Letters from Windermere 1912-1914


243 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0214-6




Edited by R. Cole Harris and Elizabeth Phillips
Reviewed by William A. Waiser

Bill 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.  His


Letters from Windermere is a valuable first-hand account of an English couple’s attempt to start a new life for themselves in southeastern British Columbia just before the outbreak of the Great War. Written mostly by Daisy Phillips to her mother or sister in Windsor, England, the letters describe how the middle-class Phillipses learned to cope with the crude realities of the western Canadian frontier.

From the moment they departed for Canada, the Phillipses were determined to transport their culture and values to their new setting. Indeed, Daisy took an almost immediate dislike to things Canadian — ”a mixture of the finished and unfinished” (p.4) — and was forever writing home asking for a wide assortment of English items. “In spite of my new surroundings I feel quite sure I have not altered and never shall,” she wrote her mother after two months at Windermere, “… and as to talking like a Colonial that will be quite impossible” (p.38). But alter she did. By force of circumstance, Daisy quickly learned how to run a pioneer household, being called upon to perform tasks that she had never before done in her life. She also began to interact increasingly with her neighbours and became involved in community affairs. By the time that her husband was called home to rejoin his regiment, Daisy confessed that she would “be really glad when the wrench of leaving is over” (p.235).

In many ways, Letters from Windermere could be the story of thousands of immigrants who came to Canada on the false assumption that immediate success and improvement were virtually assured.

It is also the story of how these immigrants faced the difficult, at times painful, challenge of adjusting their values to their new situation. Daisy Phillips’ frank, newsy letters bring a revealing personal perspective to this experience.


Phillips, Daisy, “Letters from Windermere 1912-1914,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36861.