Interview of Doris Saunders

DORIS SAUNDERS: A Profile
From Women Speak (PACSWC newsletter), Vol. 4, No. 1,  1986
Profile by Laura Jackson March
"As far back as I can remember, I've loved listening to stories."
 
This is Doris Martin Saunders, editor of the internationally-acclaimed, award-winning historical journal "Them Days". And it is through the pages of this quarterly — through eleven years of chronicling Labrador's history as told by the people who lived it — that Doris has come into her own.
 
Once a shy young mother of three from Cartwright, Doris has matured into a person who can address a conference-room full of people or be interviewed on national radio by Peter Growski.
 
Soon she travels to Ottawa to accept the prestigious Order of Canada. It is the latest of many honours.
 
"If I can do it, anyone can do it," she says of the many speeches and public appearances. "My stomach still gets tied up in knots and I still get butterflies."
 
In 1975, "Them Days" was born, as a collection of stories by oldtimers about their early memories of Labrador. Doris was hired for three months to pull the stories together into a magazine. Eleven years later, despite long periods when funds were so lean she'd lay herself off and keep working while she drew unemployment, the stories are still coming in.
 
And over those years, Doris spread her wings. She learned to drive and then bought herself a car. "Being able to drive does make a difference to your confidence — to the whole of you."
 
As her confidence grew, she began to write and give talks about her work. In 1981 she was the subject of an hour-long "Land and Sea" CBC television documentary. The same year she narrated a Newfoundland School Broadcast. She has published articles in "Canadian Women's Studies", "Decks Awash", "The Rounder" and "Atlantic Women's Magazine". She has delivered addresses to several distinguished groups, including the Atlantic Oral History Conference, the Heritage North Conference in Yellowknife, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women (CRIAW), and the Tenth Northern Libraries Colloquy. She is a member of numerous societies and associations. She has twice been interviewed on CBC radio's "Morningside." She's also become a respected craftsperson whose embroidery, woodcarvings and so on have been part of exhibitions touring the Atlantic provinces. The list goes on.
 
She has also received several appointments and awards: as first Labradorian juror for the Canada Council's explorations programme, member of the original Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, and recipient of both the Newfoundland Historical Society Award and the National History Award.
 
In the midst of all her work, how does she find time for household chores? A lot of that is shared with her family. For one thing, her husband and younger daughter do all the cooking.
 
"I can't even cook cup-a-soup! I tried to make one awhile ago and it was just like glue. My New Year's resolution one year was that I was going to cook at least one meal a month. I think I cooked three that year."
 
With all her success in recent years, she still remembers the time in 1974 when the parka she made for the author gave her for the first time the money to buy her husband a Christmas present without asking him for the money.
 
"I can't remember what I bought him — it was a tent or a sleeping bag — but I still remember the wonderful feeling of being able to do it myself:"
 
Doris has earned that sense of satisfaction many times over the past 11 years.
Laura Jackson
March, 1986