Today’s post explores the social atmosphere surrounding Confederation by examining some excerpts of the diary of Mercy Anne Coles. Coles may not have had a direct influence on Confederation but as a young woman she accompanied her father, the first Premier of Prince Edward Island (PEI), to social events and documented her experiences in detail.
In her upcoming book Miss Confederation: The Diary of Mercy Ann Coles, Anne McDonald argues that “without [Coles’] diary, ‘Confederation history is incomplete.’” Her diary demonstrates that behind-the-scenes political networking was critical, which the record of official conference meetings in Charlottetown and Quebec did not include.
As many business professionals will attest, social networking outside the office can offer opportunities such as getting a job, a mentor, or increased clientele. As law students, we are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities such as rounds of golf or dinner engagements to build and strengthen relationships with future employers, colleagues, and clients. The old adage, “deals are made on the golf course” has some truth to it.
As the daughter of a prominent politician, Coles interacted with the high powered drivers of Confederation. These included Sir John A. Macdonald, who may have flirted with her; George Brown, who described her as attractive and intelligent; and Dr. Charles Tupper, who treated her in his capacity as a physician.
Some attendees used pre-Confederation social events as an opportunity to introduce their unmarried daughters to potential suitors. Despite being quite popular among gentlemen at various dance balls and dinners, the young Ms. Coles’ social interactions might have been politically motivated, rather than romantically. On one hand, she had many dance partners and men seemed to take kindly to her. On the other hand, as PEI journalist and politician Edward Whelan wrote:
[Politicians] are cunning fellows; and there’s no doubt that it is all done for a political purpose; they know if they can dance themselves into the affections of the wives and daughters of the country, the men will certainly become an easy conquest.
Coles’ father needed a great deal of persuasion to buy into the idea of Confederation. As Premier of PEI, his agenda did not align well with that of the larger provinces. Although her father and her family were well recognized, the parties did not serve the anticipated matchmaking function.
Though history tends to be written by men and about men, the preservation of Mercy Coles’ diary demonstrates how women played an important role in recording history and indirectly influencing political moments, even before they had the right to vote.
 Christa Z Thomas, “Stepping Out”, Women of Confederation (17 November 2014), online: The Women of Confederation <women-of-confederation.ca/tag/mercy-ann-coles>.
 Gillian Goerz, “Mercy Anne Coles”, Historica Canada (2015), online: The Canadian Encyclopedia <www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/mercy-anne-coles/>.
 RG, “Why Golfers Get Ahead,” The Economist (21 November 2011), online: <www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2011/11/golf-and-business>.
 Goerz, supra note 2; Thomas, supra note 1.
 Goerz, supra note 2.
 Goerz, ibid; Thomas, supra note 1.
 Goerz, ibid.