Friday, September 1, 2017

Single woman, small town

Annora Brown
Joyce Sasse - For her time, Annora Brown was a modern woman with her bobbed haircut, her decision to own and drive a second-hand car, and her plans to live on her own as an art instructor.  However, when her mother had a stroke her father called her home to Fort Macleod. She was a 31-year-old spinster. It was what was expected, and Annora came home because she felt her first responsibility was to her parents.  It was hard those first years. She had no experience care-giving and house-keeping, never mind her need to meet financial commitments.  Furthermore, this modern woman who remained single and aspired to be professional, had to face the challenges of making her way in a small, conservative, rural, couple-oriented community.

Her autobiography tells of neighbours who were a support in the care-giving needs, and who did menial chores for her. Her diary reveals how socially active she was, companionably sharing over meals and coffee.

When she started going on ventures with Gordon Crighton (the photographer from Pincher Creek), she understood only too well what others might think about their relationship. In Sketches from Life she wrote “Could anyone in this sex-ridden life believe that a man and woman could go out together as friends and business associates? Some people could. Many for the sake of gossip, would prefer not to … (Rather than heed conventialism) I formed the habit of going out often (with Gordon) …” Indeed these were pleasure jaunts, “but the amount of work we produced, each in our individual way, was prodigious.”

In defense of the choices she made for subjects to paint, she wrote “No one ever had (painted pictures of elevators). I was breaking trail and finding it hard going. I knew the townspeople regarded me as an oddity. Scorn, irritation, pity – almost everyone knew what I should be doing instead of what I was doing. Some people liked me in spite of my strangeness and a few almost understood. These last formed the silver lining to the dark cloud of misunderstanding and disapproval, but by then I had grown a 25-year-old shell that was not easily dented. I went on with my drawing.”

Annora found her place, as a person and an artist, was in Fort Macleod. It was where she chose to stay until she was 66 years old.

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