Lillian Alling: The Journey Home (Extraordinary Women (Caitlin Press))

Lillian Alling: The Journey Home (Extraordinary Women (Caitlin Press))

Susan Smith-Josephy

Language: English

Pages: 256

ISBN: 1894759540

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In 1926, Lillian Alling, a European immigrant, set out on a journey home from New York. She had little money and no transportation, but plenty of determination. In the three years that followed, Alling walked all the way to Dawson City, Yukon, crossing the North American continent on foot. She walked across the Canadian landscape, weathering the baking sun and freezing winter, crossed the rugged Rocky Mountains and hiked the untested wilderness of British Columbia and the Yukon. Finally, on a make-shift raft, she sailed alone down the Yukon River from Dawson City all the way to the Bering Sea.

Lillian Alling is a legend. She has been the subject of novels, plays, epic poems, an opera and more tall tales than can be remembered. Her life has been subjected to speculation, fiction and exaggeration. But as legendary as she may be, the true story of Lillian Alling has never been told. "The Mystery Woman," as she came to be known, is as intriguing to us now as she was to those she met on her trek. Lillian's name lives on in the folk tales of British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska, but her life leading up to her journey and what waited for her at home in Eastern Europe still remains a shadowy mystery.

Lillian Alling: The Journey Home is a collection of personal documents, first-hand recollections, family tales and archival research that provide tantalizing new clues to Lillian's story. Smith-Josephy places Lillian firmly in the context of history and among the cast of unique and colourful characters she met along her journey.


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with similar names in the Yukon and British Columbia. The Caribou Hotel, established in Carcross in 1898, is the oldest continually operated hotel in the Yukon; it is still open for business in the summer months. Edwin W. and Bessie G. Gideon took over the hotel in 1908; it burned to the ground a year later and they built a new one on the same site. It featured hot running water and real bathtubs. They acquired their hotel’s mascot, Polly (which happened to be a male parrot), in 1918 after its

Niagara Falls that she had been born in Poland. Some of the later confusion may have been due to the inability of Canadians to distinguish between a Polish and a Russian accent. However, this confusion also arose because from 1815 to 1919, Poland was divided between Prussia, Russia and Austria-Hungary, which resulted in Polish immigrants to Canada being categorized by early census takers as Russians, Germans or Austrians. Following the Congress of Vienna in 1815, most of Poland was partitioned

Wylie. North to the Rime-Ringed Sun. An Alaskan Journey. New York: Hillman-Curl Inc., 1937, page 61. (3) Ibid. (4) Angus, Colin. Beyond the Horizon. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2007. (5) Ibid., pages 65–66. (6) Eley, Thom. “Sergeant William Yanert, Cartographer from Hell.” In the Geographical Review, Vol. 92, 2002, page 1. (7) Hrdlicka, Ales, Alaska Diary 1926–1931. Lancaster, Pennsylvania: The Jaques Cattel Press, 1944, page 169. (8) Hrdlicka. Alaska Diary, page 177. (9) Ales Hrdlicka papers, Box

along and picked her up at the mouth of the river … If so, might she not have reached Siberia in the end? How we should like to know! The chances are we never shall.”4 The author most firmly planted in the camp of those who believed Lillian had drowned in Alaskan waters was J. Irving Reed, who wrote an article in 1942 entitled “Did She Reach Siberia?” In this article, published in Alaska Life magazine, he claims to have met Lillian in 1929 as she was pulling a cart along the highway just outside

about her in our local historical society’s newsletter. Her story seemed preposterous: there was no way a woman could have walked from New York to Siberia. So I did some idle research online and found a few websites. Read some library books. Found some mentions of her in anthologies of women adventurers and volumes about eccentrics. I started making photocopies of the articles I found and checked every reference in every article. Soon I had a two-foot-high stack of paper. I also kept a record of

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