June 17, 2019

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A new way to look at the strike

Melinda McCracken’s interest in the histories of everyday people’s lives on in her new book about the Winnipeg General Strike. Melinda wrote Papergirl in the early 1980s, but died in 2002 before it was published. On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the strike, her daughter Molly recovered the manuscript from the archives and approached a local publisher. “I remember her talking about it, but I had never actually read it,” said Molly, who lives in Wolseley and was a child when Melinda wrote the book. “In the file there were letters from publishers, so she had tried to get it published. My mother was really good at creating content, but she didn’t always want to change things based on the feedback.” During her career, Melinda was an author, journalist, poet and filmmaker and wrote for the Winnipeg Free Press, Globe and Mail, Rolling Stone and elsewhere. Papergirl follows the experiences of 10-year-old Cassie Hopkins in Winnipeg during the strike. After nearly 30,000 labourers walk off the job in May 1919, the young working-class protagonist gets involved distributing the strike bulletin. “She learns a lot about class and inequalities while standing at Portage and Main selling newspapers,” Molly said. Cassie’s story also shines a light on the important, but often unseen, role women played in the strike. Real-life activist Helen Armstrong, who organized women workers and the strikers’ kitchen, is also a featured character in the book. “Women’s stories aren’t always told in history because women are doing a lot of the background work of feeding people, taking care of the house, clothing, washing and all of this,” Molly said. “A lot of the pictures we see of the strike, there’s more men than women, but women were around and they were doing the social reproduction for the men in the pictures.” Between historic moments like Bloody Saturday, Papergirl is imbued with details of what day-to-day life was like in the early 20th century — details Molly had a soft spot for growing up. “My grandmother was a great storyteller about what it was like when the horse truck came with ice for the icebox or when the milk cart came and what people ate back then,” she said. The book is published by Fernwood Publishing and edited by Penelope Jackson, who specializes in youth fiction and helped Papergirl better fit that genre. A teacher’s guide has been released with the book and Molly hopes it strikes a chord with today’s youth. While Melinda might not have been a big fan of the editing process, Molly believes her mother would be pleased that Cassie’s story is out in the world. “I think she’d be happy to see this book out there… I had a dream about her the other day that she was wishing me well in this,” she said. Molly, who works for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, describes her mother as a “very creative person” with an interest in social justice, feminism and history. “I do research and commentary on social justice issues in my work, so I’m definitely my mother’s daughter in that way,” she said. Papergirl is available for purchase at fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/papergirl and at McNally Robinson Booksellers, 1120 Grant Ave.

Melinda McCracken’s interest in the histories of everyday people lives on in her new book about the Winnipeg General Strike.

Melinda wrote Papergirl in the early 1980s, but died in 2002 before it was published. On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the strike, her daughter Molly recovered the manuscript from the archives and approached a local publisher.

“I remember her talking about it, but I had never actually read it,” said Molly, who lives in Wolseley and was a child when Melinda wrote the book. “In the file there were letters from publishers, so she had tried to get it published. My mother was really good at creating content, but she didn’t always want to change things based on the feedback.”

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Melinda McCracken’s interest in the histories of everyday people’s lives on in her new book about the Winnipeg General Strike. 
Melinda wrote Papergirl in the early 1980s, but died in 2002 before it was published. On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the strike, her daughter Molly recovered the manuscript from the archives and approached a local publisher. 
"I remember her talking about it, but I had never actually read it," said Molly, who lives in Wolseley and was a child when Melinda wrote the book. "In the file there were letters from publishers, so she had tried to get it published. My mother was really good at creating content, but she didn’t always want to change things based on the feedback."
During her career, Melinda was an author, journalist, poet and filmmaker and wrote for the Winnipeg Free Press, Globe and Mail, Rolling Stone and elsewhere. 
Papergirl follows the experiences of 10-year-old Cassie Hopkins in Winnipeg during the strike. After nearly 30,000 labourers walk off the job in May 1919, the young working-class protagonist gets involved distributing the strike bulletin.
"She learns a lot about class and inequalities while standing at Portage and Main selling newspapers," Molly said. 
Cassie’s story also shines a light on the important, but often unseen, role women played in the strike. Real-life activist Helen Armstrong, who organized women workers and the strikers’ kitchen, is also a featured character in the book. 
"Women’s stories aren’t always told in history because women are doing a lot of the background work of feeding people, taking care of the house, clothing, washing and all of this," Molly said. "A lot of the pictures we see of the strike, there’s more men than women, but women were around and they were doing the social reproduction for the men in the pictures."
Between historic moments like Bloody Saturday, Papergirl is imbued with details of what day-to-day life was like in the early 20th century — details Molly had a soft spot for growing up. 
"My grandmother was a great storyteller about what it was like when the horse truck came with ice for the icebox or when the milk cart came and what people ate back then," she said. 
The book is published by Fernwood Publishing and edited by Penelope Jackson, who specializes in youth fiction and helped Papergirl better fit that genre. 
A teacher’s guide has been released with the book and Molly hopes it strikes a chord with today’s youth. 
While Melinda might not have been a big fan of the editing process, Molly believes her mother would be pleased that Cassie’s story is out in the world. 
"I think she’d be happy to see this book out there… I had a dream about her the other day that she was wishing me well in this," she said. 
Molly, who works for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, describes her mother as a "very creative person" with an interest in social justice, feminism and history.
"I do research and commentary on social justice issues in my work, so I’m definitely my mother’s daughter in that way," she said. 
Papergirl is available for purchase at fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/papergirl and at McNally Robinson Booksellers, 1120 Grant Ave.

Melinda McCracken’s interest in the histories of everyday people lives on in her new book about the Winnipeg General Strike. 

Melinda McCracken’s daughter Molly helped get her manuscript published in time for the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike.

PHOTO BY EVA WASNEY

Melinda McCracken’s daughter Molly helped get her manuscript published in time for the 100th anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike.

Melinda wrote Papergirl in the early 1980s, but died in 2002 before it was published. On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the strike, her daughter Molly recovered the manuscript from the archives and approached a local publisher. 

"I remember her talking about it, but I had never actually read it," said Molly, who lives in Wolseley and was a child when Melinda wrote the book. "In the file there were letters from publishers, so she had tried to get it published. My mother was really good at creating content, but she didn’t always want to change things based on the feedback."

During her career, Melinda was an author, journalist, poet and filmmaker and wrote for the Winnipeg Free Press, Globe and Mail, Rolling Stone and elsewhere. 

Papergirl follows the experiences of 10-year-old Cassie Hopkins in Winnipeg during the strike. After nearly 30,000 labourers walk off the job in May 1919, the young working-class protagonist gets involved distributing the strike bulletin.

"She learns a lot about class and inequalities while standing at Portage and Main selling newspapers," Molly said. 

Cassie’s story also shines a light on the important, but often unseen, role women played in the strike. Real-life activist Helen Armstrong, who organized women workers and the strikers’ kitchen, is also a featured character in the book. 

"Women’s stories aren’t always told in history because women are doing a lot of the background work of feeding people, taking care of the house, clothing, washing and all of this," Molly said. "A lot of the pictures we see of the strike, there’s more men than women, but women were around and they were doing the social reproduction for the men in the pictures."

Melinda McCracken was a Winnipeg author, journalist, poet and filmmaker who died in 2002.

SUPPLIED IMAGE

Melinda McCracken was a Winnipeg author, journalist, poet and filmmaker who died in 2002.

Between historic moments like Bloody Saturday, Papergirl is imbued with details of what day-to-day life was like in the early 20th century — details Molly had a soft spot for growing up. 

"My grandmother was a great storyteller about what it was like when the horse truck came with ice for the icebox or when the milk cart came and what people ate back then," she said. 

The book is published by Fernwood Publishing and edited by Penelope Jackson, who specializes in youth fiction and helped Papergirl better fit that genre. 

A teacher’s guide has been released with the book and Molly hopes it strikes a chord with today’s youth. 

While Melinda might not have been a big fan of the editing process, Molly believes her mother would be pleased that Cassie’s story is out in the world. 

"I think she’d be happy to see this book out there… I had a dream about her the other day that she was wishing me well in this," she said. 

Molly, who works for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, describes her mother as a "very creative person" with an interest in social justice, feminism and history.

"I do research and commentary on social justice issues in my work, so I’m definitely my mother’s daughter in that way," she said. 

Papergirl is available for purchase at fernwoodpublishing.ca/book/papergirl and at McNally Robinson Booksellers, 1120 Grant Ave.

The cover of Papergirl, written by Melinda McCracken and edited by Penelope Jackson.

SUPPLIED IMAGE

The cover of Papergirl, written by Melinda McCracken and edited by Penelope Jackson.

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

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