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Despite the hardships of homesteading life, Alda Dale Randall’s diary reveals her love of the land and the beauty that the wilderness offered. Because their homestead was in a forested area of northern Alberta, she did not suffer the mental and emotional deprivation particular to southern homesteaders on the vast bald prairie.

However, the Randalls did endure the adversity of northern homesteading: the back-breaking work of clearing land, muskeg, mosquitoes and black flies, but wood was in abundance for both building and burning. They seemed always able to find meadow for their livestock, and wildlife provided them with food and with furs for supplementary income. The natural beauty of her surroundings inspired Dale’s writing and creativity.

The muskeg moss is of many varieties – some places it is just a green velvet carpet – again tiny fairy spruce trees form deep soft moss and nearby we think the ground is covered with wee ferns their leaves spread like a lacy coverlet tho never a frond is over an inch long. A fairy woods, growing unnoticed at the feet of the giant spruce, brightened by the cranberries tiny waxy leaves and bright red berries!

Alda Dale Randall diary. Page 141. Sat Oct 9, 1920. (Provincial Archives of Alberta, Acc #1984.0202)

Marlena Wyman - A fairy woods

“A fairy woods” by Marlena Wyman. 16″X12″. Monotype, oil stick and oil pastel on encaustic and paper. 2015 (Photo: Teresa and Gisela Himsl, Saskatchewan [1922-1923], Collection of M. K. Aubrey, Centreville, Nova Scotia. Fairy illustrations are Cicely Mary Barker’s. She would have been a contemporary of Dale’s.)

May 7, 1920    Our creek is roaring & gurgling with lovely waterfalls & clear water…The trees sway in the breeze and the little streams of water tangle into the main brook…Our dreams have come true – the building spot is ideal…All the banks are a mass of strawberry plants and we found wild roses on the bank too. I gather lovely green ferns a foot high, some four leaved red green ivy like leaves and some of the sweetest perfumed catkins.

There are no photographs of Dale in the Provincial Archives of Alberta’s collection. The only one that I have seen is a small, poor quality photograph in a local history book. I decided to use this lack of images as an opportunity to highlight archival photos in my exhibit and for Dale to serve as a symbol of women settlers. I integrated archival photographs of other women from Dale’s era and approximate age (in her 30s at the time) into my artworks. Dale’s story is representative of the experiences of so many women whose stories have not been told.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

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