthur not only forged a peace agreement between the Chipewyans, (one of the major Dene groups), and the Cree people, but she was also was an translator, guide, and teacher for the Hudson’s Bay Company. Although her life was cut short, Thanadelthur’s strength and determination had a long-lasting impact and cemented her importance in early Canadian history. Continue reading

Proudly She Marches: Propaganda and Female Recruitment

Proudly She Marches is an 18-minute documentary film made by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). Directed by Jane Marsh in 1943 (not 1944 like Youtube is suggesting), it was a part of the Canada Carries On series. The film depicts the many different kinds of work that those apart of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC), the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS or “Wrens”) could be involved in. Training, everyday life in uniform, and women’s contribution to Canada’s military during the Second World War are showcased.

Aside from being a documentary, Proudly She Marches was also a propaganda film—so what was its purpose? Continue reading

Women’s Fashion During and After the French Revolution (1790 to 1810)

Fashion Flashback: Given that fashion was instrumental in the creation of Canada, this blog series explores the development of what Canadians wore one era at a time.


Woman’s Dress (Redingote) (c. 1790) [Source]

This week we continue our look at the fashion landscape in Canada both during and in the years after the French Revolution. With men’s fashion we saw that the decade-long political turmoil in France led to the beginning of the move to a more recognizably modern look. Now it’s time for the ladies. Did their apparel also move towards modernity?

Spoiler Alert: Nope. Not by a long shot.

So why is that? Continue reading

Canada’s WW2 Nursing Sisters

With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, once again civilian nurses came out in droves to enlist. Unlike the Nursing Sisters who came before them, they were no longer an Canadian Expeditionary force attached to the British army, rather they were fully integrated into the Canadian military. In addition, the nursing service went beyond the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. It was expanded to both the Royal Canadian Air Force Medical Branch and the Royal Canadian Naval Medical Service. By the end of the war, 4,480 Canadian Nursing Sisters served in the military, with 3,656 in the army, 481 with the air force, and 343 with the navy. Also aside from regular nurses, therapists, dietitians, laboratory technicians, and physiotherapists were employed by the army as well. Continue reading

Spotlight: Mary Henry

19th century portrait of Mary Henry
Laura Secord Homestead Museum, Queenston, (Source: Kelsie Brewer)

After a couple of somewhat negative, politically-charged posts I felt it was time for a happier one. As such, here’s the story of Mary Henry; an all-but-forgotten heroine from the War of 1812. There is not a lot of source material on her and sadly the above portrait is the only image we have of her, but Mary’s story is an example of the extraordinary things ordinary citizens do during times of war. Continue reading

Women’s Fashion After the Fall of New France (1760s to 1780s)

Fashion Flashback: Given that fashion was instrumental in the creation of Canada, this blog series explores the development of what Canadians wore one era at a time.


Robe à l’anglaise
 (c. 1765) from the Costume Museum of Canada.

Great Britain’s victory in the Seven Years’ War in 1763 stripped France of the majority of their territorial North American possessions. They kept the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, but New France was added to Britain’s growing North American empire. Needless to stay, the restructuring of the continent was a massive geopolitical shift, so how was this reflected on the societal level for the formerly French citizens? Or more specifically (since this is a fashion post after all) how did this turn of events effect what people wore? This post looks at changes to women’s clothing; next week’s post will look at men’s fashion. Continue reading

Spotlight: Laura Secord

Image from the 1992 commemorative Laura Secord Stamp.

Laura Secord (1775-1868) was a wartime heroine whose story became mythologized and engrained in Canadian history, yet to this day many of the details are still quite murky. Most can recall the basic premise of her story; she overheard an American plot to ambush a British outpost and made a seriously long trek through the woods to warn them of the impending surprise attack. But specific aspects about her journey have suffered from misinformation over the past two centuries. Who was Laura and how did she hear about the plot? How long was the walk? Was she alone? Did she bring a cow with her to trick American soldiers? Or did she trick them with chocolates? Did she really do it barefoot? Did her trek even matter? What happened to her after the war? Considering that June 22-24 is the anniversary of Laura’s 1813 trek and the Battle of Beaver Dams, now is the perfect time to clear things up and get some answers to those questions. Continue reading