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In Their Own Voices

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Young Elizabeth Boyd McDougall Elizabeth Boyd was born in Ontario in 1854. In 1872, John McDougall, a distant cousin, returned to Ontario from the West following his ordination in Winnipeg. After a brief courtship they married and departed West.

John McDougall- Young PortraitJohn McDougall had three daughters from his previous marriage to Abigail Steinhauer and Elizabeth, at age 19, stepped into the role of stepmother, missionary wife and pioneer. The young couple established a new mission on the Bow River in what would eventually become southern Alberta. At Morley, Elizabeth gave birth to six more children. Like Abigail before her, Elizabeth accompanied her husband on mission trips (often with one or two of the children), helping with worship and the domestic duties. 

Elizabeth B McDougall and Mrs. George Lane Serving TeaAlthough Elizabeth was initially the only white woman at the new mission, both her sister-in-law, Annie, and mother-in-law, Mrs. George McDougall (Elizabeth Chantler), would soon join her. With increasing settlement, the growth of Calgary, and the expansion of the Morley Mission in proximity to the Stoney Reserve, Elizabeth McDougall increasingly participated in the social life of the area and was involved in women's aid societies and related mission activities.

For the wives of the early missionaries, life among the Aboriginal people was a challenge, especially when the men were absent. There were stories of Blackfoot people entering the cabins, alarming women to the point where they barricaded doors and readied themselves with axe and gun. However, no harm ever came to them.

John MacLean, a Methodist missionary to the Blood John Maclean Sitting at a DeskIndians from 1880 to 1889, had a different explanation for these neighbourly visits:  

Curiosity led some of the boldest to pry into the affairs of the immigrants . . . As the busy housewife prepared the noon-day meal or baked bread, the house suddenly became darkened by a crowd of the natives peering in at the windows

Citation Sources
Maclean, John.  Canadian Savage Folk: The Native Tribes of Canada. Toronto: Briggs, 1896.

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