From her unpublished preface …

photo of Jeanne M. Wolfe
Jeanne M. Wolfe, C.M., Professor Emerita, McGill University, Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Planners, and Membre émerité of the Ordre des urbanistes du Québec.

The purpose of this book is to fulfill a long held ambition to bring together an account of utopian communities in Canada. I have been gathering stories about intentional communities since the late seventies, in much the same way that some people, such as my late husband, find postage stamps so entrancing. I first became a collector when, on sabbatical in San Diego, I read the then newly published book of Dolores Hayden’s titled Seven American Utopias. My interest was piqued, so soon I was eating up Hine’s California’s Utopian Colonies, Charles Pierce LeWarne’s Utopias on Puget Sound, and many other wonderful accounts. I was able to take my family on field trips to visit some of the settlements or their vestiges, and became more and more fascinated with the ideas behind their foundation.

It also gradually dawned on me that there was no compilation of the Canadian experiments of intentional communities, so I thus became determined to prepare a book to fill this gap. My socialization is in geography and urban planning. My only formal background in Canadian history is a frisky compulsory course that used to be given in the fifties by Professor Hartley Munroe Thomas to all foreign graduate students at the University of Western Ontario (Ed. note: Jeanne was born in England). Would that such regulations still existed. I sat between a physicist from Jamaica and a biochemist from Scotland, and we were fed a rich diet of what would likely be considered politically incorrect stories today. Between hearty gulps of something from a bottle — supposedly a live demonstration of the proclivities of John A. MacDonald — and three essays, we gained profound and lasting insights into the history of our adopted country.

We did learn something about group settlements in the west from the works of famous scholars. We were urged to look at the Canadian frontiers of settlement, a 1930s series of books authored by the likes of Lower, Innes, Morton, Mackintosh, and Dawson, more perhaps to learn the names and theoretical interpretations of these luminaries of the Canadian academy than the progress of collective colonization, but the seeds were sown. The stories of the early settlements of the Mennonites, Doukhobors, Hutterites and Mormons stayed indelibly in my mind.

Of course since those days, there has been a lot more research on utopian settlements in Canada, much of the most sophisticated directed towards the subsequent fortunes of the descendants of the great migrations already mentioned. For the many other kinds of utopia, the literature tends to treat them one by one. Notable exceptions are George Melnyk’s The Search for Community: From Utopia to Co-operative Society, Justine Brown’s All Possible Worlds: Utopian Experiments in British Columbia, Andrew Scott’s The Promise of Paradise also about BC, and Anthony Rasporich’s extensive work on the Western provinces. But for the most part, this account is stitched together from a great miscellany of sources, the seeking out of which has been great fun.