Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Hail the Biographers

Mar 11, 2018


Nice to see the City of Vancouver honouring the memory of Helena Gutteridge last week to mark International Women's Day. Gutteridge was an early labour activist and suffragist who in 1937 became the first woman elected to city council.

Equally nice to have recognized the work of historian Irene Howard in bringing the story of Gutteridge back to life in her 1992 biography, The Struggle for Social Justice in BC: Helena Gutteridge, the Unknown Reformer. Irene, now 95 years old, is one of the Vancouver historical community's treasures. I spent all of my childhood summers on Bowen Island and a copy of Irene's history of the Island, Bowen Island, 1872-1972, still circulates through our family. Her memoir/family history, Gold Dust on His Shirt, is considered a classic of the genre.

Always good to have the lives of people like Gutteridge, in Vancouver, and Viola Desmond, nationally, celebrated. But let's not forget the work of the historians and biographers without whom these now prominent figures would still languish in obscurity.