May 8, 2011
Mother’s Day always bring to mind exceptional mothers who have made a difference. Well-known author Maggie Siggins holds that the most exceptional Canadian mother of the 19th Century was Marie-Anne Lagimodière (née Gaboury). Her home town was Maskinongé, a small village near modern-day Trois-Rivières in Quebec. In 1807, Marie-Anne became the first women of European background to permanently settle in Canada’s far west. It would take another forty years before another European woman joined her.
With the death of her father when she was 12, Marie-Anne spent the next fifteen years as a housekeeper to a priest who taught her to read and write French, Latin, and do basic math. Such education was rare for women in those days. Marie-Anne did not marry until late in life, from a 19th Century Quebecois perspective. She rejected suitor after suitor until the grand old age of 26. Doing the unthinkable, she married a voyageur Jean Baptiste, and then accompanied him back into the hinterlands of western Canada. They broke the cardinal rule that under no circumstances were Eastern Canadian wives to be involved in the fur trade. Wives in the fur trade were known as ‘fur widows’, only seeing their husbands every four or five years.
Travelling almost 3,000 kilometres by canoe, Marie-Anne faced violent rapids, portages, and deadly storm on her way west. Upon arriving at Pemina, her husband’s ‘country wife’ tried to poison Marie-Anne with a plum pudding. Her hungry dogs ate the pudding instead of Marie-Anne, and all the dogs died!
Living until age 96, Marie-Anne never returned to see her family in Eastern Canada. It is said that she was healthy and wise up till the end. Instead of her dainty dresses, she adopted caribou-skin leggings and embroidered moccasins. Along with learning to make pemmican, Marie-Anne became fluent in Ojibwe and Cree, and helped establish the city of Winnipeg.
She was described in Maggie Siggins’ book Marie-Anne as being ‘one tough cookie’ in order to survive her Western adventures. Shortly after her horse rushed towards a herd of buffalo, Marie-Anne gave birth to her second child in the middle of a prairie field. Another time when a large bear attacked her companion, Marie-Anne fought back and shot the bear dead. Once she and her husband were captured by the Tsu Tinna. Upon escaping, they were chased for five days until reaching the safety of Edmonton. Marie-Anne lived through terrifying conflict between the Hudson Bay Company and the North West Company, in which many forts were burned to the ground. For four summers in a row, swarms of grasshoppers were so thick that the sky was pitch black. All crops, gardens, and greenery were ravaged within a few short hours. During the Great Flood of 1825, Marie-Anne’s house was swept away by the river surge. Trees and cattle were swallowed up. Marie-Anne begged her husband to leave this ‘God-forsaken’ land, but Jean Baptiste replied that if the local clergy refused to leave, they too would hang in there. Remarkably all of her seven children lived to adulthood, with her four sons becoming involved in the thriving family businesses.
Her favorite grandchild was one of Canada’s most famous leaders Louis Riel. He was deeply influenced by the passion and courage of his dear grandmother. She taught him to speak the various first nations languages. She taught him to be willing to risk. As Marie-Anne was grieved by the alcoholic debauchery that she saw at Fort Williams, Louis Riel likewise rejected alcohol abuse. Dying in 1875, Marie-Anne lived long enough to see her grandson Louis’ dream come true: that Manitoba become a province, not just a territory in the Canadian Confederation. This Mother’s Day I pray that like Louis Riel, we may be inspired by our mothers and grandmothers to be pioneers and explorers of Canada’s future.
The Rev. Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)
-award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99CDN/USD.
-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada
You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide
September 14, 2010
The first girl that I ever had a crush on was named Debbie. We were both only six at the time. Debbie or Deborah is a fascinating name. Deborah is actually a Hebrew word that means ‘bee’. You may remember the boxer Cassius Clay/AKA Mohammad Ali saying: “I float like a butterfly. I sting like a bee.” The original Deborah was aptly named as she stung like a bee to those who threatened her children. Who were her children? Deborah did not just stand up for her own nuclear family; she stood up for the whole community, for all God’s children. That is why Deborah received the title “Mother of Israel”.
I know that there are many Deborahs, many ‘Mothers of Israel’ reading this article, many women who will stand up to protect the lives and health of all the children in our local community. One Deep Cove Deborah is Janet Pavlik, who deeply cares for our local community and has invested heavily in serving others, especially through the Deep Cove Historical Society, the Lions Club, the Deep Cove Crier, and the Deep Cove Theatre. In the past twenty-three years, I have met hundreds of local Deborahs, many of them relatively unknown who selflessly dedicate their lives to serving their family and their community. To each of the Deborahs reading this article, I want to say ‘thank you’ . You are appreciated and deeply valued for the sacrifices that you have made so that our local community can be more healthy and safe. Without mothers creating healthy homes, chaos prevails on the streets.
My wife, my sisters, my mother and my grandmothers have all been ‘Deborahs’ in my life. Their long-suffering devotion to family in good times and bad continues to inspire me to be a better person. Recently I received an e-mail from one of my ‘Deborahs’ reminding me that it was time to go to my GP for my regular checkup.
Deborahs fight for the significant men in their lives, for their sons, their husbands, their brothers, their fathers. They want them to win. They want them to thrive. They want them to fully live. Deborahs care deeply and can’t stop caring if they tried.
The first Deborah was a very powerful, courageous woman in fearful times. She used to sit under a palm tree and serve as the Judge for all of Israel, deciding the difficult cases that couldn’t be solved otherwise. She was also a prophet, who had unusual discernment about what to do in impossible times. Deborah had an unusually close relationship to God, and had really learned to listen for that still small voice. Judges Chapter 5 describes a song that she received which inspired her whole nation to action.
For over twenty years, the Children of Israel had been trodden down by Sisera, the Canaanite Army Commander with over nine hundred iron chariots, the top military technology of those days. It had become so bad that local town life had been decimated and no one could safely travel by road. Deborah knew that this had to stop. So she approached Barak, asking him to bring 10,000 men and confront this injustice.
Barak, who lacked the military hardware, answered with profound ambivalence, saying: “If you go with me, I will go. If you don’t go with me, I won’t go.” Because of Barak’s timidity, Deborah had to prod him until he finally took action. An unexpected downpour occurred, which landed the Canaanite iron chariots deep in the mud. After this great victory, Deborah led the Children of Israel through a time of peace for forty years.
The Song of Deborah says: ‘Wake up, wake up, Deborah! Wake up, wake up, break out in song!’ My heart-felt prayer for those reading this article is ‘Wake up, Wake up Deborah! Come into your destiny and calling. Don’t let the fear or ambivalence of others hold you back. Fight for both your family and your community. Stand up for what you know is right and just and fair. Show compassion to the widow and the orphan. Be a Mother of Israel in your local community.’