Review of Beloved Muskoka by author Joan E. McHugh

Allow yourself to be swept into a piece of Ontario’s history by Elizabeth Penson’s voice, speaking through her diaries. (1884-1974)

As a spirited young woman, Elizabeth had set high goals for herself, too high for society’s standards at the time. She envisioned herself either as a Science Specialist or High School teacher in Toronto. Amazingly she managed to complete a five year program in three years. Interviews were heartbreaking as she was always turned away because of her gender, regardless that she had received the highest honours. The suffragette movement began in 1897, needless to say she agreed with many of their arguments.
A large part of her diaries included many summers helping out at her grandparent’s hotel which grandly displayed the open waters of Lake Rousseau. Muskoka District tourism had begun.
Elizabeth treats us to stories of their trips north from Hamilton on coal operated trains whose tracks ran out before their destination, then reloaded belongings and supplies to finish the trip on horse drawn buggies. Throughout she relays her family dynamics and many happy times of picnics and dancing till dawn. You can sense her great pride in her father who was a well- known scenic artist. He spent many years at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto and across Canada. Neatly sewn into the chapters is her love story and conflict of heart when it came to society’s ideas and her own ideals.
Modifying her primary goal Elizabeth became a teacher starting in a little school in Port Carling; then follow her across Canada to teach in Saskatchewan. Here she learns many skills, chopping wood for heat, driving a horse-drawn carriage, picking mushrooms in sod stables as well as learning to ride horseback in 1909. All the while, thinking of her real home, the Muskokas.
Elizabeth writes in her diary about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, the torpedo sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. At the time of WW1, Elizabeth was teaching in the small southern Ontario community of Dunnville.
In September of 1920 Elizabeth was finally hired as a Science Specialist in Georgetown achieving a life time goal. But the years were adding up and she was getting tired. She had her uncle’s cottage rebuilt so she could live happily in a place closest to her heart, fascinating family and friends with her flushable toilet.
Then in 1973, she moved in with her great-niece Joan McHugh and family in the London area where she could live out her days in the comforting arms of those who cared. She passed away in 1974. Fortunately for us Joan’s interest in writing produced this book from her great-aunts diaries, relatives input and photos. It has been a pleasure to read and learn about the Muskokas. My family and I spent many summer vacations there, beginning with Santa’s Village. Reviewer: Cheryl Heinrichs, Allbooks Review @
Title: Beloved Muskoka
Author: Joan E. McHugh
Publisher: The Brucedale Press
ISBN-13: 978-189692243-0
Pages: 142


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