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A Lady's Life on a Farm in Manitoba

By: Mrs. Cecil Hall

A Lady's Life on a Farm in Manitoba by Mrs. Cecil Hall was published in 1884. The book consists of a series of letters written by the author to her family in England and as she says in the preface, were never meant to be published. However, she later felt they provide useful tips for those intending to make the journey and settle in a far off land. Her brother had migrated to Manitoba in 1881. In 1882, Mrs. Hall and her sister traveled to Canada via New York and Chicago. En route, the letters describe their meeting with President Chester Allen, the newly appointed head of state who took over as President after the assassination of President James Garfield. In Chicago, the letters describe a city that's limping back to normalcy after the Great Chicago Fire.

The nineteenth century was marked by intense colonization by countries like Britain, France, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands. Initially, the pioneering efforts were made by men who battled unfamiliar terrain to create territories that they marked out as their own, while their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters kept the home and hearth in their native land. However, with travel becoming more common and family life assuming more importance, the women too began to travel to the four corners of the earth. There are many accounts by Victorian women of their travels to the colonies and these are valuable insights into the social history and fabric of the colonies. Many of these accounts were however, quite superficial and concentrated more on the scenery and landscape—two of the most important things that interested women of the period.


Their journey by train across the vast plains of Canada, their arrival on the farm managed by her brother and two others who have purchased 13,000 acres and their experiences in the New World are chronicled in these letters. The sisters spend three months on the farm where they soon roll up their sleeves and pitch in, abandoning their fine lady's ways! Cooking, cleaning, helping on the land, ruining their soft hands and learning a different way of life are well described. The ladies then move to Colorado, where they visit friends who are here to try their luck in gold mining. The book closes with a letter from their brother who updates them on the progress he and his friends have made on the Manitoba farm.


As an account of the difficult and hostile conditions that pioneers faced in America and Canada, A Lady's Life... is indeed an interesting and valuable work that modern day readers will certainly enjoy.

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