A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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An Irish Woman's Kingdom
Directed by Lindalee Tracey

Synopsis

In 1884, forty years after the largest wave of Irish immigration to Canada, a plucky, determined Irish widow named Kit Coleman landed on our shores, ready to make a life for herself and her children. With her Irish love of words, Kit eventually landed a job at the Daily Mail,and "Kit of the Mail" became one of the country's most loved and read columnists. Kit took on political and social issues as well as recipes and domestic issues in her writings (which at one time included advice to the lovelorn), and brought issues of wife abuse and the plight of women into the public light. In time, an adventurous Kit maneuvered her way into Cuba during the Spanish American War as foreign correspondent, and years later founded the Canadian Women's Press Club - marking her place as a true pioneer of Canadian women journalists.

Key Ideas

· Early feminist issues in Canada
· Problems faced by working mothers in the 19th century
· How both determination and "opportunity" play roles in our lives

Key Terms

· Marriage of Convenience
· Boardinghouse
· Syndication
· Foreign correspondent and travel writer


Questions

  1. Kit Coleman asked: "Why is life made so hard for us women." What did she mean?
  2. Describe conditions of working women during Kit's times
  3. Describe some ways Kit "reinvented herself" when she came to Canada.
  4. What does it mean to "freelance?"
  5. How did Kit's life reflect that of other immigrants? How did it differ?
  6. Kit's editors got "more than they bargained for" when they hired her. What did that mean?
  7. Why was it so daring for Kit to become a travel writer? Would it still be a daring job for women today?
  8. Why did Kit break with her newspaper?
  9. What was Kit's connection to Sir Wilfred Laurier?
  10. What legacy did Kit leave to women journalists?

ACTIVITIES

1) While there are many great women writers on the literary scene today, this was not always so. Kit talks about writers George Eliot and Georges Sands (both women!) …beacons who announced the coming of other women writers in later years. Do some research on the earliest women writers in Western culture, and explain some of the reasons why so few women were published (and why some chose men's names to publish under?). Was it because women just didn't write? Was it that what they wrote about didn't interest male publishers? Or could it have been that they just had nothing to say (this is rather doubtful, isn't it?) Were the subjects women wrote about in the 1700s and 1800s different from what men were writing about at the time? Do you think that still exists today? Explain why or why not. Do you think there is such a thing as "women's writing" as distinct from men, and if so, do all women right that way? If so, why? If not, why?

2) Many Irish, like Kit, are known for their love of words and the art of storytelling. They have a great place in the world's literature, and are famed for their humor, melancholy, passion and imagination. Do some research on Irish literature in the 19th and 20th century, and find a poet (John Keats? William Butler Yeats?) or novelist (or two!) whose work interests you. A recent book you might like to consider is Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. Read at least one novel, or several short stories and a book of poetry and then describe for your fellow students in what ways you think the Irish people's history and national character have played a role in the works you have read.


3) Following in the footsteps of our own Kit Coleman, are many well know female foreign war correspondents working in news today. You have a choice of two assignments on this topic of female war correspondents. l) Research the life and work of a woman correspondent and write a 500 word profile about, or 2) Based on your research of a woman foreign correspondent, write a series of post cards from this person as she covers a war in a Muslim country today. Make sure to include how being a female in a Muslim country affects her work, dress, freedom, and ability to do her work.

4) You could say Kit Coleman was the mother of today's Anne Landers and Dear Abby, two of North America's most famous advice columnists. Both women (twin sisters by the way) have been writing and advising men and women on how to lead their lives for years, and their straight-forward no-nonsense style, wit (and ability to change their minds over the years) have become legend. Review some of their columns in the last 30 years, and get a feel for what they've been trying to do and say to the people of North America. Then, using some of the same common sense understanding you picked up from the ladies, write your own advice column. Write one question and answer relating to l) what to do if you see a fellow student cheating on an important exam; 2) how to deal with parents who argue in front of you all the time; 3) proper etiquette at the dinner table; 4) how to act if you run into your old boyfriend or girlfriend on the street; 5) whether it's ever ok to swear in public; and 6) 10 tips on how to bring peace to the world.

5) Everyone loves to criticize the media, especially newspaper reporters! Too much sensationalism! Too much dirt! Always looking at the negative! Sticking their noses in where they shouldn't be! Maybe these complaints are justified - but perhaps, they're not. Let's take a closer look. Choose two different major newspapers to study (make one a tabloid and the other a major national newspaper, if possible), and find old articles on the anthrax scare in the United States after the events of September 11, 2001. See how the different newspapers present the information of the day, and then ask some important questions. Is one newspaper more speculative, more responsive to rumor than another. Are the headlines different in tone? Does one stick more to the facts and rely on authoritative "experts" than the other? What happened (or didn't happen) to make the anthrax scare die down in the papers, and was there ever a real serious threat in the first place? During the period of the anthrax scare, were there deaths or injuries to people in the U.S. which were equally or more statistically significant that never got reported? What do you make of all this? Any truth to the complaints about newspapers?

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