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Books showcase diverse, trailblazing women of BC and Yukon

By Haley Healey, school counsellor and author, Nanaimo


Women of British Columbia and Yukon have always been trailblazers, but they haven’t always been included in the history books and stories. I’m a BCTF member, high school counsellor, and author of three recent books shining light on diverse and trailblazing women from BC and Yukon’s past. I was first inspired to write about trailblazing women while touring Cougar Annie’s garden near Tofino. I was inspired by Cougar Annie’s resilience and resourcefulness and wondered if there were other amazing women like her whose stories I hadn’t heard. As it turns out, there were. Researching and writing about these trailblazing women has been deeply inspiring. Suffragette and author Nellie McClung said, “People must know the past to understand the present and to face the future.” I see books as an engaging way for students to learn about history and to be encouraged to pursue their own goals and dreams. Below are brief descriptions of my three books. Two of the books, Lilian Bland and Kimiko Murakami, have teacher guides that include discussion questions, activities, and tips for presenting sensitive historical topics to children. Teacher guides can be found at www.heritagehouse.ca or www.haleyhealey.com.


Her Courage Rises: 50 Trailblazing Women of British Columbia and the Yukon

Women in this book were diverse, daring, and blazed their own trails in life, sometimes literally. Much like women today, they kept going when things got tough and adapted when things changed. They were aviators, gold rushers, doctors, authors, and artists. They lived life in their own way. Some fell under the spell of Yukon, venturing to northern Canada for gold (Black miner Lucille Hunter), to work as a journalist (Faith Fenton), or to seek fortune and adventure (Nellie Cashman). Others were brave pioneers who farmed, hunted, fished, and supported their families during BC and Yukon’s early days. Each story comes with a beautiful colour illustration by Kimiko Fraser, Victoria illustrator. Her Courage Rises is aimed for ages 12 and up and touches upon social studies topics such as residential schools and internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II.


Kimiko Murakami: A Japanese Canadian Pioneer

“Ganbaru” is a Japanese word that means to keep going during hard times and never give up. This picture book introduces young readers to Kimiko Murakami (1904–1997), a brave and determined woman whose life embodied the ganbaru spirit. Born in the village of Steveston, BC, and raised on Salt Spring Island, Kimiko was part of a long tradition of Japanese Canadian families who made their livings fishing and farming. During the Second World War, she was among the 22,000 Japanese Canadians who were sent to live in internment camps because they were seen as “enemy aliens.” The camps were dirty and crowded, but worst of all, they robbed Japanese Canadians of their basic rights and freedoms. Following the war, Kimiko and her family were allowed to return to Salt Spring Island and had to rebuild their farm and their life from scratch. Through it all, Kimiko—a pioneer and survivor—never lost hope. Illustrated by Kimiko Fraser, this book is aimed at elementary school aged children.


Lilian Bland: An Amazing Aviatrix

Ever since she was a little girl, Lilian Bland (1878–1971) wanted to fly. She loved to watch black gulls soaring through the sky near her England home, and she was fascinated by the mechanics of flight. However, airplanes were still very new when she was growing up, and those who did fly were usually men. Lilian would not give up. When she could not find anyone to teach her to fly, she took matters into her own hands. She designed and built her own plane, and after many tries, she finally got it to fly. This delightful picture book celebrates the life of Lilian Bland, remembered both in England and in her adopted home of Quatsino Sound, on Vancouver Island, for her many achievements—especially her ground-breaking achievements in aviation. This book is also illustrated by Kimiko Fraser and is aimed at elementary school aged children.

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