MICKELSON, Norma




Author Tags: Education

As a University of Victoria instructor, Norma Irene Mickelson co-authored The Emergence of Literacy (Captus, 1991) with Peter Evans and Arthur Olson.

As UVic Chancellor, she wrote her autobiography, Herstory: A Canadian Journey (AwareNow Publishing 2010) 978-0-9865157-1-2
141 pages pbk $20.00

[BCBW 2011]

Herstory: A Canadian Journey
Review by Joan Coldwell (2011)


from Writers' Choice Reviews

The writing of personal memoirs is all the rage these days. One well-known form is the documenting of a long life whose purpose, as 84-year-old Norma Mickelson says of her own story, is for children, grandchildren and future generations to “ learn a little about their heritage.” Often a story of this type is of interest only to those family members and their circle but when the story teller is Norma Mickelson it is bound to appeal to a much wider audience.
There must be thousands who remember Norma Mickelson as their school teacher, their professor, the UVic chancellor who gave them their degrees, as their professional colleague, as a member of their committee, society or church, as a dear friend or neighbour. These may already know a little, even quite a lot, about Norma’s life story but in this book they are sure to find interesting details and episodes they didn’t know.
This is very much a Victoria story. Norma was born in this city in 1926 and, apart from a couple of early teaching years in Vancouver, has always made her home here. Her account of school days, of daily life at a time when bread, milk, ice and vegetables were still delivered by horse and cart, of the simple pleasures families enjoyed brings the past to life. This is especially true of the description of her family’s situation during the depression. When her father was without work for seven years, the family was given what was called “friendly help”(now known as “welfare”), with a woman coming to check their cupboards to see what food might be hidden there. They survived on bread and soup bones, no fruit and very little in the way of treats. World War II brought relief, with her father’s job as street car conductor made possible by the mobilization of younger and healthier men.
The Victorian Truth Centre on Fort Street has played a very important role in Norma’s life, not least because it was there that she met Harvey, her husband of almost 61 years. It is apparent throughout her story that the teachings and beliefs of the Truth Centre were the mainstay of her life.
Many honours deservedly came to Norma, including the Order of Canada, and these are listed together with press clippings about the awards, pieces she herself wrote and articles about her. There are also copies of the speeches that Chancellor Mickelson gave at UVic convocations. One of the awards was for her contributions to improving the status of women in Canadian universities and it is fitting that this book should be titled “Herstory,” a word often used by feminists in place of “history”.
If you forgive the occasional repetition and the over-use of exclamation marks you will find this an absorbing story of a truly inspirational woman.

Joan Coldwell is the author of It Is I, Patricia – a biography of Pat Martin-Bates – and editor of the anthology Apples Under the Bed.

Posted by Writers' Choice Reviews