Since 1917, much has been written about the life and death of artist Tom Thomson on Canoe Lake in Ontarios Algonquin Park. Thomson was a major influence on the Group of Seven, but until now, little has been known about the women whose lives he touched: Annie Fraser, proprietress of Mowat Lodge who likely knew a lot more than she ever let on; Louisa Blecher, mother of Martin Blecher the man who was silently accused of playing a hand in Thomson's death; Molly Colson, owner of the Algonquin Hotel where Tom was last seen; and the elusive Winnifred Trainor, Thomson's alleged love interest. After years of painstaking research, Gaye I. Clemson's ALGONQUIN VOICES brings to life the lives of these and many other courageous women who have lived and loved since 1905 on the shores of Algonquin Park's famous Canoe Lake.
"In 1997 I got inspired to trace and record the settlement history of all of my Canoe Lake neighbours," Clemson, a 48-year resident of Canoe Lake, explains. "In the process I discovered a treasure trove of family stories about the lives of my neighbours mothers, grandmothers, aunts and cousins from all walks of life, who were captivated by the lakes haunted history and beauty and chose to settle on Canoe Lake, some with husbands and children and others without."
Beginning in the early 1900's, ALGONQUIN VOICES tells in words and pictures the stories of over 20 pioneers, business women, childrens' camp leaders and independent spirits who chose to make Canoe Lake their summer, and in some cases year round, home. It shares their life and settlement history, artistic and professional endeavours, family traditions and summer amusements including first hand insight as to how they coped (and in some cases earned a living) with the challenges of day-to-day living without city conveniences, miles from civilization deep in the heart of one of North Americas most well known parks.
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It makes an important contribution in helping 21st C young women understand better what life was like for their grandmothers and great grandmothers 100+ years ago and get in touch with their collective feminist roots that are so easily forgotten in the hustle and bustle of our modern lives.
"ALGONQUIN VOICES is a must read for anyone who loves Algonquin Park. [Clemson] has captured the soul of the pioneers of this unique bush community and tells, in loving detail, what it was really like to live here and die here"
* Roy MacGregor, journalist and author of several books and articles about Algonquin Park and Canoe Lake.
" It is almost 150 years since Canoe Lake was named, and in that time it has attracted a great variety of notable personalities: almost a microcosm of Canadian society. The men, including the lumber barons David and Allan Gilmour, the artist Tom Thomson, the youth leader Taylor Statten, have been duly recognized in print. But what of the women? Here for the first time Gaye I. Clemson has drawn together word portraits of some very remarkable ladies. Some were supporters of their husbands through difficult pioneering times, some were entrepreneurs on their own, at least one was a caring nurse and sister of mercy. It was my privilege to have known a number of Gaye's subjects; reading her book makes me wish I had known all,"
* George Garland, author/editor of Glimpses of Algonquin Park and long-time resident of neighbouring Smoke Lake.
"Much has been written about the history of Canoe Lake from the mysterious death of artist Tom Thomson to the demise of the Gilmour Lumber Company dynasty. However, Gaye brings an illuminating new perspective on the area's illustrious past through these fascinating personal stories."
* Ron Tozer, retired Algonquin Park Naturalist and Archivist