Grace Aitken McKinnon
Grace Aitken was from an affluent, middle-class background, whose life changed dramatically at the age of 12 when her parents were killed in a carriage collision in a London street.
She became the ward of her father's business partner and attended the North London Collegiate School in Camden, London, run by Miss Frances Buss, which provided her with a progressive education; unusual for late Victorian girls and with her home life so restrictive, Grace always wondered why the pious Herbert MacKinnon allowed it.
At seventeen, Grace's guardian convinced her that she owed him a debt of gratitude which could be expunged by marrying his son. Grace saw no other option for herself but to comply, although she developed a brotherly relationship with her husband, Frederick. Life in the MacKinnon home is stilted and unenlightened - newspapers are not for general consumption and local society restricted to church and tea with her in-law's like-minded acquaintances.
Frederick's delicate health prevented him challenging his father, and after six years of childless marriage – a fault placed squarely at Grace’s door, he contracted diphtheria and died. As his widow, her in-laws assumed she would take on the role of dependent housekeeper to her semi-invalid mother-in-law; a condition Grace suspects she has chosen, and Herbert MacKinnon's two spinster sisters, all of whom are critical of Grace's ‘wicked ways’, none of which were more outrageous than walking in Hampstead village without a maid, to reading a Women’s Suffrage pamphlet.
It is 1905, Grace is 23 and Frederick has been gone over a year when she finds a note from her husband amongst his things with a solicitor's letter detailing the inheritance from her parents which was kept in trust for her until her 21st Birthday. Beneath the guise of running an errand, Grace visits the solicitor’s office and it is there learns she is not a penniless, powerless widow after all. Grace's inner rebellion emerges and she formulates her escape by booking passage to Canada.