Dorothea Mitchell

Dorothea Mitchell

  • Date of birth: England, 1877
  • Date of death: Victoria, British Columbia, 1976
  • Accomplishments related to: community development; amateur film
  • Major affiliations: Silver Mountain Station, Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society

Born in England in 1877, Dorothea spent her younger years in Bombay, India being educated as a colonial elite. Her mother also encouraged participation in untraditional activities for young girls: carpentry, marksmanship and riding. With the death of her father in the 1890's, Dorothea became provider for her mother and a sister. Realizing the limited opportunity in England, Dorothea immigrated to Canada in 1904.

After settling in Toronto, Dorothea Mitchell left in 1909 to take a position as companion-help in Silver Mountain. She remained and served as station master at Silver Mountain Station and ran a sawmill, which earned her the nickname Lady Lumberjack. She became the first woman to be granted a Homestead, although it was only 79 acres rather than the usual 160 as she was not married.

Moving to Port Arthur in 1921, Dorothea worked as a teacher and as an accountant. A proficient photographer and ardent writer, she co-founded the first amateur film group in Canada: the Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society. The society produced the first Canadian feature-length film by non-professionals: "A Race for Ties" based on Dorothea's experience with a crooked lumber dealer.

In 1930, Mitchell became the first secretary-treasurer for the new Port Arthur General Hospital. She had taken over a real estate and accounting business in Port Arthur and was also involved in St. John's Anglican Church and the Imperial Order of Daughters of the Empire in Port Arthur.

In 1939, at the age of 63, Mitchell enlisted in the Red Cross Society and worked in the transportation corps and the office of Voluntary Registration of Canadian women at the onset of World War II. She continued working for the military, helping the dependents of servicemen as well as aiding British orphans until she retired to the West Coast in 1941.

In 1968, at the age of 91, Mitchell published a book of autobiographical short stories, entitled Lady Lumberjack. At the age of 99, Dorothea won an award from the Canadian Authors Association. Mitchell died in Victoria in 1976.

The Silver Mountain and Area Historical Society is working towards designating a portion of Highway 593 as the Dorothea Mitchell Memorial Highway.

Submitted by: Shelley Simon, Silver Mountain Station, Silver Mountain and Area Historical Society

The Fatal Flower poster

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