The Very Real Housewives of 1867 (And Beyond) dives into history about women


Very Real Housewives of 1867 (And Beyond)
Super Way Cool Funzies Production
Saturday, March 3 at 8 p.m.
ATB Financial Arts Barns, PCL Theatre
10330 – 84 Ave.
Tickets: Call 780-420-1757 or online at


Barbara North made a name for herself across Canada as a stand-up comedienne and comedy writer for Royal Canadian Air Farce.

But in Very Real Housewives of 1867 (And Beyond), the former St. Albert resident has created a passion project that delves into more serious territory.

The Very Real Housewives, running for one night only on Saturday, March 3 at ATB Financial Arts Barns, is a riveting salute to many women that built our country, but whose stories were never told.

At this festive evening, North recounts a few anecdotes of incredible women she discovered through research. In addition, she also invites 10 speakers and storytellers to share narratives of women who inspired them.

Some of the storytellers include Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour, author Lorna Schultz Nicholson, novelist Gail Sidonie Sobat, actor Ellen Chorley and columnist Paula Simons.

Very Real Housewives was a project that started to percolate in North’s consciousness after graduating from university.

“I had two jobs. In the evening I was a stand-up comedian. And in my day job, I would gather stories about the first Ukrainian settlers. I came across one story of a woman who had given birth in the morning and was plowing a field in the afternoon. I was gobsmacked. How come I had never heard of these stories? From then it became my mission to tell stories of unheard women,” said North.

For the past two years, North has traipsed into libraries researching long-forgotten dusty papers and contacting historians across the country.

One individual who crossed North’s path was Mary Shadd Cary, the first black female editor in the 1800s, prior to the Suffragette movement.

“At the time, women didn’t have the vote and it was considered illegal to hold many different positions. And women were frowned on for writing,” said North.

“This is one of the hardest periods to get information about women. Writing was considered unfeminine and not correct. So women wrote diaries and burned them.”

In addition to discouraging women from writing professionally, Canada did not support a medical institution that taught female doctors. To compound the problem, Canadian laws did not recognize medical certificates women earned in the United States. A female doctor who treated patients was therefore operating illegally.

“But there were women doctors that took care of entire communities and the communities recognized them as doctors. One doctor I researched would deliver a baby and clean up the afterbirth so the mother could rest. How many doctors do that now?”

North hopes die-hard theatre-goers and people passionate about history will attend Very Real Housewives of 1867 (And Beyond).

“We can be inspired by our foremothers. Their stories give us confidence to go on despite the obstacles. Women were builders and continue to be architects, lawyers, undercover police and farmers. They are inspiration for any of us.”


About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.