Hobnobbing with a Countess and Other Okanagan Adventures

The Diaries of Alice Barrett Parke, 1891-1900

Edited by Jo Fraser Jones
Categories: History
Series: The Pioneers of British Columbia
Publisher: UBC Press
Hardcover : 9780774808521, 384 pages, October 2001

Table of contents




“Quite away from all my people”: Arriving in the Spallumcheen Valley

“The real, the useful, the necessary – these occupy one here”: Life in the Spallumcheen Valley

“A very cosy, happy home”: At Home in Vernon

“How many people I have got to know!”: Vernon Friends and Acquaintances

“Oh! I do hope I’ll be able to do something useful and good”: A One-Woman Social Welfare Service

“A great many people have ailments here”: Health and Social Issues in the 1890s 

“How I love them all”: Some Members of the Barrett Family 

“Oh! I wish I could hear someone who would stir me up”: Religion in the West 

“A man of Mr. Parke’s ability”: A Husband of Unusual Accomplishment 

“I have been as busy as I could be”: Life at the BX Ranch and Encounters with the Chinese 

“There is much of the untamed animal nature in me”: Confessions to the Diaries 

“The women work much harder than the men”: Attitudes towards Other Races 

“Hob-nobbing with a Countess”: Early Feminism in Western Canada 

“I think if I were a man I’d want to go in for [politics]”: Political Life at the End of the 1800s 

“People really seem to be getting sanguine over the mining prospects around here”: Exploration and Prospecting in the Okanagan 

“It really is shameful the way I neglect my poor old diary lately”: The End of the Journals 

“I wonder when I’m a grey haired old woman if I will enjoy reading these papers!”: The Final Years


Appendix: Chronology of the diaries




In 1891, Alice Barrett moved from Port Dover, Ontario, to the Okanagan Valley to keep house for her brother and uncle. She soon married Harold Parke, a former NWMP officer, and spent the next decade recording her experiences in a series of notebooks sent to her Ontario family. Few women’s diaries have survived from that time, and Barrett Parke recalls a period of profound transformation in a region newly opened to white settlement by the railway. She was an astute observer and an exceptional writer, and her diaries provide invaluable insights into work, health, religion, race and gender relations, and women’s lives. On a personal level, her writings show the conflict between her independent spirit and women’s traditional roles. Although wary of the emerging feminism of the time, Alice was co-opted into the “vice-regal circle” of the Countess of Aberdeen, who stayed at nearby Coldstream Ranch, and became the first corresponding secretary of the Vernon chapter of the National Council of Women. Selected as a BC Book for Everybody.