A life on the edge

Ione Christensen, Yukon writer, mother, pioneer and politician, is writing an autobiography spanning three generations.

The daughter of RCMP corporal G. I. Cameron and lay nurse Martha, Ione was raised in Fort Selkirk, a once quiet riverside community transformed each summer into a bustling paddlewheel stop where the Pelly and Yukon rivers meet.

Ione credits her teachers in Selkirk’s one-room elementary school, on Vancouver Island and in Whitehorse for helping her overcome dyslexia, a learning disability unknown at the time, to become an avid reader.

She went on to earn a business administration diploma in California, and returned to work in the Yukon, where she met and married Art Christensen.

As a life-long active Liberal, Ione achieved many firsts in Yukon politics: the first woman elected mayor of Whitehorse; the Yukon’s first female justice of the peace and later a Juvenile Court judge; the first woman appointed Commissioner and Yukon’s first female Senator.

She took a few moments to talk to What’s Up about the process of capturing the elements of her life into one story.

JS: The working title of your biography is Life on the Edge. How did you pick that?

IC: I started thinking seriously about writing the biography in 2001. The title just seemed to fit what my life was and had been.

I have lived my life on the edge of Canada, the edge of civilization, and the edge of adulthood as I grew up, there being no other children most of the time.

[As an adult] I have done many things which would be called working on the edge for women. But leadership sets you apart, so I have always felt I was living on the edge of the circle looking in.

JS: How far into the book are you? Is there a publisher?

IC: I have 350 pages and photos for every chapter, which are grouped into periods of time with subsections breaking down the events within each chapter.

I do not know at this stage if I will ever take it to publication. It may just be a document for the family or other researchers to use in the future.

JS: How have you structured the stories of three generations?

IC: I’ve used my “voice” throughout the book, which is in chronological order. There’s brief reference to the lineage of my parents and grandparents on both sides, but it is the journey which brings them to the Yukon where I place the most emphasis, until my story starts on October 10, 1933.

In the first draft I’m just dumping it all in there. The editing would be to clarify the subject, for example, word structure, grammar and spelling, to make it more interesting.

JS: What makes for a good biography?

IC: I’m still working on that one!

I would say a historical look at life as it once was, well-told by a good story-teller. I know I am a good short story writer, we’ll see if that translates into something much longer.

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