I have been a history lover for many years, and I am obsessed with World War I to the point of addiction. This focus has grown to include Canada and its history.
Why, you may ask, would an American be interested in Canada?
It began with the conception of my novel, Angel of Mercy.
The Best Option
The first reason was purely practical. The story I wanted to tell in Angel of Mercy would have been impossible with an American nurse. The United States wasn’t in the Great War long enough for me to tell the type of story I wanted. I needed to find a nationality for my main character.
I had several options, but I chose Canadian. The selection process was rather simplistic, I must admit.
It won out over British, my second choice, for three reasons:
- I’ve visited Ontario several times and always felt quite comfortable there.
- The close proximity means familiarity. Canada does not feel like a “foreign” country.
- I felt I could replicate the nation’s attitudes and opinions better than if I had chosen a country outside of North America.
Even the title of the novel is Canadian in its inspiration. During the war, Canadian nursing sisters earned the nickname “angels of mercy” from their patients because of their dedication and hard work as well as the role they played in saving countless lives.
There’s More to Canada Than Americans Are Taught in School
While conducting my research, I discovered I had made the right choice. Initially, I knew nothing other than Canada participated in the war. I came away with a sense of how my main character would have felt about her nation and its accomplishments.
I also came away with newfound knowledge. The names Laurier, Borden, Bourassa and Currie are now familiar to me. I know the significance of Vimy Ridge as well as the Second Battle of Ypres and Passchendaele not to mention the smashing of the Hindenburg Line during the Hundred Days Offensive, the divisive effects of conscription and women’s suffrage.
Throughout my research, I read about political infighting, controversial elections, murders, riots, the rift between the French and the English, and racial tensions.
Suddenly, Angel of Mercy had a secondary reason for having a Canadian protagonist. It could be used as a teaching tool, exposing Americans to history most are completely unaware of. After all, most American only know Canada for its politeness, hockey, bacon, Mounties and Degrassi Junior High.
Like all works of fiction, it can teach subtly through its characters and the events in their lives.
I have released several Pinterest boards that illustrate the people, places and events that make late 19th-century/early 20th-century Canada special. Come check them out.
Updated: 14 October 2020