Kathleen C.S. Rice
Awards and Recognition
- Wekusko Lake officially recognized as Rice Island, 1946
- Inducted to the Canadian Mining Hall of Fame, 2013
Words of Wisdom
“If women could understand the thrills of prospecting there would be lots of them doing it… No woman need hesitate about entering the mining field because she is a woman – it isn’t courage that is needed so much as perseverance.”
Kathleen Creighton Starr Rice was born in 1882 to Henry Lincoln Rice and Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Carter Rice, in an upper middle-cass family in St. Mary’s, Ontario. Henry taught his daughter to canoe and camp along the St. Mary’s River, which sparked her life-long interests in adventure and the outdoors.
She attended the University of Toronto, winning the Edward Blake scholarship twice. She graduated in 1906 with a bachelor of arts in mathematics. In 1908, she moved to Alberta to teach summer school. She then moved on to become a Professor of Mathematics at Albert College in Belleville, Ontario, and then taught in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. From there, she began to explore the Rocky Mountains and later joined the Alpine Club of Canada. At 29 years old, she decided to participate in the opening of Canada’s “new frontier” in the North. Because she was not considered a legal person at the time (women became recognized as people in 1929) and could therefore not own property or hold legal title to a homestead, she enlisted her brother’s help. He therefore bought land, in his name, in The Pas, Manitoba. She began to farm in 1913.
Not long after moving to The Pas, gold had been discovered on Beaver Lake, about 90 km further north. Kathleen started to study prospecting and geology. She befriended local Cree people and learned their language, as well as hunting and trapping. She was known as ‘Mooniasquao’ (‘white woman’). In 1914, she borrowed moeny from an old friend and hired a Cree guide to take her to Beaver Lake by dogsled. She continued on to Brochet by canoe to start prospecting. There, she discovered zinc showings at Reindeer Lake but didn’t stake the claim; she felt the lack of railway access to the area would make it difficult to develop. In 1915, she took her own dogsled team to explore Beaver Lake and staked her first claims.
In 1916, she entered into a partnership with Richard ‘Dick’ Woosey, a veteran of the British 18th Royal Hussars Regiment. They built a remote cabin together and worked as a team until his death in 1940. In 1917, Kathleen staked more claims at Herb Lake, and had them surveyed, proved and assessed. For the following decades, she prospected the Wekusko Lake, Herb Lake, Snow Lake, Burntwood and Flin Flon. Her breakthrough discovery came after she staked 16 claims on Rice Island in the Wekusko Lake area in 1920 and 1922. She then formed the Rice Island Nickel Company in 1928.
In 1928, she visited Toronto. She gained media attention as the ‘most picturesque feminine visitor’ who was making a name for herself in the notoriously rugged world of northern prospecting. Toronto and Australian newspapers would report on her exploits.
She was once offered $500,000 for one of her claims, but decided to hold off for a better deal. That never mateiralized and she eventually sold it to INCO for $20,000. Today, INCO is known as Vale, and they still hold the mining lease. Her discoveries ultimately lead to the development of the Thompson mining hub.
From 1940 onwards, she lived in isolation on Wekusko Lake, writing, gardening, fishing, trapping and prospecting. In 1962, fearing for her own sanity due to the isolation, she moved to a nursing home in Minnedosa, Manitoba where she died the following year. She was buried in an unmarked grave. In 2009, the Snow Lake newspaper spearheaded a fundraising campaign to erect a gravestone at her burial site.
- 2014 Inductee – Kathleen C.S. Rice. (n.d.). Retrieved from Canadian Mining Hall of Fame: https://www.mininghalloffame.ca/kathleen-cs-rice#:~:text=In%20the%20early%201920s%2C%20she,metal%20type%20to%20the%20West.
- Canadian Mining Journal. (2013, October 28). Retrieved from Canadian Mining Hall of Fame to honour mining legends: https://www.canadianminingjournal.com/news/canadian-mining-hall-of-fame-to-honour-mining-legends/
- Fratus, M. (2020, October 23). The Trailblazer who Pioneered Prospecting in the Canadian Wilderness. Retrieved from Free Range American: https://freerangeamerican.us/kate-rice/
- Thompson Citizen. (2013, October 30). Retrieved from Kate Rice: Still Making History: https://www.thompsoncitizen.net/opinion/kate-rice-still-making-history-4276918