Rear-View Mirror

22 February 2012

Rear-View Mirror
by Eleanor Moline Sinclair
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by William Wardill
$19.95 ISBN 978-1-894431-64-4

Eleanor Moline Sinclair isn’t a social historian. Instead, she is a keen observer of history as she has lived it. In a memoir written for grandchildren who were living in Taiwan at the time, she identifies herself as the daughter of Swedish and German immigrants, the eighth in a family of ten children, student, nurse, farmer’s wife, and mother. Her slice of history begins with what she knows of her grandparents and continues with the stages of her own life to 2010, when, although more comfortable with a simpler lifestyle, she makes use of the products of technology’s headlong race.

Sinclair is not an academic making clinical conclusions. She has been, and still is, a participant. Her colloquial account is touched by love and tinged with longing. In the Epilogue, she writes ( for her grandchildren):

“Survival, rigour, grit and determination brought us to what and where we are today. Life has dictated that. But we won’t be going back …Grandpa Mac and I Grammy El, are 70 years old now, and hope that reading this story will provide you with knowledge and an understanding of your Scandinavian and German ancestors, the lives we have lived in North America – and an inkling of still all there is for you to learn.”

The parents of Sinclair’s father, Olaf and Anna Matson, came from Sweden to settle near Minneapolis in 1859, where, for unknown reasons, Olaf changed the family name to Moline. The parents of Sinclair’s mother, Frank Emele and Elizabeth (nee Bursinger) came from Germany to North Dakota in 1866.

The movement of immigrants from American to Canadian homesteads was a familiar pattern early in the past century, but most ethnic Germans came from the colonies transplanted in Russia rather than directly from Germany.

Life for Eleanor Moline on the farm near Canwood, Saskatchewan was scarcely easier than it had been for her parents. She recalls all the inconveniences of living on the farm.. She remembers with deep gratitude and love a mother who was never quite accepted by the Swedish community and who laboured ceaselessly in the house and garden and barn, selling or bartering milk, cream, and eggs to bring in a large portion of the family income

She remembers the austere atmosphere of nurses’ training in Holy Family Hospital in Prince Albert. She remembers her work in the health care system. She remembers the dairy farm near Fort Qu’Appelle, where she spent most of her married life. She remembers a life well-lived. A life filled with labours of love.

With this book, Eleanor Moline Sinclair has succeeded in the task of explaining the hybrid society that has been created in Saskatchewan.: a labour of love.


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