In Her Own Footsteps
Flora Ross and Her Struggle for Independence in the Colonial West
by D.J. Richardson
In the summer of 1859, British and American troops stood at the brink of war over a small island in the Pacific Northwest, each claiming sovereignty over the region in a military standoff that has become known as the “Pig War” of San Juan Island. In the midst of the dispute sat a Hudson’s Bay Company farm, where seventeen year-old Flora Ross, the Métis daughter (Anishinaabe/Scottish) of a prominent company family, nursed a farmworker’s dying wife. The American instigator of the military incursion, Paul K. Hubbs, Jr., courted Flora throughout the standoff, and they were married as the two nations announced a peaceful joint occupation agreement. Their marriage was celebrated in newspapers as a second joint occupation of the island. But the marriage didn’t turn out to be peaceful, as Hubbs soon turned abusive and kept a mistress on a neighboring island. To escape, Flora had to overcome the lack of civil divorce laws in the colony of their marriage, the political power of her father-in-law in Washington Territory, and societal prejudices against a young Métis woman struggling to regain her independence and build a career as a nurse.
In Her Own Footsteps is written in novel form, but tells the true story of Flora Amelia Ross—a pioneer in the B.C. healthcare industry—and her struggle for identity and independence, to the extent surviving documents permit. It is B.C. history told through the eyes of a young Métis woman caught between two communities, and caught between two nations.
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