Author Tags: Local History

Gumboot Girls: Adventure, Love & Survival on British Columbia's North Coast (Muskeg Press 2012) tells the stories of 34 women, through their own eyes, as they moved from their comfortable city-dwelling surroundings to the north coast of B.C. in the 1970s, as part of "back-to-the-land" counter-cultural movement. It is edited by Lou Allison and compiled by Jane Wilde. "This book was the brainchild of Jane Wilde," says Lou Allison, "On reading Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation, by Sheila Weller, Jane was inspired to encourage her friends (and some of their friends) to tell the story of how a generation of young women flocked to the North-Coast of BC in the 1970s." The book sold out two printings with Muskeg Press until the press was discontinued by Chris Armstrong, at which time Gumboot Girls was transferred to Caitlin Press in late 2013.

[portrait by Lynn Cociani]

ISBN 978-0-9877614-2-2

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Gumboot Girls: Adventure, Love & Survival on British Columbia's North Coast

Publisher's Promo (2012)

In the 1970s, droves of young women migrated from big cities to rural settings across North America. Many settled on the north coast of British Columbia, an area of harsh weather, rugged landscapes, and indescribable magic. For the first time, 34 of those women have recorded their incredible stories of triumphs and tribulations on the wild north coast of B.C.

The stories are as varied as the personalities of the women themselves. One tells the story of leaving New York City, and, after spending some time in Kathmandu and Afghanistan, somehow finding herself on Haida Gwaii. Another describes in heart-rending detail how the love of her life tragically drowned navigating through treacherous waters in a tugboat. And there is also the story of Jacques, an intense man from Quebec who burned down a house and a boat, got arrested for hijacking an airplane, and shot his rifle at one of the writers,
who survived to tell the incredible tale.

Alongside the stories are 66 photographs from the era, which could be considered important historical documents in their own right. They show not only how the area looked at the time, but also the fashions of the day, and captured some places that no longer exist, such as the thriving community of Salt Lake, and the large vegetable garden at Serpentine Inlet. Gumboot Girls is many things: an historical document, a sociological study, a collection of thrilling personal narratives of their lives. It is a
glimpse back in time to a simpler lifestyle, which many baby boomers
will identify with. Many young people, who may sympathize with the “Occupy” movement, will also see parallels in the political and social climate of the day, and how it pushed these writers away from the bigger cities into a rural lifestyle. Their tales also capture the timeless themes of young people coming of age in their twenties:
the search for love and friendship; the slow accrual of responsibility;
the loosening of family ties; the uncertainty of independence. While
Gumboot Girls is a description of a magical time and place that will
never come again, it is also a variation on a story that repeats itself
over and over again.

Gumboot second printing
Press Release (2013)

The Gumboot Girls book has gone into a second printing faster than expected.
The book features stories of women on the north coast during the 1970s and features several islanders, including QC mayor Carol Kulesha and Su-San Brown of Tlell. It was launched at the Queen Charlotte Visitors' centre in November.
The book is published by Muskeg Press of Prince Rupert. Owner of Muskeg Press, Chris Armstrong, said the book was 100 copies from being sold out with a week and a half of the launch. He said he wasn't surprised that he needed to reprint the book, just that he needed to do it so soon, "I thought February probably."
The book sold out at Funk It within two days of the book launch said store manager Julie Robinson, "Everyone loves it, they think it's great. People are buying them as gifts for people who don't even live here." Ms Robinson added that the new stock of the book is in at Funk It for people who missed it the first time.
The book has not just sold well on Haida Gwaii, but in Prince Rupert and Vancouver as well. Mr. Armstrong believes the book will go into a third printing, probably in June or September, "but it's perfectly fine with me if it happens earlier," he said.
Mr. Armstrong also had a message for readers "Thank you to everyone who's been so interested in the book, obviously for me it's about the money, but it's very heartwarming that the book has taken off the way it has."

-- QCI Observer