Her Story

About the free-spirited woman who transformed a trapper into a conservationist.

Finding Her Own Way (1937-1959)

For a long time, the record of Anahareo's life ended when she parted with Grey Owl. It was not until 2012, with the publication of Kristin Gleeson's book Anahareo: A Wilderness Spirit, that the story of her life after Grey Owl was finally told. Some of that story is reproduced here.

Ancestry     • Her Early Years      • Anahareo & Grey Owl       • Finding Her Own Way     
• Her Later Years      • Anahareo Remembered

The years after Anahareo and Grey Owl parted ways were difficult for Anahareo. She was both a single mother and a First Nations woman in a country that was not only reeling from the Great Depression, but also a country where colonial attitudes still prevailed. Adding to the pressure was the birth of a second daughter, Ann (later spelled Anne), in June of 1937. Despite her best efforts, Anahareo was unable to find long-term work that could make use of her wilderness skills. During this time, Anahareo even contemplated suicide, but the sight of her helpless baby changed her mind and hardened her resolve to get back on her feet.

Through the mayor of Saskatoon, to whom she appealed for help, Anahareo was introduced to Wilna Moore, the daughter of a missionary. Wilna's first order of business was to arrange for Ann to stay in a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers -- without Anahareo. Anahareo duly found an apartment in Saskatoon and brought her elder daughter, Dawn, to live with her, but was unable to manage financially; Dawn soon returned to live with the Winters family. For her part, Ann was eventually privately adopted by a childless Calgary couple, Mary and William Eagle.

The uproar that erupted after Grey Owl's death -- when his English heritage was exposed -- further complicated matters for Anahareo. Their association cast suspicion on her own heritage and image, in particular given her strained financial situation. Though she was, herself, stunned by the revelation, Anahareo defended Grey Owl from the start, stating in her pragmatic way,

"No matter what people thought he was, he did give the world some wonderful writings. The fact that he was a white man and an Englishman made him all the more remarkable."

It was her friend, Betty Somervell, who finally convinced Anahareo that the best way to defend Grey Owl's legacy was to write a book. Although this new project did not immediately help with Anahareo's financial problems, it did give her a sense of purpose. However, because of restrictions placed upon her by her publishers, Anahareo didn't feel that this first book -- My Life with Grey Owl, published in 1940 -- truly allowed her to do him justice.

In the winter of 1939, on her way to visit some friends in Christopher Lake, Anahareo met Eric Moltke, a Swedish count. Theirs was a whirlwind courtship -- they married later that year -- and a passionate but tempestuous relationship. Eric was away at war when their daughter, Katherine, was born. When he returned, they had difficulty finding their way as a family: Eric struggled with nightmares, was unable to find work, and drank heavily. Anahareo took Katherine and left Eric several times, once even travelling as far as Mattawa to see her family for the first time in thirty years, but she returned each time he promised to reform. 

It was not until 1959, when Katherine left home for beauty school, that Anahareo left Eric for good -- but only after ensuring that he would be cared for by his ex-wife, Helga. The two remained on good terms until Eric's death in 1963.

For her part, in 1959, Anahareo moved to Dawson Creek to be with Dawn. 

NEXT: Her Later Years