Just over a year ago, Kimberly (Mann) Duarte contacted me about her great-aunt, Vida Mann Keyworth. She was looking for information about Vida’s brother, Earl, who had moved out to BC in the mid-twentieth century. Vida and her husband Dennis had moved out here in about 1975 to look after Earl, who was ill. We know a little more biography, but not much, nor was I able to find any publications other than the one we had listed when Kimberly found us: the short play “Riz Flowers,” published in the Acadia Anthenæum in 1937, the year Vida graduated from Acadia University with her BA. Anton Wagner, in The Brock Bibliography of Published Canadian Plays in English 1766-1978 (Toronto: Playwrights, 1980), notes that the play is “a dialect comedy about life on a black homestead in the Gaspé and Sarah’s efforts to win first prize for her hooked rugs at a local fair” (218). It is certainly an almost-nostalgic representation of the home of Vida’s youth. (A small point of interest: the play includes, among other peripheral characters, an “Elizabeth Hottot.” We can see on Ancestry.ca that Hottot was a not-uncommon name on the Gaspé where Vida Mann grew up; in fact, her brother Ernest Calvin Mann married Annabel Hottot in 1940.)
Here’s what we know about Vida’s life:
Very little is known about Vida Mann Keyworth. A descendant of United Empire Loyalists, Vida was born in Campbellton, NB, in 1905 to William Peter Mann (1862-1955) and Edith Chatterton (b. 1873), and was raised primarily in or near her father’s hometown of Port Daniel, QC. She appears to have graduated with a BA from Acadia University in 1937, and by 1949 was teaching in Montreal. Sometime before 1960, Vida married Dennis Richard Keyworth, who had one daughter, Florence, by a previous marriage. Vida and Dennis had a son, James, but little is known about him.
In 1937, the same year she earned her BA, Vida published a play, “Riz Flowers,” in the Acadia Athenaeum, but it is not certain what else she wrote. Her interest in literature, however, did not wane with her marriage. In 1960, at the age of 55, Vida earned her MA in English literature from the Université de Montréal with the thesis “The Regional Novels and Travel Books of Will R. Bird.”
In 1963, Vida and Dennis (who is registered as a “foreman” in 1963 and elsewhere as a “machinist”) were living in Longueuil, QC, just outside of Montreal. By 1972, the couple had settled in Bonaventure, Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC, near her childhood home of Port Daniel. Dennis retired between 1972 and 1974, and died in Matsqui, BC, in 1978. According to family records, after Dennis’s retirement Vida and Dennis had moved to British Columbia to care for Vida’s brother Earl, who died in Victoria, BC, in 1982. Vida died in 2000; the couple are buried together in Hopetown, QC.
When even her relatives haven’t been able to find more, I am fairly sure that the general public won’t have much to contribute, but if any of you do see the name Vida Mann Keyworth in your travels through Canadian literature, please do let us know. Meanwhile, here is the script of “Riz Flowers.”