Pioneer Literacy Worker
The following is an excerpt from an interview by Marjorie Zavits [whose questions appear in italics] with Mrs. Isabel Kelly, formerly Miss Isabel Mackey, who worked for Frontier College during the summer of 1920 and 1921.
Originally from a farming background, at the time Isabel Mackey was a graduate student in Physics at the University of Toronto. Upon the completion of her Master's degree in 1922, Miss Mackey was offered a position at Yale. However, the offer was subsequently withdrawn, when her acceptance letter revealed her sex, so she pursued a Ph.D. in Education instead, and taught mathematics at Port Arthur Collegiate Institute until her retirement in 1963.
Somehow or other you heard about Frontier College and felt you would like to work for them?
I think it must have been an ad in the paper or something, I can't remember, but I remember I contacted Mr. Fitzpatrick and he was most anxious that I go out to the prairies...Mr. Fitzpatrick met me in Regina and we went up to his brother's, John, who lived five or six miles out of Stalwart on a farm.
And what was your assignment?
I think it was to work up more or less of a community spirit because... [people in the community came from many different cultures and to encourage them in meeting together and probably in good reading as much as anything else but I didn't succeed too well.
Well, you also mentioned that it was important to talk to the women?
The women seemed to enjoy talking to me and we were happy together. I picked berries and anything I could do to help around... Then, one of the women... had a new baby the same time as they were thrashing the grain and [I filled in for her]. I managed to cook most anything but pies... They were completely beyond me.
Did you set up any educational programs? Did you go around and try to teach English?
No, there wasn't very much I could do in that line. It was in the summer holidays and the children in the neighbourhood went to school on horseback and I didn't know much about their school.