In 1954, a quartet of young women set off across Canada in a Plymouth. Now, thanks to Library and Archives Canada, you can see the photos one of the group took, alongside excerpts from her diary of the trip. Fair warning—it will make you want to take off for wide open spaces in a borrowed car of boat-like dimensions.

Library and Archives Canada is posting the pics on Facebook and Flickr as August unspools. The background:

On July 31, 1954, freelance photographer Rosemary Gilliat and her girlfriends, Anna Brown, Audrey James and Helen Salkeld, packed up Helen’s Plymouth station wagon and began their 12,391-kilometre road trip across Canada.

Packed to the hilt with their tents, camping equipment and cooking utensils, they left Ottawa, Ontario, and headed west on the Trans-Canada Highway, bound for Vancouver, British Columbia. During the next 38 days, they crossed five provinces and four states, travelling through Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota, and returning to Ottawa on September 6.

Despite the growing popularity of campgrounds in the 1950s, these women preferred an untamed wilderness experience. On most nights, they pitched their tents in secluded areas off the highway.


All the while Gilliat snapped photographs and wrote about their adventures, which the LAC is uploading day by day until September 6. In one early entry she notes, “It seems unreal we have really set off across Canada. Helen said we would be going further than we would if the Atlantic were dry and we were motoring to England.” Another snippet reveals that not much has changed, except maybe you’ll feel bad about your campfire cookery skills: “Anna made a wonderful meal of stuffed peppers and we lay on a grassy bank in the sun and felt entirely peaceful and contented.”

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Click through for more photos. Not too late to schedule a getaway for Labor Day!


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.

Photos: Rosemary Gilliat. Rosemary Gilliat Eaton Fonds. Library and Archives Canada, e010973550, e010973542.