Keepers' wives took on many of the duties of an assistant in addition to the housework and mothering they were already responsible for.

Larry Grafton remembers his mother helping out:
Oh yes, that was part of her job. She just had to fill in whenever she was needed. I think she did [wind the lights].

Norm Dawe remembers:
Dad was without an assistant a lot of [the] time and he had to sleep, so mother would keep an eye open…


Mother Grafton's 66th birthday.
14 June 1923
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Dawes with Joyce Godard's nieces and nephew.
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Courtesy of Joyce Godard.


Sometimes the challenges to family life that lighthouse work imposed and the expectations of keepers' wives became too much.

Norm Dawe remembers during World War II:
[One of] the first things they did was put in the Home Guard. There [were] fourteen of the old veterans, Veterans' Home Guard. They come out there, and guard the point (prior to other equipment?) yea, just the soldiers… (bunkhouses) later one.. (Where did the men stay when they came out?) it's really my sore point in my life. I think they were basically responsible for my mother's early death. So they were billeted in the house, so that would be on the unused portion of the duplex and mother was to cater them. A bunch of older guys can be pretty demanding and so forth and so on, bearing in mind where your food has to come from. Oh, there's compensation, you know what the Canadian government is too. We will just have the compensation speak for itself, doesn't it? They were demanding and they just tore her right down to nothing and she died. Forty-two years old. Then they moved. The Navy came in. They had their signalmen there. Originally they moved into the old chicken house.


Clara Dawe in the garden at Point Atkinson.
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Courtesy of Joyce Godard.


Jean Odlum remembers:
We would have workmen come out to stay for a while to do something specific. They would … bring sleeping bags and stay there [Don Graham (interviewer): part of your duties as light keeper's wife was to cook for them and everything?] That used to gripe me so much. I had a yelling match with the [Marine] office once. They phoned. There would be a crew of two and this was Christmas Eve. No way! And I ranted and raved, and I usually don't do that sort of thing, and Gordon came to the phone. 'Get off the phone,' and he took the phone away from me, and said, 'I will talk to you tomorrow about this," and hung up. And they didn't come, which was very wise of them, if you think about it.
The additional work keepers' wives contributed to the lighthouse system was deeply valuable but many felt they received little recognition outside their families for their efforts.


Living at a Lighthouse was a unique experience for the families of light keepers.