Against the Current

The Remarkable Life of Agnes Deans Cameron

Reviewed by Nancy Payne

Posted May 20, 2020

Although she has largely been forgotten, British Columbia educator, writer, and lecturer Agnes Deans Cameron is one of those clever self-starters who energize Canada’s past. A beloved teacher, and later British Columbia’s first female public-school principal, Cameron was devastated when she was fired in 1905 over an improperly administered exam.

She was a charter member of the Canadian Women’s Press Club, and her writing appeared in newspapers and magazines all over North America and in Great Britain. Cameron’s glowing articles about the potential of the Canadian West led to a publicity job in Chicago for the Western Canada Immigration Association.

The strongest section of Cathy Converse’s engaging biography Against the Current recounts Cameron’s endurance-testing six-month trip in 1908 from Winnipeg via multiple Hudson’s Bay Company posts to the Yukon Territory’s Herschel Island. Cameron demonstrates her memorable turn of phrase in describing a moose she encountered: “He reminds me of nothing so much as those animals we make for the baby by sticking four matches into a sweet biscuit.”

Photographs within the book include pioneering B.C. photographer Hannah Maynard’s striking portrait of Cameron as a young teacher.

Buy this book from Chapters-Indigo

This article originally appeared in the June-July 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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