Edited By Christine Feldman-Barrett
Part Three: Politics and Nation
p a r t t h r e e Politics and Nation c h a p t e r n i n e The “Young Canada” Project Youth and Nation-Building from 1867 to 1900 cynthia r. comacchio And Annie went. I am not sure that she wanted to go, I have an idea that she had already discovered the hardness of the struggle father had, to meet the expenses of the growing family, and she wanted to help. But thus ended the first Chapter of my life. —whiteley (1999, p. 15) Born into a large, impoverished family in rural Nova Scotia, Annie Leake was sent into domestic service shortly after her 10th birthday. Reimagining her child- hood feelings from the vantage point of old age, she sensed that her younger self—whom she speaks of as a distant, separate “Annie”—might have understood her father’s “struggle” and therefore her own filial duty. Much more certain was her view that the family’s material situation effectively terminated her childhood: her “first Chapter.” Her choice of words, and the italics that she used in record- ing them, signify the personal threshold involved. Annie Leake’s experience in many ways typifies the realities of Victorian child life in what would become the Dominion of Canada. Far more than age or gender, the family’s material conditions determined the nature and timing of life transitions. Faced with the unrelenting physical labor demanded of homesteaders in the Muskoka bush (Ontario), 16-year-old Thomas Osborne, like Leake, was stoic: “I...
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