New book celebrates the lives of prairie farmwives

By Duncan Cairns-Brenner
March 8, 2016 - 4:26pm

The permanence and pride of the prairie homestead is the focus of a new book about the experiences of farmwives.

Billi J. Miller’s Farmwives in Profile is a collection of stories, recipes and photographs collected from 17 prominent rural matriarchs in the Lloydminster area.

It was the women’s dedication to their families and their traditions that first enticed Miller to begin her work.

“They dedicated their whole lives to their farms,” Miller said. “I wanted to see them held up to their communities for that. I wanted to see them appreciated. I wanted to see them recognized.”

The women Miller choose to profile were largely prominent members of the local community. She was not surprised by the success of the book, but was surprised at how far-spread interest in the book became.

“I just did some radio interviews with Manitoba last week, and that’s been really interesting and awesome to do,” she said. “I think that it has made other communities like ours more appreciative of the women they have in their communities also.”

All of Miller’s subjects are seniors but among the ladies over the age of 80, there is the sense their lives were much different than women’s today.

“They said that if there was an option for you outside of your parents’ home it always included marriage, it might include being a teacher, a secretary, or a nurse, and that was if you could afford to go to school.”

Miller is working on a second book continuing her exploration of agricultural matriarchs, this time expanding her geographic scope to include the regions as far east as Ontario. She is also looking for younger women to tell their stories and give a voice to a different generation.   

Many of Miller’s new subjects were humble when she approached them about her project, often saying they would be bad examples for the book.

“The point isn’t how many cookies you bake a week or how many meals you run to the field; that’s not why I want to cover it. I want to cover how farms are moving into the future.”

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