Painted Fires, first published in 1925, narrates the trials and tribulations of Helmi Milander, a Finnish immigrant, during the years approaching the First World War. The novel serves as a vehicle for McClung’s social activism, especially in terms of temperance, woman suffrage, and immigration policies that favour cultural assimilation. In her afterword, Cecily Devereux situates Painted Fires in the context of McClung’s feminist fiction and her interest in contemporary questions of immigration and “naturalization.” She also considers how McClung’s representation of Helmi Milander’s story draws on popular culture narratives.
About the authors
Nellie L. McClung (1873–1951) was the author of four novels and several volumes of short stories and non-fiction. McClung was one of five women responsible for the 1929 Persons Case that established women as “persons” according to Canadian law.
Cecily Devereux is a professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. Her publications include Growing a Race: Nellie L. McClung and the Fiction of Eugenic Feminism (2005).