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A frontier woman

In "the piece everyone's reading" on Sarah Palin and women, the irrepressible Camille Paglia reminds us of a British Canadian woman, a farmer and hero living in Ontario in the 19th century. Toronto's Globe and Mail reprinted the remarkable obituary from 1905:

Abigail Becker, born in Frontenac County, Upper Canada, on March 14, 1830

A tall, handsome woman "who feared God greatly and the living or dead not at all," she married a widower with six children and settled in a trapper's cabin on Long Point, Lake Erie. On Nov. 23, 1854, with her husband away, she single-handedly rescued the crew of the schooner Conductor of Buffalo, which had run aground in a storm. The crew had clung to the frozen rigging all night, not daring to enter the raging surf. In the early morning, she waded chin-high into the water (she could not swim) and helped seven men reach shore. She was awarded medals for heroism and received $350 collected by the people of Buffalo, plus a handwritten letter from Queen Victoria that was accompanied by £50, all of which went toward buying a farm. She lost her husband to a storm, raised 17 children alone and died at Walsingham Centre, Ont.

"The British make no distinction of sex when appointing commanders," observed the Roman historian Tacitus in the 1st century AD, and the rule has stood the Brits in good stead whenever they remembered it.

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