The Life and Letters of Annie Leake Tuttle
Working for the Best
Annie Leake Tuttle was born in Nova Scotia in 1839 and died there in 1934, yet her search for education and self-support took her far afield. During her life she filled important positions from Newfoundland to British Columbia, as an educator of teachers and as the matron of a Methodist rescue home for Chinese immigrant women who had worked as prostitutes. Her autobiography paints a vivid picture of the joys and hardships of growing up on a pioneer farm and documents her spiritual and educational quests and conquests. In addition, readers see the independence and strength of character that enable Annie Tuttle to take on family obligations that fall to an unmarried daughter and sister, and to meet the challenges of step-motherhood, the adjustments of aging and ultimately the prospect of death.
Marilyn Färdig Whiteley gently frames Tuttle’s autobiography by placing it into social and historical context. She delineates the way in which Annie claimed her identity as she began to record her life story and demonstrates how her evangelical faith enabled her to show, in her narrative, that “One above” was always “working for the best,” helping her in the work she was intended to do.
In The Life of Annie Leake Tuttle: Working for the Best, we find a rich collection of the writings of an articulate woman who shows herself to be both ordinary and extraordinary. It is a fascinating chronicle of the spiritual and secular life of an independent and spirited woman in early Canada.
``The life Annie set out to describe was no ordinary one. Indeed, her story should be of considerable interest, especially to historians and scholars of women's life writing. ... Whiteley has provided us with both a fascinating portrait of an individual life and a thoughtful exploration of the context and motivations that prompted Annie to record her experiences. ... Happily, Annie was a gifted writer. Her descriptions—of her early life on the family farm, of her first experiences at school and of her subsequent determination to obtain a good education regardless of the personal cost, and of her refusal, on a number of occasions, to allow people to exploit or manipulate her—are evocative and strong. She writes compellingly of her conversion experiences, of her first love, and of her years as a teacher. ... Annie's autobiography tells much more than one woman's story: it allows us access to the everyday mores, assumptions, constraints, and joys for women of Annie's class and culture. ... An excellent example of the life writing genre. ''- Cathy L. Janes, Historical Studies in Education, Vol. 12, Nos. 1-2, Spring/Fall 2000
``Oral history is a very special genre of research and writing, and The Life and Letters of Annie Leake Tuttle is a wonderful example of a Canadian oral history rich in tradition and cultural images. ... Tuttle comes alive in these pages and we come to know her through her personal struggles. This work is additionally important because it focuses on women's experiences. ... It offers an insightful and important glimpse into the life of ordinary people. ...The Life and Letters of Annie Leake Tuttle would be an excellent resource in any Canadian history classroom. ''- Elizabeth Senger, Canadian Social Studies, Vol. 35, No. 4, Summer 2001
``Readers who view history as more than the story of famous male politicians will welcome this book for the fresh light it sheds on women, education, the church, social conditions in both British Columbia and Nova Scotia, family life, and even the Halifax Explosion. ''- Ashley Thomson, Canadian Book Review Annual
``These memoirs were written with the foresight of women who wanted to pass on their histories to a generation which is rapidly running out of bridges to those who lived these experiences first hand. Readers lucky enough to remember the times described in these tales will no doubt recognize a part of themselves, while those in more modern times will certainly be bewildered at how much our world has changed. ''- Atlantic Books Today, No. 28, Spring 2000
`Whiteley sets the scene for each chapter, delineating time, place, and cultural context, without upstaging Tuttle's own words. ... This volume is greatly enhanced by a pleasing combination of commmentary, illustrations, and bibliographical information. ... Annie Tuttle's letters and autobiography cast useful sidelights on the history of household economy, rural childhood, educational reform, and women's religious activities. ''- Laurie Stanley-Blackwell, Canadian Historical Review
``Annie Tuttle's memoirs offer a rare glimpse into the intriguing dynamics of 19th Century life from agriculture to education; from religion to social norms and expectations. ...This book is as readable as a fictitious novel. It is all the more interesting by virtue of how it brings real lives and real times to life. ''- Sandra Devlin, Generations