Hobnobbing with a Countess



Hobnobbing with a Countess and Other Okanagan Adventures: The Diaries of Alice Barrett Parke, 1891-1900

In 1891, Alice Barrett moved from Port Dover, Ontario, to the Okanagan Valley to keep house for her brother and uncle. She soon married Harold Parke, a former NWMP officer, and spent the next decade recording her experiences in a series of notebooks sent to her Ontario family. Few women’s diaries have survived from that time, and Barrett Parke recalls a period of profound transformation in a region newly opened to white settlement by the railway. She was an astute observer and an exceptional writer, and her diaries provide invaluable insights into work, health, religion, race and gender relations, and women’s lives. On a personal level, her writings show the conflict between her independent spirit and women’s traditional roles. Although wary of the emerging feminism of the time, Alice was co-opted into the “vice-regal circle” of the Countess of Aberdeen, who stayed at nearby Coldstream Ranch, and became the first corresponding secretary of the Vernon chapter of the National Council of Women. Selected as a BC Book for Everybody.