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The Remarkable World of Frances Barkley, 1769-1845
de Beth Hill
Frances Barkley was the first European woman to set foot on the west coast of Canada. She was just 17 when, in 1786, she left England to embark on an adventurous, round-the-world voyage that was to last eight years. Her husband, Captain Charles William Barkley, was a merchant trader, taking European goods on the long and dangerous trip to exotic ports in the Far East. He sailed his Imperial Eagle into the land of Chief Maquinna to trade with coastal natives and gain wealth transporting sea-otter skins across the Pacific Ocean from Vancouver Island to China. her husband in his business, meeting strange and foreign peoples, giving birth to her children, surviving the tragedy of their deaths, and, through it all, observing her astonishing situation with wisdom and wit. Barkley Sound, Imperial Eagle Channel, and several other place names on Vancouver Island are lasting memorials of the visits of this intrepid couple. The coastal ship Frances Barkley, which today carries freight and passengers across the waters first seen by Frances over 200 years ago, is also a tribute to a young woman of openness and courage.
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