Shenstone, Susan (Burgess) 1927-
SHENSTONE, Susan (Burgess) 1927-
PERSONAL: Born April 15, 1927, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; daughter of Archibald Leith (a civil servant) and Dorothy Martha Edith (Fairweather) Burgess; married Michael Shenstone (a diplomat), September 8, 1951; children: Thomas Leith, Barbara Fairweather, Mary Shenstone Harris. Ethnicity: "Scot and Irish." Education: University of Toronto, B.A. (with honors), 1949; Sorbonne, University of Paris, certificate, 1950; George Washington University, M.A., 1969. Politics: "Canadian liberal." Religion: Church of England. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening, sailing, archaeology.
ADDRESSES: Home and offıce—10 Ellesmere Pl., Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1M 0N9. E-mail— [email protected]
CAREER: Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, news reporter, 1949-52; freelance writer, 1954—. Social Planning Council of Ottawa, coordinator of French-language services committee; Pan-Pacific Women's Organization, vice president, 1964-65.
MEMBER: Archaeological Institute of America, Foreign Service Community Association (president, 1978-80), Action Canada for Population and Development, Group of 78, Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, Smith's Cove Historical Society, Middle East Discussion Group of Ottawa, Ottawa Horticultural Society, Rockcliffe Park Conservation Association, Rockcliffe Park Residents Association (director of communications, 2000-01), Trinity College Alumni Association, Lisgar Collegiate Institute Alumni Association, Royal Western Nova Scotia Yacht Club.
So Obstinately Loyal: James Moody, 1744-1809, McGill-Queen's University Press (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 2000.
Contributor to periodicals, including Nova Scotia Historical Review.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Research on American and Canadian history, "especially where they overlap," the reasons for things happening and the personalities involved.
SIDELIGHTS: Susan Shenstone told CA: "I guess, like most writers, I write because I have things that I passionately feel need to be said. I started my adult life as a journalist. I like writing, and I am insatiably curious about people, what they do and why they do what they do. It was also one of the few professions at the time, just after World War II, that a woman could continue after she married. My first job in this field was as a news reporter on the Ottawa Citizen, one of two daily papers in Canada's capital. There were only two other woman reporters in the newsroom. I was in seventh heaven. Even the obits were exciting. It was my dream someday to write a column.
"As luck would have it, I married a man who made his career in our foreign service, which meant that I could not write the kind of political and social articles I wanted to. In our tiny Canadian posts, ludicrous as it may seem, my written opinions might have been considered as being official policy of the Canadian government. That would no longer be the case today, of course, though in countries like the Middle East (where we were posted) the situation is still delicate. In any case I was so fascinated by the countries we lived in and so busy with my young family that I hardly gave professional writing much thought, though I poured out my impressions in letters home.
"While still a student in Paris I had written several articles for the op-ed page of the Ottawa Citizen, and on postings home I would write the odd journalistic piece for this or that organization that I was interested in. In the back of my mind I was perhaps always searching for something I could get my teeth into. I found it when we went to Washington. It was a wonderful subject for me, a piece of investigative journalism about a character in the American Revolution. His name was James Moody, and I found him in the stacks of the Library of Congress when I was doing a graduate paper for my master's degree in English and American literature.
"Moody was a loyalist in the American Revolution; that is, on the losing side, born in New Jersey, settling after the war near our family cottage in Nova Scotia. He had written, in 1782, a little book about his war experiences. The title alone was irresistible: Lieutenant James Moody's Narrative of His Exertions and Sufferings in the Cause of Government since 1776.
"I was hooked. Who was this man? Why had he been so foolish as to choose the British side? Why had any of the loyalists, 80,000 of them, been so deluded as to choose such an obviously wrong cause to fight for? To give up this beautiful land of America and be part of this wonderful country where I was now living? To sacrifice their lives and everything they possessed—for an obdurate British king! And yet my very enlightened grandfather's grandfather had done this. There must have been some more substantial reason. And what happened to Moody after he arrived in Nova Scotia? I would find out, and write about it, at the very first opportunity.
"Fifteen years later that opportunity came. We were home, our children were in university, and I was able to begin my research. I wanted the true story, and I wanted the whole story. Providence, as George Washington would have said, came to my aid and found for me a direct ancestor who held a collection of hitherto unstudied family papers. Moody had not only been a daring hero in the Revolutionary War, he had been a builder of his new country, my country, Canada. I was launched. The experience was as exciting as I had hoped.
"Loyalist material is scattered in collections in the United States and Great Britain, France, and of course Canada, in different parts of the country. Finding it entailed acquiring a great deal of background knowledge and then developing a sleuthing imagination to uncover Moody's own activities. I was determined to invent not a single fact or piece of dialogue. At first this rigidity produced rather dry copy. Then I realized that I could make well-documented guesses if I was scrupulous in warning the reader that I was doing this. Then, remembering Winston Churchill's marvelous biography of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, one of the most fascinating and beautifully written biographies I have ever read, I relaxed further and allowed myself to voice some of my own comments on the incidents I was reporting. Finally, in April, 2000, So Obstinately Loyal: James Moody, 1744-1809 appeared in print.
"While I was working on the book I wrote articles concerning Moody, and I continue to write pieces on other subjects. I like biography, both to read and to write. There is so much untouched Canadian history that I would like to write about."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Historical Review, September, 2001, W. G. Godfrey, review of So Obstinately Loyal: James Moody, 1744-1809, p. 572.