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A Heroine of the North
Memoirs of Charlotte Selina Bompas (1830-1917)
Wife of the First Bishop of Selkirk (Yukon)

With Extracts from Her Journal and Letters

Compiled by S.A. Archer

London: SPCK, 1929.


I HAVE often been asked how people coming from tropical climes could bear the rigours of extreme Arctic weather. It is really remarkable how human beings can accommodate themselves to various surroundings as they wander over the face of the earth. I have known men who came direct from the South Sea Islands and lived through the winter on board whale-ships at Herschel Island, who appeared to be just as much at home at forty or fifty degrees below zero as others who were accustomed to an Arctic climate all their lifetime.

This adaptability is also true of what we might call intellectual surroundings. Fifty-four years ago, when Mrs. Bompas first went with her husband from England to North-West Canada, comparatively little was known, either in North America or England, regarding the remote Northern regions. Few people realise even to-day the privations and loneliness Mrs. Bompas endured. Brought up and educated under refined surroundings in England and Italy, this woman of God was willing to spend, and be spent, in the Master's service, in isolated regions, among primitive and degraded Indians.

Frail in body though she was, her endurance and perseverance were remarkable. On the verge of starvation, she sometimes had to depend for food, from day to day, on the rabbit snare and the daily dole of the meagre fish net.

During the Bishop's long periods of absence from home while visiting his vast diocese, Mrs. Bompas carried on the missionary work as best she could with zeal and courage.

Bishop Bompas tried to spare his wife some of the hardships that he himself was so willing to endure, and he urged her, whenever possible, to visit friends in Eastern Canada and England. However, as soon as a sufficient excuse presented itself, Mrs. Bompas insisted on returning to her home in the North. Many and varied were her places of residence from the time she reached Fort Simpson on the Mackenzie River in 1874, till the summer of 1906 when we laid he husband's body to rest in the Indian cemetery over looking the lake at Car cross in Southern Yukon.

Very little has been preserved concerning the lit and work of the early Northern pioneers. It is a great satisfaction, therefore, to know that through Mrs. Archer's enthusiasm and devotion, these memoirs, obtained through the kind assistance of Mrs. Bompas's relatives and others, are to be published in book form. I am sure the unembellished record of some of Mrs. Bompas's experiences, given in her own words, will be of intense interest, not only to her many friends, but to the public at large. We should be thankful to have thus preserved for posterity, at least the partial records of the daily life of one of the heroines of the Church—one of the Saints of God.

Commissary and Administrator of the Diocese of Mackenzie River.
April, 1928.

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