Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 4, Fall 2009, pp. 267-86


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


In May 1910 Mildred Williams, a young teacher in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, made headlines across Western Canada for her pluck and stamina as she waited for twelve days and nights on a chair on the stairs outside the door of the land office in Saskatoon to claim a homestead (see Fig. 1). She was determined to file on a half-section (320 acres) of valuable land near Kindersley. Williams put up with a great deal of inconvenience during her days and nights on the stairs. On the second day she was challenged by a man who wanted the same property and who tried to push her off her chair, but her numerous supporters rushed to her assistance and "came near throwing him down the stairs." Her vigil was worth the wait: she successfully filed on land that she estimated would be worth ten thousand dollars in three years.

On May 16 she emerged from the land office to hearty applause from her friends, and later that day took an auto drive about the city and was congratulated on all sides. Williams successfully "proved up" on the land, earning her patent, or outright ownership, in 1914. What was most remarkable about her achievement was that Williams was a single woman, and single women were not permitted to homestead under Canada's Dominion Lands Act.