Born in Prince Rupert on November 19, 1922 of Scandinavian parents, Irene Howard grew up in mining camps around Smithers and the Bridge River area. Her father was a miner. She has consequently written a great deal about labour and immigrant history.

Howard wrote the first book underwritten by the Vancouver Historical Society, Vancouver's Svenskar: A History of the Swedish Community in Vancouver, and presented the book on behalf of the Swedish Cultural Society of Vancouver to King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia when they visited the city in 1988. She also wrote Bowen Island 1872-1972, published by the Bowen Island Historians in 1973.

Howard's important biography of social reformer Helena Gutteridge, the first woman to be elected to Vancouver City Council, earned a B.C. Book Prize nomination and won a UBC Medal for Canadian Biography. Elected to council in 1937, Gutteridge was a labour organizer who fought for low income housing and women's rights until she died at age 88. She had emigrated from England in 1911 as a tailor.

Irene Howard has an M.A. in English from University of British Columbia and has taught at UBC and Capilano College. She's a life member of the Vancouver International Folkdancers and a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. In 1999 she wrote, produced and directed a dramatic reading of Ann Radcliffe's 18th century Gothic novel The Mysteries of Udolpho.

"I had to commemorate their labour, their monumental labour. I had to tell their heroic lives."; That's how Irene Howard introduces her own monumental work, Gold Dust on his Shirt: The True Story of an Immigrant Mining Family (Between the Lines $26.95), an inspiring and heart-wrenching tribute to her Swedish and Norwegian-born parents Alfred and Ingeborg Nelson whose unremitting toil and physical prowess contributed immensely to company towns around British Columbia from the outset of the 20th century. Doubling as a social history, rich in research, Gold Dust is easily one of the most impressive family memoirs ever written about a B.C. working class family. Arriving at age 30 in 1905 as Nils Alfred Nilsson, the author's father couldn't speak a work of English. Her mother had to overcome the stigma of a previous marriage ruined by tuberculosis. Theirs is an epic tale of perseverance, superbly told, as a celebration of dignity. [For information see review by Alan Twigg below.]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Bowen Island, 1872- 1972
Gold Dust on His Shirt: The Story of an Immigrant Mining Family
The Struggle for Social Justice in British Columbia: Helena Gutteridge, The Unknown Reformer
Vancouver's Svenskar: A History of the Swedish Community in Vancouver


BOOKS:

Gold Dust on His Shirt: The True Story of a Pioneer Mining Family (Between the Lines, 2008) 978-1-897071-45-8 • $26.95
The Struggle for Social Justice in British Columbia: Helena Gutteridge, The Unknown Reformer (UBC Press, 1992)
Bowen Island, 1872-1972 (Bowen Island, B.C.: Bowen Island Historians, 1973)
Vancouver's Svenskar: A History of the Swedish Community in Vancouver (Vancouver: Vancouver Historical Society, 1970)

Awards:

Shortlisted, City of Vancouver Book Award, 1993.
Shortlisted, Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize, 1993 BC Books Prizes.
Winner of the University of British Columbia Medal for Canadian Biography, for The Struggle for Social Justice: Helena Gutteridge, The Unknown Reformer, 1992.

[BCBW 2008] "Swedish"