Historical Writing Competition 2003 – Barman, Jean

2003 – Barman, Jean

Sojourning sisters: The lives and letters of Jessie and Annie McQueenBarman, J. (2003). Sojourning sisters: The lives and letters of Jessie and Annie McQueen. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Shortly after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1886, two young sisters from Pictou County, Nova Scotia, took the train west to British Columbia. Jessie and Annie McQueen each intended to teach there for three years and then return home. In fact they remained sojourners between British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and Ontario for much of their lives.

Drawing on family correspondence and supported by extensive engagement with current scholarship, Jean Barman tells the sisters’ stories and, in doing so, offers a new interpretation of early settlement across Canada. As did many other women of these years, Jessie and Annie McQueen remained bound by daughterhood’s obligations and sisterhood’s bonds even as they got involved in their new communities. Barman takes seriously women as sojourners and uses Jessie and Annie McQueen’s letters home to evoke the boundless energy and enthusiasm shown by the thousands of women who helped to form Canada’s frontiers.