O'NEAIL, Hazel

Author Tags: Doukhobors

Born in Nelson, Hazel O'Neail who taught school in the Doukhobor community of Brilliant ('Ootischenia') for five years until 1938, prior to her marriage. Her comic memoir Doukhobor Daze (Gray's Publishing 1962; third edition 1968), the second book from Gray's Publishing, helped establish B.C.'s first professional publishing house by going through four editions, the final one appearing in 1974 (ISBN 0-88826-057-1). It was republished in 1994 by Heritage House (0ISBN 1-895811-22-8).

By portraying the culturally different and 'deprived' Doukhobors in the Kootenays as objects of humour, O'Neail's naive view of the agrarian pacifists was a precursor to Simma Holt's more ardently xenophobic Terror in the Name of God. Cartoons by Ed Cosgrove depicting Doukhobors as yokels made the book appear more condescending that its author likely intended it to be. In the text she often quotes people calling her Miss Hulls, so that was probably her maiden name. Her Russian nickname was "Hopka" (Helen).

[The first day in her diary, on page 1, is marked "Wednesday, September 4", so either she made an error in her dates or her first year of teaching could have only been 1907, 1918, 1929, 1935, or 1946. It has been suggested by a reader, Korky Day, that "since women of her vintage liked to shave a few years off their age, the five years she says she taught there might have been 1929 to 1934, or else she taught there only three years: 1935 to 1938." Day has noted other dating discrepancies in the text so possibly the diary format was a literary device and her text was not entirely a facsimile of her journal.]

[BCBW 2006] "Doukhobors"