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In Her Own Footsteps

Flora Ross and Her Struggle for Identity and Independence in the Colonial West

by D.J. Richardson

Flora Ross is best remembered for her pioneering work in British Columbia's healthcare field. But her coming-of-age story reflects the coming-of-age of the province, from her birth at the close of the fur trade era, to her teen-age marriage amidst the San Juan Island boundary dispute, to her divorce just as the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia were united.

Flora was the daughter of Charles Ross, a Scottish Chief Trader for the Hudson's Bay Company, and Isabella Mainville Ross, his Métis (Ojibwe and French-Canadian) wife, who raised ten children and ran the family farm after her husband's untimely death in 1844.

Flora Amelia Ross, circa 1872-74

Image F-05218 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives

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Flora came of age at a time when women remained the legal property of their husbands, civil divorce wasn't yet legal in the colony of her marriage, and careers weren't reasonable options for women. She began her career as a nurse on San Juan Island under the gaze of American and British cannons, and was courted by Paul K. Hubbs, Jr., the instigator of the military incident, as the two nations prepared for outright war over custody of the disputed island. She married Hubbs while only seventeen years old, just as the two nations announced a joint occupation of the island, and the young couple homesteaded a farm on the southeastern point of the island. But when Hubbs turned abusive, Flora had to find the means to protect her son and her family farm near Victoria, despite the unforgiving status of colonial marriage laws, and the power that her father-in-law wielded in the courts of Washington Territory.​

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In Her Own Footsteps is the story of a young woman's struggle to overcome the attitudes of her time that judged her by her gender and racial background rather than her abilities and accomplishments, at a time when the colonies of the Pacific Northwest were transforming from outposts of the fur trade to a young province with burgeoning new cities. It is written in novel form, but reflects more than three decades of research, and is intended to tell her story, and the stories of those in her life, as truthfully as surviving documents permit.  In Her Own Footsteps is the first in a trilogy about the life of Flora Ross. Volume Two, Matron of the Asylum, is currently underway.

In Her Own Footsteps was released on September 15, 2020. Links to retailers can be found on www.butterwortbooks.com