Men weren’t the only ones wearing the trousers in the North Country— woodswomen hunted and camped in the forest just as well, something that history books and popular Adirondack literature seem to leave out.
The story of the North Country has historically been one of a male-dominated landscape. However, women were business owners, lumber camp cooks, and could hunt and trap with the best of them. I never would have discovered any of this if I hadn’t become an English major.
My sophomore year at St. Lawrence University in 2020, I felt the pressure of choosing my future, fearing that I would choose wrong. Loving to read and write was apparently not enough of a reason to major in English. To many people in my life, I would effectively be sentencing myself to a limited future of academia and shelving library books.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything about my future was up in the air. St. Lawrence gave me a way to look beyond my uncertainties and, through the LINC Program, connected me with David Oldow ’87, who helped me change the direction of my life. Laurentians Investing in Networking and Careers, or LINC, is a program that was started in 2013, supported by a gift from Michael Arpey ’85. The program’s goal is to give sophomore and junior students an opportunity to build a professional network, set career-oriented goals, and develop a professional relationship with a mentor associated with the University.
Through the LINC Program, Dave helped me research careers and connected me with English majors who were far into their careers to build my professional network. I connected with alumni through the Laurentian Connection portal, which facilitates the LINC program network. On top of helping me plan my career and collegiate goals, Dave had an important life lesson to teach me.
“Being excellent at something, no matter what it is, is a great pathway to living and working and having fun in your life,” Dave said when we caught up over Zoom, two years after the start of our mentorship experience. “If…you are aligned to what you like, the better off you’ll be.”
Being excellent at something, no matter what it is, is a great pathway to living and working and having fun in your life."
–David Oldow ’87
For me, that alignment was with English. Dave helped me find the courage to unapologetically pursue my passion for reading and writing, so I decided to major in English. “Do what you’re good at,” he told me.
Now I am working on an honors project in creative fiction to write women back into Adirondack history. I spent my summer researching, and reading diaries and correspondence from the 1900s. Through the LINC Program and Dave’s guidance, as well as the English Department at St. Lawrence, I’ve learned that what I write matters to the world.
If I hadn’t majored in English, I never would have written about 1880s poet Jeanne Robert Foster, who guided tourists up Crane Mountain at the age of ten. I never would have written about Canton local Mabel Wait, who, in 1901, bought out and ran her family’s farm by herself.
As an English major, I’ve been trained to look for gaps in literature like the women missing from Adirondack history. I’ve also learned how to fill those gaps in ways that will make a difference in confirming the important influence women had throughout Adirondack history.
I believe the importance of this research is as important as research in the ecology of the region—perhaps more. Words and stories shape the way people perceive their reality, and English majors have the power to influence the way we understand the world around us, past, present, and future. For this reason, it is clear that English majors wear the trousers.