You are on page 1of 1

By Leah Gerber


To you who have a dream of what life might hold. Even if it seems out of reach or held in other peoples permission and control, it is still your dream and holds possibilities, potential and best of all, probability. Donna Mann (dedication of the Agnes MacPhail series) Rev. Dr. Donna Mann loves talking about her old friends Agnes MacPhail and Ethel Bullymore, the two real-life heroines of the her latest works of historical fiction, Aggies Voice and A Rare Find, respectively. Both books have been published in the past month. Rev. Dr. Mann has spent a lifetime with Aggie and Ethel, researching their lives and speaking with people who knew these two incredible women while they were alive. Aggies Voice is the third and final in stalment in Rev. Dr. Manns trilogy about the childhood and school years of Agnes MacPhail, the first woman in Canadian Parliament. The story germinated while Rev. Dr. Mann was still in high school, when she first heard about that woman from Grey County through her father, then a local politician. Later, Rev. Dr. Mann and her husband moved to the Grey area, and after retirement to a small farm on County Road 9, the same road the MacPhail family had lived on all those years ago. Says Rev. Dr. Mann, I was in the midst of MacPhail country; I was in the midst of the people who remembered her, and heard her speak. I never shook her hand, but I could shake hands with people who did. She challenged all the traditional ideas of the era for women studying, or women going and having a life of their own There were plenty of books about Agnes MacPhails political years, but very little about her life growing up. Rev. Dr. Mann decided to write something so young people could relate to her. She started gathering stories. Agnes MacPhail was just in everybodys consciousness, Rev. Dr. Mann says. Maybe one person was her driver, or another was her housekeepers daughter. Agnes touched every life she came into contact with. And the people wanted to be part of her story; they still do. Rev. Dr. Mann spent over a decade researching and painstakingly piecing the details of Agnes MacPhails life together in order to represent her accurately, even down to the personality of her grade school teacher. I cant write that she was a stern or

mothers old medical journals, and the er; she wouldve seen herself as looking research began. Rev. Dr. Manns exhaus- after the house and helping him,. she tive research is truly a labour of love. In says. But she was a farmer too. Drove the early 1990s, she didnt have the in- tractor, milked cows. So I learned that ternet as a tool, and she had to send away women can do what we think as mens and wait for old documents like birth work. Its really not mens work; its our certificates. If she wanted something like work. a passenger list for a steam ship, she had Rev. Dr. Mann is also in the process of to go to the library and manually turn a setting up a bursary in Edgerton, Alberta reel through endless lists. on behalf of Ethel Bullymore. It wasnt like it is today, she laughs. Ethel had this saying, she says. But it was all worth it. Make a difference in somebodys life! Ms. Bullymore changed every corner I can just hear her voice. So for the stuthat she stood in. Every place she sat. dent who can overcome, they should get Every conversation she had, says Rev. something from Ethel, still. Dr. Mann. After spending years with AgRev. Dr. Mann was also awarded a nes and Ethel, the author feels she has Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee developed a relationship with them, as medal last August for her work to put up though they are two older sisters. memorials recognizing Agnes MacPhail Now I read newspapers differently, in Grey County. she says. I see issues Agnes wouldve Rev. Dr. Mann is retired now, and livAUTHOR taken somebody to the mat on years ago, ing back in her hometown of Elora. Some Former Mount Forest United Church and were still debating whether theres people still think of her as Mrs. Mann minister Rev. Dr. Donna Mann has pub- justice in something. She wouldve the secretary at the old high school lished two books in the past month, cut through that fog with about seven (now the Elora Arts Centre) and her husthe third in her Agnes MacPhail tril- words. band as Mr. Mann, the hockey coach. ogy and one on an Alberta midwife. Rev. Dr. Mann is quite the heroine Though she is a full-time grandma, and herself; she and her husband raised heavily involved in her community and happy teacher unless I know says Rev. their children in the country, and then church, she still writes about strong CaDr. Mann, In any of my books, I do not she went back to school. She earned her nadian women. Already, she has finished make up anything. I really liked Agnes. bachelor of arts in sociology and social another book about one of the first womI liked her as a kid. I liked the stand she work through correspondence at the Uni- en ordained in the United Church, and took. versity of Waterloo. She went on to com- has two more stories in the works. The author found many aspects of Ag- plete her Masgies life paralleled her own, ter of Divinity, In the first book, theres two years and became Seasons Greetings from the staff of door slamming and anger, because an ordained her dad says, girls dont go to school. minister of the at TSC Mount Forest And of course, I lived that in my own United Church life; girls in the 50s really had to be a of Canada. Af445 Main St. North lot stronger than I was to do anything, ter some time Mount Forest she said. in the pastoral 519-323-9280 She took this same careful approach to charges, she writing A Rare Find, as she spent over completed her 25 years researching Ethel Bullymore, a doctorate. Rev. nurse who left her daughter to be cared Dr. Mann has for by family in England and immigrated nursed a lifeto Canada in 1910 at age 27. Leaving a long passion family member behind was common for the dreams practice in those days. Even in Rev. Dr. of strong, CaManns own family history, a relative nadian womhad been left in England in that era due en, born of her to health problems. Ms. Bullymore had own mothers moved to Edgerton, Alberta once she example, and was widowed, to be with a cousin. There other women she had set up her life and worked as a in her life. nurse and midwife, where she delivered My mom over 1000 babies. Years later, the United was a strong Church settled Rev. Dr. Mann to a pasto- woman. But ral charge in the same town. Ethel Bul- she would lymore kept coming up in conversation never have every where she went. said that about After Rev. Dr. Mann left Edgerton, herself. In her those stories wouldnt go away. So she eyes, my dad 519-323-3630 phoned Ethel Bullymores son and ar- would have 392 Main St. N., Mount Forest ranged a visit. Sometime later he sent his been the farm- Remember us for your party needs! We Deliver

The Confederate - Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Former Mount Forest minister publishes two books in one month