All guts, no glory. I feel like that might be a good way to describe Charlotte Taylor. She was an amazing woman who was independent and stood up for her own rights in the face of a lot of opposition. She was a woman who was living a life style that was ahead of her time. She believed in equality, compassion, and perseverance. Yet I only heard of her because I read this novel!
Sally Armstrong, Charlotte Taylor’s great-great-great granddaughter, writes the story of this amazing woman and fills in some of the blanks with her own best-guesses. So, it is a blend of fiction and non-fiction.
1.) She runs away from her stuffy British life with the family butler, but he dies after they run away across the Ocean, leaving her pregnant and alone.
2.) She meets a nice sea captain who tries to make her go back to England via Nova Scotia, but she meets a lot of Acadians and Mi’kmaq people in the area and realizes she likes this new place.
3.) She runs away to a Mi’kmaq camp to avoid leaving on a ship for England and the Mi’kmaq welcome her and she makes a special friend and they have a life-long relationship.
4.) She marries a privateer, moves to his cabin, and has more kids.
5.) Said husband dies from a rotten tooth. She remarries a local entrepreneur.
6.) She has more kids. Her husband never comes home and is presumed dead.
7.) She marries a local politician and has more kids.
8.) Things are getting heated, literally, so she decides to move her family to a new island.
9.) Her husband dies.
10.) She spends the rest of her life canoeing with her Mi’kmaq friend.
Yet Charlotte Taylor is not forgotten! You can explore her life as the “Mother of Tabusintac” in New Brunswick on a tour.
I did find the life of Charlotte Taylor fascinating because she was so strong, intelligent, and determined, yet I really enjoyed the way in which Armstrong wove in a lot of Canadian history into Charlotte’s story. Some of her ancestors have put together an amazing timeline that truly shows the changes that were happening and how incredible it was for Charlotte to survive and thrive.
The Expulsion of the Acadians. The land grab that pushed out the Mi’kmaq people and other nations. The ruling that settlers could petition to own land, yet the First Nations only received Crown Land which was often sold or encroached upon. The danger of Americans trying to take over the land. The dividing of the colony into provinces. Charlotte’s everyday life might not have been affected by all of these events, yet she lived in an interesting time.
Armstrong is not the only relative of Charlotte Taylor to write about this incredible woman’s life. Mary Lynn Smith also has done a lot of research and writing about her ancestor. She makes it clear on her website that she did not help Armstrong and that Armstrong’s novel should be read as that, a novel–not a biography.
As a member of a large family, I can only imagine what would happen if someone tried to write the history of one of my ancestors and fictionalized the account. It might divide the family and as Mary Lynn Smith states on her website, Charlotte Taylor would have fought anyone writing about her life with “tooth and nail” just as I believe any of my ancestors would react to a fictionalized account of their lives.
Yet at the end of the day I found Armstrong’s story compelling and fascinating. I love learning that there are strong and independent women in our Canadian past who had beliefs and didn’t stay silent when they were fighting for their rights and for the rights of their family. Charlotte Taylor was a woman who stood strong and remained compassionate, intelligent, fair, and honest throughout her entire life. As a person who defies convention in life, her legacy of defiance lives on in the lives of her family.
The tally of her life comes out in her favour, she decides. But she has no respite from losses. (pg 380)
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.(Hebrews 11:13)