Effie Laurie Storer’s “Aftermath” bears witness to Storer’s passion not only to write, but to write history, and as she particularly notes it, “to write the facts of early history for the student of the future”.1 The Effie Laurie Storer fonds at the Saskatchewan Archives Board (SAB) in Saskatoon includes, in fact, not only her correspondence, diaries, manuscripts, and photographs but also notes and articles referencing the history of Western Canada. Because Storer apparently sent W. Menzies Whitelaw her papers due to his offer to help in preparing her manuscripts for publication, Storer’s documents were interspersed with the W. Menzies Whitelaw2 Papers. At the time of the SAB’s acquisition in 1975, Storer’s documents, obtained under accession no. 741, were unorganized; the present arrangement (under call number A 402, file number 4), including the separation of the Storer collection from the Whitelaw papers, was established by Archives staff in 1982.
Significant in the Storer collection is an unpublished and untitled historical document Storer may have completed in 1947,3 although its inception dates back 40 years earlier when Storer4 and two friends—Kate Simpson Hayes and Irene Moore—all “pioneer newspaper women of Saskatchewan,” determined to tell Saskatchewan’s story.5 Storer’s lens was historical, offering, as she notes, that “To tell of people, what they did and how they lived in the advance of civilization would be my story.”6 As her two-part document indicates, it is a story deftly told, and compelling for its passion and purpose, but one that, contrary to Storer’s hopes, never found its audience.
Unlike Hayes’s and Moore’s “books,” both “unfinished” at the time of their deaths,7 Storer’s work was concluded. In the last years of her life, completion and publication of this work became her sole concerns—in 1949, for instance, at 82, in a Saskatoon hotel, she kept vigorous correspondence with Whitelaw even as she frenziedly typed drafts, preoccupied herself with revisions and publication opportunities, always “haunted by the uncertainty of the success of [her] manuscript.”8 While Whitelaw expressed continued interest, he admitted to “an acute regret that I have been of so little help to you. I may be yet; I shall certainly try.”9 One can only assume that with Storer’s death a year and a half later in 1951 at 84, and until Doris Whitelaw’s10 donation to the SAB in 1975, Storer’s papers had remained with the Whitelaw family, unpublished. And yet in their current state—complete, presentable, preserved—her documents, particularly this historical work, beg rescuing from obscurity.
The history of this work’s composition and its deposit at the SAB notwithstanding, what is interesting as well is how that history seemingly parallels the marginalizing of women’s voices and experiences in history, a minoritization that Storer’s own historical appropriations in this work seemingly resist. For in telling of Saskatchewan’s story, Storer also tells of her and her family’s stories, and in yoking autobiography and family history with the history of the province, Storer equally shows, as Bonnie Smith says of Mary Beard’s11 work, “ ‘how differently history looked when seen through women’s eyes.’ ”12 When women’s presence in history, both as a teller of that story and its subject, remains elusive, Storer’s historical work, one that celebrates the female historian and the female subject as valid, then assumes immense significance.
What therefore makes “Aftermath,” Chapter 6, Part 2 of Storer’s historical work, and the subject of this edition, compelling for me, and therefore an ideal choice for one fascinated with women’s studies, is how Storer recovers a significant aspect of Saskatchewan’s history, the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, and feminizes it. The chapter’s sixteen pages of typescript--all slightly aged but fairly-well preserved, the pages of 78-93 stapled, the chapter number and the page numbers penciled in perhaps by Storer herself, and occasional corrections on the typescript also done by hand—mines Storer’s memories of the skirmishes between government forces and the Metis and Indians at the height of the resistance. Yet central to the narrative are the traumatic displacements the fighting had engendered, and the violations, as the Frog Lake massacre delineates, against life and dignity the resistance provoked. Where too often master narratives of this history, that which Mary Erler and Maryanne Kowaleski define as “patriarchal narrative[s] that privilege the actions, opinions, and texts of men,”13 obscure women in their telling, Storer instead writes them into her version, telling of Theresa Gowanlock’s and Theresa Delaney’s14 story, or of those of the Native women and white women settlers . Hers is not the traditional, categorical straitjacket of linear, coherent, and objective telling favored by male historians; this she dismantles as her narrative privileges multiple points of view, rejects an absolute objectivity, and occasions shifts from facts to interpretation. And although not necessarily stridently feminist, a writing of “ ‘a feminist history … focused on struggle from a position of invisibility,’” embracing “the rhetoric of women’s liberationists today,”15 –-” Aftermath” instead invites reaffirmation of conventional gender roles as it reclaims women typical of their times, wives and daughters subject to the patriarchal conventions of the day, neither rallying for power, or agency, or change—it still disrupts the master narrative by representing the complicated struggles women confront in ways that better approximate their embodied understanding of experience. Her narrative, therefore, with its distressing violences but also the exhilarating beauty of naming identity and experience—hers, her family’s, and the women in Saskatchewan’s history--celebrates the personal as much as the political.
Storer’s gesture of writing and witnessing within the contradictions of the rhetoric of inclusion and the realities of exclusion represents in history the struggle of women to be heard. If only for this reason, her story, through “Aftermath,” deserves to be rescued from archival dust and allowed to speak its power. Indeed, as Barbara Powell and Myrna Williams suggests, “a rich writing heritage of Saskatchewan women” exists in archival collections, representing women’s traditional role in the documentation of history. Yet such legacy often remains dormant, rarely identified, let alone cross-referenced, with Saskatchewan women’s stories still relatively unheard of in historical studies.16 While “Canadian archives have in varying degrees tried to keep pace with the growing interest in women’s history,” as Joanna Dean and David Fraser explain, too often, inadequacies in archival description obscure the value of collections for women’s history, burying women’s papers.17 And yet, as Powell and Williams suggest, when we do “identify the documentary heritage of our foremothers, we salute more than their accomplishments or failures; we salute their very being.”18
This edition, therefore, by recovering Storer’s “Aftermath,” recognizes Effie Laurie Storer and her pioneering contributions in the writing of Saskatchewan history. And although as Valerie Frith posits, “Historical inquiry seldom illuminates the entire landscape of another age … [with] the surviving sources compel[ing] a studiously microscopic attention,”19 it is hoped that this edition, by abstracting a smaller, yet significant, aspect of Saskatchewan’s history, offers new implications for an understanding of human, and female, experience, one that is vast and clearly relevant, and opens possibilities for rethinking masculinist configurations of history.
A Note on the Text
This edition is based on the original typescript of “Aftermath,” Chapter
6, Part 2 of an untitled work Storer may have completed on the 12th of
May, 1947.20 Since her work never saw publication, no prior editions
exist. The chapter’s sixteen pages have been abridged for economy.
Omitted were a few redundancies--one paragraph, for instance, duplicated
another prior to it, and still another retold a similar incident. Also,
as one of my aims is to present Storer’s “her-story” writing,
substantive aspects of Storer’s feminizing of history have been retained
where others not necessarily aligned with that approach have been
deleted. Hence, preserved were Storer’s use of women’s voices and
references to women’s experiences, her multiple points of view, and a
narrative style more subjective and interpretive. My determinations for
abridgment are, therefore, premised not only on a desire to maintain
Storer’s historical thread but also on a responsibility to preserve her
authorial intention of gendering, to an extent, the master narrative.
This present edition, I believe, continues to be Storer’s story.