Grace MacPherson defied the norm by being one of the first Canadian women to earn her driver’s licence.
She later battled misogynistic assumptions when she became an ambulance driver for soldiers in the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Hers was one of the stories told by Canadian author and historian Ted Barris during a visit to the Leaside branch of the public library on Feb. 13. Barris presented a colourful and exciting commentary about the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
Barris drew on the importance of the Canadian identity and the chemistry between citizens across the nation during this battle.
His goal is to help this generation have a deeper appreciation of the past so that they can better understand their future, he said.
“Young people have to get a sense of what happened there and then pick up the stories and retell them as if they were their own,” Barris said after his talk.
Creating a vivid timeline for his spectators to easily follow along, highlighting the stories of actual participants, including MacPherson, he brought the battle to life for young generations.
“If you experience something that’s as close as Lyman Nicholls, Andrew McNaughton or any of the characters I sketch out, if they’re real, if they’re tangible, if they have a face — a young person’s going to connect,” he said afterwards. “Anybody will.”
Natural Heritage Book representative Barry Penhale was happy to have Barris back at the library to speak about Vimy Ridge and his book Victory at Vimy.
“If it was possible to do so, I would have him come every week. I wouldn’t even bother with other guests, he’s so good,” Penhale said.
Kin Martin, who has been attending events at the library for over two years, with a different Canadian author each week, describes them as “truly fascinating, the best talks you’ve ever heard.”
Martin especially appreciated Barris’ talk about Vimy Ridge. Her father was a soldier in the First World War, joining the British Expeditionary Force .
Barris said he wants the public to understand the chemistry between each Canadian that took part in the battle. This “connection” between each individual at that time still resonates for Martin and is part of the reason why she appreciates these talks.
Writing this book was “an honour,” Barris said.
He said he wants everyone who reads his book to take away “a little piece of Canada and a reason to be proud of who they are.”
Barris’s new book, The Dam Busters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid Against Nazi Germany, is scheduled for release in September 2018. History buffs can expect an in-depth account of a raid inside Nazi Germany during the Second World War.