Goudie, Elizabeth

Pioneer, trapper’s wife and diarist born in Mud Lake (Nunatsiavut, Labrador) in 1902 – died in Happy Valley-Goose Bay (Nunatsiavut, Labrador) in 1982.

Elizabeth Goudie, born as Elizabeth Blake, was born of mixed ancestry, Inuit, French and English, in 1902, at the turn of the century, in Mud Lake, a small settlement in central Labrador, on the shore of the river now known as Churchill. Her mother was Sarah Michelin and her father was Joseph Blake. She was a great niece of Lydia Campbell, a well-loved, 19th century Labradorian diarist, first Inuit writer from Nunatsiavut, known as “Aunt Lydia” who wrote an autobiography, Sketches of Labrador Life (1894), and whose daughter, Margaret Baikie, had memoirs published as Labrador Memories: Reflections at Mulligan (1976). Elizabeth Blake had four years of formal schooling, and read the Bible daily as a child. She married Jim Goudie, a trapper, in 1920, becoming Elizabeth Goudie at eighteen years of age. Her husband’s French descendants were trading post merchants in Québec City, Québec. For 40 years, Elizabeth Goudie raised her family of eight children, a good deal of the time on her own, as her husband would spend sometimes more than half of the year away working the trap lines. She was a cook, hunter, shoemaker, seamstress and even doctor for her children and went through difficult, yet dramatic moments, such as the death of her son Bruce as a small child. The Goudie family lived off the land and as a necessity had to be self-sufficient in all aspects. Elizabeth Goudie’s son, Denzil Joseph (Joe) Goudie, who was born in 1939, had a career as a CBC broadcaster, municipal town manager in Happy Valley and provincial politician in the 1970s and 1980s.

It was at the age of sixty, with the encouragement of her nephew, Hector Blake, that Elizabeth Goudie wrote her memoirs, with a desire to record the social changes she had witnessed and provide a personal perspective for her grandchildren. She finished her writing in June 1971 and soon after, an anthropologist from Memorial University in St John’s, Newfoundland, David Zimmerly, offered to assist with the editing of her manuscript for publication. He wrote an introduction and sought a publishing house for the book. In 1973, Woman of Labrador was published by Peter Martin Associates in Ottawa, Ontario. Literary reviews have continually praised those first recorded memoirs describing the lives of a Labrador trapping family and their survival, amid the industrialization in Labrador, most significantly, the construction of an international airport in Happy Valley-Goose Bay during the Second World War and the province’s transformations associated with becoming Canada's 10th province in 1949. Woman of Labrador was reprinted in 1974, 1975 and 1979. Such was the book’s popularity that Agincourt Publishing launches another edition of the book in 1983, and, in 1996, Nimbus Publishing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, published a new edition, then reprinting in 2000, 2008 and 2014. Woman of Labrador was quickly published in extracts in several local textbooks and anthologies. As a proof of Elizabeth Goudie’s meaningful position in the local cultural landscape, Them Days, the oral history magazine of Labrador, published two articles in 1977, one a letter written by Elizabeth Goudie to her Aunt on February 2, 1968 entitled “Elizabeth Goudie: Lester’s Point News (1968)” and “I know her as Betsy”, a reminiscence by her family.

The role played by Elizabeth Goudie in the rediscovery of Lydia Campbell’s literary work, Sketches of Labrador Life, must not be overlooked: Elizabeth Goudie inherited this work and allowed Them Days to copy the writings and publish them in 1980.

In 1975, Elizabeth Goudie also donated to Them Days archives several important documents, among which a short-story authored by her under the title “Aunt Annie Blake” (1975), which might have been reedited under the title “Aunt Annie and Uncle Bert” in East of Canada. An Atlantic Anthology (1976). In 1982, Elizabeth Goudie donated Woman of Labrador’s original manuscript as well as a copy of David Zimmerly’s typescript to the library of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

In 1975, Elizabeth Goudie was awarded a honorary doctorate from this university, in acknowledgement of her contribution to the cultural history of Labrador and Newfoundland. In 1980, the building housing the provincial government in Happy Valley-Goose Bay was named in her honour. Elizabeth Goudie’s life story and those of her children, notably politician Joe and trapper Horace, are the subject of a National Film Board of Canada production entitled: A Family of Labrador (1978). Elizabeth Goudie’s memoirs inspired Andy Vine, a Newfoundland singer-writer to record the song Woman of Labrador in 2005 and Sherry Smith, a Canadian actress and playwright, to pen the one-woman show Woman of Labrador: The Elizabeth Goudie Story, which has been performed throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Ontario in the 2000’s.

Elizabeth Goudie’s memoir is a unique women’s perspective on Labrador life in the 20th century and she will always be remembered as an important cultural historian beyond her death in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in 1982.

This biography is based on the available written material during a collective research carried out during 2018-2021. It is possible that mistakes and facts need to be corrected. If you notice an error, or if you wish to correct something in an author's biography, please write to us at imaginairedunord@uqam.ca and we will be happy to do so. This is how we will be able to have more precise presentations, and to better promote Inuit culture.

(c) International Laboratory for Research on Images of the North, Winter and the Arctic, Université du Québec à Montréal, 2018-2021, Daniel Chartier and al.