In honor of International Women’s Day in March, the Stanley Park Nature House will feature an exhibit about E. Pauline Johnson – Canadian poet and stage performer.
I have profiled Pauline a few times before, even making a few pilgrimages to her modest monument between Ferguson Point and Third Beach in Stanley Park. Pauline, whose father was a Mohawk chief and mother an English immigrant, performed and wrote tales back east before coming to Vancouver at the turn of the century.
She first began to publish poems in 1884, and two of her poems appeared in Songs of the Great Dominion, one of the first anthologies of Canadian poetry, in 1889. She was praised as being an “authentic” Native voice, a notion reinforced by her performances. For half of her readings, Pauline would appear wearing traditional Native dress; the other half she would wear traditional Victorian attire. She was a popular and compelling performer, touring Canada, the United States and England. [Athabasca University]
When she arrived in Vancouver, after retiring from the stage, she produced a series of articles for the Daily Province based on stories relayed by her friend, Chief Joe Capilano of the Squamish nation. As her health failed her in 1911, friends put together a collection of her stories and formed the book “Legends of Vancouver”. It included how she gave Lost Lagoon its name, told the story of the Two Sisters (aka The Lions on the North Shore), Siwash Rock, and more.
In 1886, she changed her name to Tekahionwake, after her Grandfather. Her attempts to resolve both her Native and European heritage was also a subject of some of her poems. She was the first Canadian woman, Indian and writer to be honored with a commemorative stamp in 1961. [Athabasca University]
Pauline succumbed to breast cancer in March of 1913. Her funeral was the largest in Vancouver history until that time. “Legends of Vancouver” gained in popularity in the 20th century and it is currently available in the public domain – you can even download it for free in iBooks.
What International Women’s Day Celebration: E. Pauline Johnson Exhibit
Date Saturday, March 10, 2012 (Pauline’s birthday)
Time 12:00pm to 3:00pm
Where Stanley Park Nature House on Lost Lagoon
The event is organized by the Stanley Park Ecology Society & Stanley Park History Group. Stop by to learn more about Pauline, the history of Stanley Park, and enjoy a complimentary cup of tea (bring your own mug if you can). The first three visitors will also receive an original Pauline Johnson 1961 Canadian 5cent stamp. This is a one-day event, no tickets required (just drop-in), and admission is by donation.