Miss Confederation journal gives rare insight into real life behind Canada's legend
Regina author publishes diary of Mercy Anne Coles from 1860s
A young woman whose brief journal entries could be the 1860s equivalent of a Facebook status is giving modern-day readers an unpolished glimpse of the real-life happenings behind Canada's Confederation, thanks to a Saskatchewan author.
Mercy Anne Coles was 26 years old when Confederation negotiations were underway on Prince Edward Island, and was the daughter of P.E.I. delegate George Coles.
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The journal she kept of her life at that time was recently published under the title Miss Confederation: The Diary of Mercy Anne Coles by Regina author Anne McDonald.
"All the Maritime delegates took along their unmarried single daughters, basically to woo them off, and Mercy kept that diary of that trip and it's never, ever been published until now," said McDonald in an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend.
McDonald ordered a copy of the journal from Library and Archives Canada after hearing it discussed in a radio interview.
She was fascinated by the entries, which she said provided a rare unpolished view of a time that is now shrouded in legend.
"It doesn't have the veneer and the gloss that time creates because now those events and those men are just legends or myths or infamous, and they're two-dimensional," said McDonald.
"Because it's live and at the time, it's like you were right there.
"You're right there at those events, right there dancing with those men or not dancing with those men and going on those sightseeing trips."
A woman's view
The journals also show another side of the men, and the author's perceptions of them romantically, as they socialize during the negotiations.
McDonald said many of the journal entries are brief, making them almost like the 1800s equivalent of a social media update.
By publishing the journal, she wanted to share the different take on Canada's history. She hopes it gives readers a more intimate and human view of the past.
"And the fact that the women were definitely a part of it and their effect on the negotiations, and just that we understand that time period a little better, and how it relates still to today," said McDonald.
"Women's voices are still unheard and the fact that this diary is being published 150 years later just speaks complete volumes about what we think is important."
With files from CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend