Marie Joussaye Fotheringham

Marie Joussaye Fotheringham, poet (b at Belleville, Ont, 1864; d at Vancouver, BC, 24 Mar 1949). Born Marie Josie in BELLEVILLE, Ontario, Fotheringham changed her name to Marie Joussaye when she left home to work for a Toronto newspaper. While in Toronto she became involved in the growing UNION movements of the time, and became president of the Working Girls' Union in 1893. During the 1890s Fotheringham became increasingly involved in Toronto's LABOUR movements and played a key role in organizing domestic servants in the Working Women's Protective Association. It was during this time that Fotheringham published The Songs that Quinte Sang (1895). The poetry collection included her most famous piece, "Only A Working Girl," which had earlier been published in the Journal of United Labour (1893). Fotheringham later moved to DAWSON City, Yukon where she became involved with David Heatherington Fotheringham, a member of the NORTH WEST MOUNTED POLICE. The couple married in November 1903. After a series of financial debacles and the accumulation of large amounts of debt, the couple were jailed briefly in 1912 for defaulting on their payments. Fotheringham continued to write, and in 1918 published her second collection of poetry, Selections from Anglo-Saxon Songs. In 1924 she moved to MAYO, Yukon where she edited and published a semi-weekly newsletter entitled the Mayo-Keno Bulletin. The newsletter was outspoken on issues such as the place of women in the workforce. It was, as a result, highly unpopular. In 1929 Fotheringham moved to Vancouver, leaving her husband behind in the Yukon. She died in a Vancouver rooming house on 24 March 1949.

Though she published little, Marie Joussaye Fotheringham is an important figure in Canadian literary history: she is considered Canada's first female working-class poet. Critics have compared Fotheringham's poetic style to that of Robert Burns, and some have argued that this was a deliberate attempt on her part to align with the populist tradition. This is particularly the case with "Only A Working Girl," in which Fotheringham lauds the working class and compares them to royalty in the eyes of God. Though the collection was considered ground-breaking at the time, some contemporary critics have panned The Songs That Quinte Sang for not explicitly calling for equality in the workforce. Instead, "Only A Working Girl" calls for women to be proud of the work they are doing.