Between 1869 and 1948, Britain sent more than 100,000 “home children” to Canada to work as indentured farmers and domestics. They were promised a bright future in the land of opportunity, and some managed to make a good life but many were abused, neglected, and reviled by those who took them in. Although most still had families back home, reunification was discouraged.
One of those children was Winnie Cooper. Born in the slums of Scarborough, Yorkshire, in 1908, she was sent at age twelve to Barnardo’s Village Home for Girls near London. Three years later, Winnie was shipped off to a farm in rural Ontario. Nothing back in England had prepared her for working the rough land in Canada, but despite the long days, isolation, and bitterly cold winters, Winnie’s natural wit and cheery disposition helped her find love and friendship. Yet she always dreamed of returning to her mother in Yorkshire.
The story, told by her granddaughter, author Carol Marie Newall, is a family saga of love and loss, pain and joy, as Winnie struggled to find her place in a young inhospitable country. It’s also a revealing portrayal of a troubling chapter in Canadian and British history.
“Family conflict, tragedy, affairs, and mental health issues all make for a captivating read in Outside the Gate, the moving true story of a troubling time in Canadian history.”
Lori Oschefski, CEO of the British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association