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Interesting People

Faith Fenton (1857-1936)

Cover of a book about Faith Fenton, featuring a photograph of Faith Fenton seated at her desk, cutting out a newspaper article

Source
Cover of a book about Faith Fenton

Toronto schoolteacher by day, investigative journalist by night, Faith Fenton's real name was Alice Freeman. In the 1880s the occupation of journalist was considered so disreputable that in order to keep her job as a teacher, Alice had to write under the name Faith Fenton and hide the fact that she and Faith were the same person. As a female teacher, Alice only made one-third the amount that a male teacher did, and she needed both her teaching and writing salaries.

In 1886 Alice began to write for the Barrie, Ontario daily newspaper, the Northern Advance as their Toronto correspondent. By 1888 she had a column in Toronto's daily newspaper, the Empire. As Faith Fenton, she became one of the leading woman journalists, read by thousands. Still a teacher, Faith travelled during the summer months to cover stories that covered the interesting people she met on her travels, meeting with famous women such as suffragists, poet and performer Pauline Johnson and opera star Emma Albani. For 19 years she kept her double life a secret. In 1893, when her true identity was made public, a group of powerful friends protected her from being fired. A year later she resigned from her teaching position and became a full-time journalist. For a time she freelanced, then was the editor of the Canadian Home Journal.

Perhaps Faith's biggest adventure was yet to come. Gold was discovered in the Klondike in 1897, and thousands were flocking north to seek their fortune. A detachment of 200 Canadian soldiers, called the Yukon Field Force, was sent to the Yukon to keep law and order. Four nurses from the Victorian Order of Nurses were dispatched to travel with the Force to look after the soldiers along the way and to relieve the sufferings of the gold-seekers once they arrived. Faith Fenton accompanied the nurses on their tortuous trek and sent stories of life on the trail for publication in Toronto's Globe. Faith married Dr. John Brown, the Yukon Territory's Medical Officer of Health in 1900. They moved back to Toronto in 1904 and Faith continued to write. She died in 1936 at the age of 79.

Photograph of Faith Fenton, standing with a group of men in a field, one of whom is holding a cart, in the Klondike, 1897

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Faith Fenton on a Klondike expedition, 1897

Photograph of Faith Fenton, her head surrounded by mosquito netting, writing on a piece of paper, Yukon, 1898

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Faith Fenton in the Yukon, 1898

References

Downie, Jill. A Passionate Pen: the Life and Times of Faith Fenton. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1996.

Merritt, Susan E. Her Story III: Women from Canada's Past. St. Catharines, Ont.: Vanwell Publishing, 1999.