Suitable for the Wilds: Letters from Northern Alberta, 1929-1931
Contains Photos, Maps, Index
William A. Waiser is a professor of history at the University of
Saskatchewan, and the author of Saskatchewan’s Playground: A History
of Prince Albert National Park and Park Prisoners: The Untold Story of
Western Canada’s National Parks, 1915–1946.
Suitable for the Wilds is an engaging collection of letters written by
Dr. Mary Percy, a talented young British-educated doctor who accepted a
medical posting in the remote Peace River country of northern Alberta in
the early summer of 1929. Originally appearing in edited form in 1933
(under the title On the Last Frontier), the letters are reproduced in
their entirety in this new edition and accompanied by a fine
introduction by Janice McGinnis of the University of Calgary.
Like many of the immigrants who settled in Peace River country in the
1920s, Percy took up the challenge—in her case, that of being a woman
doctor in a frontier community—out of a sense of adventure,
advancement, and fulfilment. And she found all three. Despite some
initial disappointments and her complete lack of bush experience, Percy
quickly adapted to the region and became, in every sense of the term, a
pioneer doctor. Neither the overwhelming isolation nor the brutal
winters nor the countless inconveniences, made worse by local poverty,
deterred her. She seems to have appreciated every new experience and to
have recorded it all in intimate detail in the series of letters that
she dutifully sent home to her family on a regular basis between June
1929 and January 1931.
Suitable for the Wilds provides a snapshot of how civilization has
often jostled with wilderness in remote regions of Canada. It also
demonstrates how the promised West often differed from the harsh reality
faced by many immigrants in the Peace River district. The book’s
greatest strength, however, is Percy’s ability to communicate so
effectively what she saw and how she felt as a woman in a nontraditional
role in a traditionally male environment.