“I Want to Join Your Club”
Letters from Rural Children, 1900-1920
Paper 262 pp.
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“I am a girl, 13 years old, and a proper broncho buster. I can cook and do housework, but I just love to ride.”
In letters written to the children’s pages of newspapers, we hear the clear and authentic voices of real children who lived in rural Canada and Newfoundland between 1900 and 1920. Children tell us about their families, their schools, jobs and communities and the suffering caused by the terrible costs of World War I.
We read of shared common experiences of isolation, hard work, few amenities, limited educational opportunities, restricted social life and heavy responsibilities, but also of satisfaction over skills mastered and work performed. Though often hard, children’s lives reflected a hopeful and expanding future, and their letters recount their skills and determination as well as family lore and community histories.
Children both make and participate in history, but until recently their role has been largely ignored. In “I Want to Join Your Club,” Lewis provides direct evidence that children’s lives, like adults’, have both continuity and change and form part of the warp and woof of the social fabric.
Norah L. Lewis was a member of Canadian Childhood History Project (UBC). She taught in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia and in the Faculties of English at Jiaotong University, Shanghai, and at Zhongshan University, Canton.
“The book is low-key, as delicate and wistful as a watercolor. Yet it is a tremendously important addition to our collective social history because it gives voice to a previously ignored segment of Canadian society.”
— Janet Arnett, , Canadian Book Review Annual
“This book would be a good addition to any school library, both as entertaining reading and historical reference, and as a reminder that the past was not so golden: ‘I am housekeeper, as my mother works in town eight miles away and only comes home Saturday night, as she has to walk. I have a little brother three months old to take care of besides looking after the other children and the work. I can sew and knit. I am eleven years old....Northern Rose.’ ”
— Atlantic Books Today