Geraldine Moodie in the Arctic

Last summer I came across a stunning photograph of a beautiful young Inuk called Kootucktuck. When the picture was taken, Kootucktuck was a young mother expecting, I believe, her second child. She lived in Fullerton Harbour, Hudson Bay (now Qatiktalik, Nunavut) and happened to be deaf.


The picture was part of an exhibit at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary; it was taken in 1904 by Geraldine Fitzgibbon Moodie and was featured on a Canadian stamp in 2013. Born in 1854, Geraldine Moodie was one of Western Canada’s first professional woman photographers and she was one of the first women to engage in photography on an Arctic expedition. She realized the value of her work and took great care to copyright her work.

Moodie, pictured below, was also a diarist. In 1904-1905, she over-wintered at Qatiktalik, where her Scottish husband, John Douglas Moodie was stationed with the Royal North-West Mounted Police. Moodie also lived in Churchill, Manitoba (1906-1909), known for its polar bears, and Dawson City, Yukon (1912-1915), famously associated with the Gold Rush era.

Geraldine Moodie

Like so many westerners who went to the Arctic, Moodie didn’t seem an obvious candidate for such adventure. She was born and grew up in Toronto. Yet her family history is revealing. On her mother’s side, Geraldine Moodie was the granddaughter of memoirist and novelist Susanna Moodie who, in 1852, published the iconic settler narrative Roughing it in the Bush, pictured below.

Roughing It

At the Glenbow I was captivated by the image of Kootucktuck and the many others Moodie had produced. Interestingly, Moodie recorded the names of the Indigenous people she photographed, which hints at the kind of relationships she might have had with them. This was unusual for a westerner at the time; there are thousands of historical photographs of unnamed Inuit at Library and Archives Canada and other archives and museums.

Geraldine Fitzgibbon Moodie cannot be overlooked in the history of Arctic exploration, a field very much dominated by European and North American men like Captain Bob Bartlett. So this week I am in Calgary doing more research on Moodie at the Glenbow and the Calgary Public Library. I look forward to writing more about this fascinating woman in the future.


2 thoughts on “Geraldine Moodie in the Arctic

    • Hi Cora, The public exhibit is over but the Glenbow has extensive holdings in their archives that you can ask to see. Some of the Moodie materials are online as well. Thanks for reading!


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