Haven’t Any News
Ruby’s Letters from the Fifties
Paper 172 pp.
Online discount: 25%
“Ruby wrote letters home almost every week....She wrote anything that came into her head: about her children and Fred, her housekeeping, food, clothes, her friends, activities, schemes for making money, her dreams for the future....Her letters, nave, intimate and lively, were always optimistic or poignant. We’d read them to each other on the phone or pass them around. Often we saved them.”
So writes Edna Staebler in her introduction to this edited collection of her sister Ruby’s letters from the fifties. In 1957 when Edna first began to collect and edit these letters she did so simply because she was sure that others would enjoy reading them as much as her own family did. Over fifty years later, the letters remain a joy to read and reclaim the ordinary voice of a housewife. Remarkably, these letters echo themes academics want to isolate in order to analyze women’s roles in the modern world — drifting (“life just happened to me”) and contingency (“women’s lives depend on relationships”), for example, as well as the balance between family and work. As a fine example of women’s life writing they also illustrate the literary patterns of overt and covert stories and of textual and subtextual meaning.
Haven’t Any News: Ruby’s Letters from the Fifties includes an Afterword by Marlene Kadar, Associate Professor of Humanities at York University and a leading expert on women’s life writing. All those concerned with women’s studies and with the social history of twentieth-century Canada will find this book of enormous interest and it will delight Edna Staebler fans everywhere.
Edna Staebler who recently passed away in her 101st year was an award-winning journalist and a regular contributor to Maclean’s, Chatelaine, and many other magazines. She is the author of Cape Breton Harbour, Places I’ve Been and People I’ve Known and the Schmecks cookbook series. Must Write: Edna Staebler’s Diaries, edited by Christl Verduyn, was published by Laurier Press in 2005.
Marlene Kadar is an associate professor in humanities and women’s studies at York University, and the former director of the graduate programme in interdisciplinary studies.
“Access to this type of normally private commentary is an inestimable boon to the social historian. The physical, intellectual, and emotional work of making a life for oneself, one’s family, and one’s community are movingly laid out in details that few public documents preserve. Ruby’s letters ultimately supply a salutary reminder of the past’s, indeed our parents,’ right to tell their own story in their own way. If we listen closely to Ruby and her contemporaries, we will learn that the generation of the 1950s represents more than mere creators of today’s self-absorbed boomers.”
— Veronica Strong-Boag, University of British Columbia, The Canadian Historical Review
“... thanks to the honesty and dancing energy of her writing, the account that emerges of the daily life of a fifties housewife in small-town Ontario manages to be funny, touching and, most surprising of all, totally compelling.”
By the same author
Working in Women’s Archives: Researching Women’s Private Literature and Archival Documents, Marlene Kadar; Helen M. Buss, editor
Tracing the Autobiographical, Marlene Kadar and Susanna Egan; Linda Warley and Jeanne Perreault, editors
Working Memory: Women and Work in World War II, Marlene Kadar; Jeanne Perreault, editor
Must Write: Edna Staebler’s Diaries, Christl Verduyn and Edna Staebler
Food That Really Schmecks, Edna Staebler; introduction by Wayson Choy