December 15th, 2016
Offering Service to Canada (1910-1926)
The Shawnigan Lake community that Alice and Edith Ravenhill saw in November of 1910 combined British gentility and rough-and-ready logging. It had sprung from Sir John A. Macdonald’s promise to Vancouver Islanders to create a rail line from sea to sea. The coal baron Robert Dunsmuir was hired to build a 75-mile railway link between Esquimalt and Nanaimo and in return received $750, 000 and 20% of the land on Vancouver Island. The link was completed in 1886 and credited with putting Shawnigan Lake on the map. Excursion trains from Victoria, thirty miles away, began on Good Friday, April 8, 1887 and lots began to be sold. A sawmill and logging company was established in 1890.
Shawnigan Lake rapidly became established as an outpost of English culture. It is not known how Horace and Leslie Ravenhill chose to homestead at Shawnigan Lake, but they certainly fit into the more “refined” section of its population. An early resident, Beryl Halhed Cryer, who came to Shawnigan Lake in 1892 at the age of eight, described how she and her siblings were “brought up in that wilderness exactly as children in England.” Every evening their nursemaid dressed them up in clean clothes and they spent the evening with their parents.
The West Arm road just outside the village of Shawnigan reportedly had twenty-four British colonels, either ex-India army, or old China hands living along it.  The Ravenhills’ closest neighbours, Colonel and Mrs. Eardley-Wilmot, were “leading lights in the social hierarchy.” Their large house, named “Knockdrin” after a family castle in Ireland, had a teahouse and two tennis courts.
Although the Ravenhills considered themselves to be homesteaders, Horace Ravenhill did not pre-empt his 126-acre piece (split into two sections) but likely bought it off someone else.  After nine months of living in tents, Horace and Leslie had built a commodious house that was christened “Chrachveattle.”
When Alice and Edith arrived, sixty packing cases were spread around the house, to be slowly unpacked over the next few months. (Some remained packed for nine years until the next move to Victoria). Ravenhill observed the energetic character of her new country: “The more capable and enterprising young folk were eager to try their luck where fresh opportunities offered.”
Many surprises followed for the Ravenhill family. Despite their efforts to obtain as much information as possible before departing England, it became clear that the land around Shawnigan Lake was unsuited to the type of farming that they had had in mind. At Studley College, Alice and Edith had learned to milk cows, churn butter, glaze windows, and pluck and dress poultry and game. Unfortunately the dense bush around Shawnigan Lake precluded any cow pastures in the immediate future and they had not learned how to manage a kitchen stove that burned wood instead of coal.
At the ages of 50 (Edith) and 51 (Alice), they experienced fatigue like they had never known before. Yet, Ravenhill commented that the men always bathed and changed before supper: “I can still see Leslie coming to the table in his fresh white flannels and ‘old school’ tie.”
Alice Ravenhill was gratified by a constant stream of visitors to Shawnigan Lake. Her American friends frequently looked her up and usually arrived unannounced, while the British visitors gave more conventional prior notice. One nephew came for an uncongenial year; while another “buckled to nobly, taking or attempting to take, his share in the daily male routine of land clearing, and pig, goat, and poultry tending.”
One prized visit was from Dr. Diamond Jenness, later chief of the Anthropological section of the National Museum at Ottawa, and various headmasters and Anglican clerics visited as well. A highlight of the early years was the founding of All Saints’ Anglican Church at Shawnigan Lake. Appeals for funding were sent to friends in England, and one person sent £100 by return mail.
Ravenhill recounted how both of her sisters contributed beautiful needlework, and Horace and Leslie each gave chancel chairs in memory of their old schools, Marlborough and Oakham. The Ravenhills donated the baptismal font and “a lovely copper ewer from Siena for the water.” They had also suggested a convenient flat location, but instead the church was built at the top of a very steep hill. Although a bench had been provided partway up the hill, the church was eventually sawed in half and moved down in sections to the village.
Each of the Ravenhills worked on getting to know their new culture. Edith played the organ in the church, and started a girls’ two-part choir. Horace became known locally as the “Squire” and Leslie showed great ability in land-clearing. Alice Ravenhill’s efforts to spread the gospel of health and hygiene did not transfer well to Shawnigan Lake; she was purported to have gone around to all the neighbours to tell them when to air their beds.
The cities of Victoria and Vancouver offered more opportunities to continue the work she had started in England. In January of 1911, only two months after her arrival, she was invited to Vancouver to take part in the annual conference of the local Council of Women. Several mishaps ensued before she made it to Vancouver; a late start caused by a bite from a neighbour’s dog; a burned ear from an overdose of carbolic acid administered by her nephew Leslie; a missed ferry; and a failure to connect with her host in Vancouver.
Still Ravenhill persisted and spent forty-eight strenuous hours being swept from meetings to luncheons to afternoon receptions, to banquets and to late suppers. On the way home she was invited to attend the Women’s Organization in Victoria. Here Ravenhill made her first serious faux-pas by giving a full account of her many interests at “home”:
Beginning with the Eugenic Education Society, passing on through my many links with public health and educational developments to the subject of household economics, I closed with allusions to the scope of the ever extending social services, asking that my hearers would allow me to take any possible small share in corresponding local activities.
At the conclusion of the talk, some “grimly sarcastic words” whispered in Ravenhill’s ear (presumably to the effect that she was not in England any more) made her sharply aware that her past experiences might not be welcomed in Canada.
Ravenhill continued with ambitious speaking tours and writing assignments. In March of 1911, W.E. Scott, Deputy Ministry of Agriculture and Superintendent of Institutes, asked her to give talks on home management to the Women’s Institutes (WI) of B.C. Although the pay was poor, it gave her an opportunity to travel throughout the province. Madge Watt, usually referred to as Mrs. Alfred Watt, was her travelling companion on trips that soon extended beyond Vancouver Island to the Fraser Valley, the Central Interior and the Kootenays.
In the midst of the WI expeditions, Ravenhill addressed the Annual Conference of Teachers in Victoria where her “advanced views on the scope of education were received with great suspicion by the educational authorities.” It was another example of Ravenhill’s unfamiliarity with the Canadian context.
The commissioning of the writing of a series of bulletins for the WI gave more scope for Ravenhill’s talents, on the topics of, “Food, Its Choice and Preservation” (1911); “The Place and Purpose of Family Life” (1911); “The Preparation of Food” (1911); “The Preservation of Food” (1912); “Food and Diet” (1912-13); “Labour Saving Devices for Housewives”(1912); “The Art of Right Living” (1913); and “The Care of Young Children”(1914).
When she complained about the low amount she was paid to write the bulletins, Martin Burrell, the B.C. Minister of Agriculture, suggested that all she needed for the job was “a pair of scissors and a pot of paste,” inferring that she could rehash her past publications in England. Thanks to the intervention of the Deputy Minister, a compromise was brought about whereby Ravenhill received more money for her work. The bulletins were popular in B.C. and reproduced by request in Nova Scotia, but then the type was broken up and they were never reprinted.
Ravenhill must have written the bulletin on Labour-Saving Devices with a sense of irony. She had previously commented on the “go-aheadness” of Canada (gleaned from CPR literature and word of mouth) that had convinced her that Canada was far ahead of England in terms of labour-saving domestic appliances. Consequently she and Edith had given away many of the appliances they had used in England (previously imported from the US), thinking that improved articles could be bought in Canada. She found out much later that the population of Canada was too small to support a housewares industry; the sisters did bring along a fruit and vegetable presser, a steam pressure cooker, and a hand-worked vacuum cleaner that proved to be useful. 
The labour-saving bulletin was divided into devices of management; devices of experience; and devices of equipment. Frequent mention was made of items that were available in the “Old World” that had not yet made their way to British Columbia such as fire-proof china. Ravenhill condemned the abominability of feather-dusters and extolled the virtue of a long-handled dustpan. She appears in a couple of the photographs and they might have been taken in the Ravenhill family home at Shawnigan Lake.
Another WI bulletin, “The Art of Right Living,” was filled with admonitions for improvement of health and hygiene. Ravenhill suggested an opening be cut in the walls close to the ceilings for better air circulation; that beds be aired daily; that schools be open-air as much as possible; that sleep and all habits be regular. She also convinced the Department of Agriculture to publish the Women’s Institute Quarterly magazine and hire her as the editor. A 1916 Cook Book published by the Kaslo Women’s Institute included a recipe provided by Ravenhill. Entitled “Useful Recipe”, it was written in narrative style, and offered economy, variety, food safety and (we hope) tastiness:
Soak a cupful of tapioca or sago in water overnight. Next morning put it to cook in a double boiler with, (1) the contents of a can of tomatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper, a dash of vinegar, a few drops of essence of onions or a finely-chopped clove of garlic; or (2) some well-flavoured stock and seasoning, also or sliced chopped hard boiled eggs or 3 tablespoonfuls of chopped ham, chicken or veal; to be stirred in as the tapioca or sago jellies; or (3) a pint of fruit syrup or custard nicely flavoured. Cook slowly for several hours. Then turn into a bowl or mold, dipped previously, in cold water and allow to cool. A sweet or savory nutritious jelly is the result, which sets even at a temperature over 90 degrees without ice.
The oddness of this recipe amidst traditional cakes and cookies emphasizes Ravenhill’s beliefs in efficiency and economy, two concepts that came to dominate home economics education.
In January of 1913 Ravenhill was asked to speak at the official opening of the household science building presented to the University of Toronto by Lillian Massey Treble, an invitation that she considered to be one of the greatest compliments of her life.
Massey Treble, a member of the wealthy and influential Massey family of implement-manufacturing fame, had become a philanthropist in the 1890s.  After starting the Fred Victor Mission and the Normal Training School of Household Science, Massey Treble set her sights on a four-year household economics degree at the University of Toronto. This was achieved in 1906 and Annie Laird, an acquaintance of Ravenhill’s from the Third Lake Placid Conference became the first head (Laird was never designated Dean). When the promised building had been completed in 1913, it was regarded as “the finest facility on the continent, [going] far to counter persistent questioning of the credibility of household science.”
Ravenhill’s speech at Toronto emphasized the links between imperialism and the “right conduct of life.” She ventured that, “Imperialism recalls to the individual the responsibilities attaching to the goodly heritage he [sic] enjoys; so does family life.” She talked about the importance of recognizing women’s participation at the university level, but she did not promote their entering the public domain. She quoted Lord Roseberry, “What worth is an empire without an imperial race?” 
1913 was a very busy year for Ravenhill with short courses of lectures at the Normal School in Vancouver and to the teachers in Nanaimo. A less satisfying experience resulted from an attempt by Ravenhill to organize local chapters of the Royal Sanitary Institute [RSI] in Victoria and Vancouver with the help of Dr. W.E. Home, a retired naval surgeon who was also a Fellow of the RSI. The organizational meeting in Victoria was planned in conjunction with the annual Convention of School Trustees.
Ravenhill and Home each spoke at the Convention and in the evening session. Ravenhill’s topic was “Six Factors of Importance in School Hygiene.” She admonished the audience not to let children share drinking cups, to emphasize handwashing with soap, and to stop children from sucking on pens and pencils because that would pass on bacteria. The importance of health could not be underestimated, she said: “Many a child was branded a dullard and allowed to go through life as such simply because it [sic] had suffered from adenoids in its youth.”
Dr. Home’s topic, “Why Children Die,” focused on the declining death rate among children in England thanks to improvement in sanitary laws. When time came for the evening session, only a few people attended. The reason, discovered belatedly, was that Ravenhill had asked the Anglican Bishop, Dr. Roper to be moderator, and the Victoria school trustees, suspecting “deep laid denominational influences behind the scenes,” boycotted the meeting.
The Vancouver meetings did not take place at all because a “progressive citizen” had reported a serious indictment of the building code and authorities refused to let the meetings proceed. Once again, Ravenhill had been marked as an outsider; failing to understand deeply embedded ecumenical issues and the local culture.
Alice Ravenhill’s experiences in creating the first home economics degree course at London University encouraged her to work towards a similar program at the proposed University of British Columbia. She was asked to serve on a deputation of representative women to urge the B.C. premier, Sir Richard McBride, to start one. She participated in a public newspaper debate about home economics with Evlyn Farris, founder of the University Women’s Club and wife of an influential lawyer and politician.
A graduate of Acadia University, Nova Scotia, Ferris believed that the introduction of home economics at the university level would harm women’s intellectual development and cause philosophical learning to decline. Ravenhill argued that home economics was a science on par with all sciences such as chemistry, biology, physics, and economics, and suggested that the “right care of human life” should be on an equal basis with agriculture, “the care of plant and animal life.” Farris’s opinion prevailed until 1943 when a school of home economics was finally established at UBC.
Everything changed when Great Britain declared war against Germany on 4 August, 1914. Canada’s legal status as a dominion meant that it followed suit on August 5. Leslie Ravenhill was the first in the Shawnigan District to sign on for active service, and by September 23, was in Val Cartier, Quebec to be received into the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. Perhaps he felt a twinge of pride when he wrote down his trade or calling as “Bush Whacker.”
His military career would be brief, as the Victoria newspaper announced eight months later. “Died on the field fighting for Empire,” noted that Private H.L. Ravenhill of the 7th Battalion, 1st British Columbia Regiment, had fallen at the Battle of St. Julien (Second Battle of Ypres) on 24 April, 1915.
An odd coincidence was brought to light by Oakham School, the exclusive private school in England that Leslie had attended. Geoffrey Lancelot Porter (who had also attended Oakham School and had been received into the same infantry unit on the same day as Leslie Ravenhill) died in the same battle. Porter, who had immigrated to Vancouver Island in 1904, might have influenced the Ravenhills’ choice of Shawnigan Lake.The Battle of St. Julien was infamous for the first use of poison gas in the history of war; the 7th Battalion was commended for holding their position. A terse and understated letter from the trenches written by the commander, Major Victor Odlum, described the event as “trying.” “On the 24th, at 3:30 a.m., the attack came on in fury, preceded by gas and a terrific shellfire.”
Leslie Ravenhill was listed as missing for three weeks before eyewitnesses testified that he had been hit by a shell and killed instantly. Private E.W. Abraham, one of the two survivors of the 7th Battalion, was quoted as saying, “We few of the remaining party miss poor old Ravenhill very much.”
In July of the previous year, before the war had started, a friend had come to the Ravenhills’ home at Shawnigan Lake for the weekend and had told everyone’s fortunes. When it came to reading the fortunes of Leslie and three of his friends, she said that she couldn’t do it; later she told Ravenhill that she had clearly seen the approaching deaths of all four young men.
Alice, Edith, and Horace Ravenhill tried to carry on, but without Leslie their incentive was gone. The winter of 1915-16 was cold with exceptionally heavy snowfall. Unexpected relief came when their friend, Christopher Lonsdale, decided to open a boys’ residential school at Shawnigan Lake. He contacted them about a house on a piece of property that Horace had sold in 1912 to Ella Cole, a young woman who had wanted to open a girls’ school. “Unfortunately,” wrote Ravenhill, “she had hitched her wagon to a remote star” and left Shawnigan heavily in debt. Lonsdale opened Shawnigan Lake School, and by 1919, had bought the Ravenhill house and property for his expanding school.
In the first half of 1917, Alice Ravenhill made a lengthy speaking tour in the United States including Oregon, Utah, Nebraska, Missouri, Texas, and Iowa, that culminated in her being offered a two-year position at the State College in Logan, Utah, to reorganize and expand the Department of Household Economics. The war years had depleted the Ravenhill family finances, and she quickly made the decision to take the position without consulting her usual network of friends in England.
Alice Ravenhill considered the move to Utah to be “one of the greatest and most costly mistakes” of her life. Not only did she have a hard time getting used to the altitude of Logan, she also found it very difficult to work with the Mormons who constituted eighty five percent of the faculty and student body. One of the more taxing projects was to organize a “practice house” for senior students taking Home Economics. Ravenhill had to completely furnish the house, and then supervise groups of students in the house for six-week stints.
After a short visit home to Shawnigan Lake, during which she helped her brother and sister move into a small apartment in Victoria, she returned to Logan where the Spanish influenza had broken out. Large classes and extensive marking, as well as a strict diet she had adopted in order to set an example for her “somewhat rebellious household of students” resulted in a severe breakdown in health in January of 1919.  Once again, Ravenhill had encountered unexpected cultural barriers.
At the age of sixty, it looked like Alice Ravenhill had finally had enough. She resigned her position at Logan, and her faithful sister Edith made the trip to Utah to escort her home to Victoria. The resignation ended Ravenhill’s career as an international lecturer. The years between 1919 and 1926 were a hiatus for her. When she gave her books to UBC in 1923, she gave most of her life in home economics, health, and hygiene away too. There were some small forays into public speaking about home economics, but her heart was no longer in it.
While Ravenhill recovered from her physical and mental fatigue, her sister and brother became very active in their individual interests. Edith’s skills in embroidery enabled her to take the leadership of the Diocesan Church Embroidery Guild. Horace shared Alice Ravenhill’s interest in health and hygiene, although his focus was social hygiene, a euphemism for venereal disease. He had accompanied Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, the famous British suffragist, to a speech she gave at Sidney, B.C., in 1921.
Horace’s association with Pankhurst was more a reflection of social conservatism than human rights. After a tumultuous career as a socialist and suffragist, Pankhurst had switched her politics to the far right. The topic of her speech was most likely on combating venereal disease. Horace Ravenhill had helped found a social hygiene campaign backed by the Provincial Department of Health in 1922 that was shut down abruptly a few months later, “for reasons best omitted,” according to Alice.
Eugenics formed the link between the Ravenhills and Pankhurst. Alice Ravenhill had been an early member of the Eugenic Education Society in England and wrote a fairly harmless article about the importance of both nature and nurture in 1909. After she moved to Canada, and especially during the war years, her ideas about eugenics, nationalism, and the Imperial race began to harden. As editor of the Women’s Institute Quarterly she had an open forum at her disposal, as well as the support of many influential people throughout the Province. In a 1915 Quarterly report of the Conference of the Kootenay and Boundary District Women’s Institute, the thread of patriotism ran strong.
The report ended in the following statement, termed “bellicose” by Angus McLaren in his landmark book, Our Own Master Race: 
The next enemies of the Empire will need to be even better prepared than were the Germans, for the women are leaving nothing undone. Their soldiers are to be well-born, for they are making a study of eugenics. They are to be well-bred, for they have their domestic science and they are solving moral problems.
Alice Ravenhill was ready for the next chapter of her life. It was 1926 and she was sixty-seven years old. What would it be?
 Lori Treloar. E & N Background. Shawnigan Lake Museum. (n.d.).
 See T. Reksten, The Dunsmuir Saga, Douglas & McIntyre: Vancouver and Toronto, 1991.
 Green Branches and Fallen Leaves: The Story of a Community: Shawnigan Lake 1887-1967. Shawnigan Lake Confederation Centennial Celebrations Committee of 1966-67 (2006 reprint), p. 5.
 Green Branches, p. 18.
 Joan Mason Hurley. Twenty-four colonels on the West Arm Road: Shawnigan Lake in the 1920s. Raincoast Chronicles Fifteen. 1993. pp. 52-61.
 See J.F. Bosher, Imperial Vancouver Island: Who Was Who, 1850-1950. 2010. pp. 255-257. Eardley-Wilmot served in India and modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Ravenhills and Eardley-Wilmots may have known each other in England as the Eardley-Wilmots lived at Snaresbrook, where Alice was born.
 For rules about pre-emption, see http://www.familyhistoryalive.com/British-Columbia-Land-Grants-and-Homesteading.html
 Journal of Home Economics, “Miss Ravenhill in America,” 1 (5), 1910, p. 691. The origin of the name is unknown.
 Memoirs, p. 176.
 Memoirs, p. 174.
 Memoirs, p. 177.
 Memoirs, p. 181.
 Memoirs, p. 182.
 Green Branches, p. 31. This history suggests that the top of the hill was either the only site immediately available, or the church-dignitaries “trusted implicitly in the church-going habits of their parishioners.”
 Imperial Vancouver Island, p. 610. Monica Oldham, daughter of Colonel F.T. Oldham, recalled her mother pretending to offer similar advice to the Ravenhills to give them a taste of their own medicine.
 This invitation would likely have been precipitated by Ravenhill’s association with Lady Ishbel Aberdeen.
 Memoirs, p. 179.
 Memoirs, p. 190.
 Memoirs, p. 191.
 Memoirs, p. 176.
 Kaslo Women’s Institute Cook Book, Kaslo, BC (916). p. 13. Alice Ravenhill fonds, Box 1, File 8, UBCSCL.
 Ravenhill, Memoirs, p. 176.
 A. Ravenhill. Address at the University of Toronto. Journal of Home Economics, 3(3), 250-257, 1913. Imperialism in the sense that Ravenhill used it, had a different significance in Great Britain than its most common definition “of or pertaining to an empire.” Webster’s 1935 International Dictionary defined imperialism as “designating the principles and aims of the Imperial Federation Committee established in 1893, which invited the colonies to take a share in the cost of imperial defense.” Thanks to M.G. Smith for this definition.
 Lord Roseberry made this statement in 1904 after the Boer War when malnutrition of British fighting men had become a serious issue, as had hunger among the poor. See “The Imperial Race: Physical deterioration: Its causes and the remedy,” New York Times, 23 July, 1904: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9C02E0DE163EE733A25750C2A9619C946597D6CF&legacy=true
 See “Schools and Health Subjects Discussed: Interesting and instructive addresses delivered at joint convention of trustees and Royal Sanitary Institute”, The British Colonist, 23 October, 1913, p. 2.
 Memoirs, p. 194.
 Evlyn Farris’s biography is available at http://www.cfuwvictoria.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/CFUW-Victoria-History-2014-for-IFUWFINALRN1.pdf
 See L. Stewart, “It’s up to you”: Women at UBC in the early years, University of British Columbia Press for the UBC Academic Women’s Association, Vancouver, 1990, pp. 43-65.
 Ibid., p. 47.
 The University of British Columbia was founded in 1915 but home economics was not included as a course of study until 1943. See Lee Stewart, “It’s up to you”: Women at UBC in the Early Years (UBC Press, 1992) for a detailed account.
 See J. Ciment & T. Russell (2007). The home front encyclopedia: United States, Britain, and Canada in World Wars I and II. ABC-CLIO. p. 423.
 J. Mackie. This week in history: 1915. Vancouver Sun, 26 April, 2014. p. A2.
 Memoirs, p. 185.
 Memoirs, p. 187.
 Memoirs, p. 197.
 Memoirs, p. 202.
 Emmeline Pankhurst. http://spartacus-educational.com/WpankhurstE.htm
 Memoirs, p. 204. It’s a mystery what the circumstances were for the cancellation. Horace then started a Council of Social Welfare; and in 1925, he made a three-month trip to England to handle some property issues caused by the Great War. While there, he took some training courses for Scout Commissioners and became the Commissioner of Scouts for Vancouver Island.
 The word “eugenics” was first used by Sir Francis Galton, from the Greek “eu –genes” meaning “well-born.” The aim of eugenics was to “use science for human improvement over generations by changing the composition of human populations through favouring the reproduction of certain sorts or kinds of people.” See R. Wilson, Encyclopedia of Eugenics (Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada, 2014) eugenicsarchive.ca
 A. McLaren, Our own Master Race: Eugenics in Canada 1885-1945 (McLennan & Stewart, Toronto, 1990), p. 26. McLaren describes the quote as a bellicose declaration among recipes for bread and pickles. It is part of a WI report from the Kootenay and Boundary District WI Conference.
 The Women’s Institute Quarterly, 1 (1915), p. 12.