Mrs. Mike

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Mrs. Mike, the Story of Katherine Mary Flannigan is a novel by Benedict and Nancy Mars Freedman set in the Canadian wilderness in the early 1900s. Considered by some a young adult classic, Mrs. Mike was initially serialized in the Atlantic Monthly[1] and was the March 1947 selection of the Literary Guild.[1] It was a critical and popular success, with 27 non-US editions.[2] The work combines the landscape and hardships of the Great Canadian North with a love story between Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Mike Flannigan and a young Katherine Mary O'Fallon, newly arrived from Boston, Massachusetts.

The book was based on the stories of Bostonian Katherine Mary O'Fallon Flannigan (1899-1954).[3][4][5] According to novel's fictionalized account, in 1907 and at the age 16 O'Fallon travelled to Calgary, Alberta, to visit an uncle and recover from pleurisy. There she met and married Mike Flannigan, a sergeant with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and moved with him to isolated posts in the mountain and lake regions of British Columbia and northern Alberta (Lesser Slave Lake).[2] In the novel the Flannigans' two children die of diphtheria, and the book ends with the couple adopting three orphaned children.[6]

Feeling that her story should be made into a movie, she went to Los Angeles in 1945 but received little interest.[6] However, an agent felt it might be adapted into a book and introduced her to Benedict and Nancy Freedman. Based on a five-page outline, extended interviews and their own research, they wrote a novel based on Flannigan's story.[6][7] Late in life, the Freedmans reaffirmed that the book was a novel and that aspects of Flannigan's life in the book had been invented, including the adoption of three children.[6] They stated that following Sgt. Flannigan's death in 1944 from a ruptured appendix, Katherine Mary Flannigan had left the North.[6][8] Benedict Freedman stated that "the most important scenes—for example, when she leaves Mike and goes back to Boston—we didn't invent that. But we also didn't check her account of things."[6]

A 1947 review of the book by RCMP member C.D. LaNauze − who was stationed in Grouard at the time depicted in the novel − noted numerous discrepancies in the novel: a journey that required "weeks on the trail" in the novel was actually a "easy five day journey" according to LaNauze; there was no diphtheria epidemic and in fact Grouard was served by a doctor at the time; and confirmed bachelor George Adams, not a Michael Flannigan, was the RCMP sergeant.[1] LaNauze stated that "nothing in [the book] even approaches the truth".[1]

A movie version, starring Evelyn Keyes as Katherine Mary and Dick Powell as Mike, was released in 1949.[9] Flannigan sued the movie producers and authors for $25,000; the suit was dismissed because she had a legal claim only against the authors, not the producers.[10]

The Freedmans published two sequels to the Mrs. Mike novel, "The Search for Joyful" in 2002 and "Kathy Little Bird" in 2003.[11]

The real Katherine Mary Flannigan married John P. Knox, and lived in Vancouver.[3] In 1951, she published a book of her own, The Faith of Mrs. Kelleen, which was set in 1880s Ireland and was based on the story of her great-aunt.[12] She died on August 8, 1954, while visiting family and friends in Calgary.[3]

Publication history[edit]

  • Mrs. Mike, the Story of Katherine Mary Flannigan, Coward-McCann & Geoghegan (January 1, 1947), ASIN: B0007F29J8
  • Mrs. Mike, the Story of Katherine Mary Flannigan. Toronto: Longmans, Green, 1947.
  • Mrs. Mike, Paperback, Berkley (MM); Reissue edition (Jan 17 2002), ISBN 0-425-10328-5


  1. ^ a b c d LaNauze, C.D (29 November 1947). "Mrs. Mike". Lethbridge Herald. "reprinted from the Royal Mounted Police Quarterly" 
  2. ^ a b Nelson, Valerie J. (March 4, 2012), "Benedict Freedman dies at 92; author and Occidental professor", Los Angeles Times .
  3. ^ a b c New York Times, Aug. 10, 1954 obituary) "'Mrs. Mike' Figure dies-Katherine Mary Flannigan Was Inspiration For Bestseller"
  4. ^ "Alberta Family Histories Society". Alberta Family History Society. Retrieved 17 March 2012. "Cemetery records: "St. Mary's, Calgary, Knox, Katherine M., Mrs. Mike, 1899-1954"" 
  5. ^ "Author of Best Seller dies in Hospital Here". Calgary Sun. August 9, 1954. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Peggy, Orenstein (December 2007). "Mrs. Mike Changed My Life". O, The Oprah Magazine. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  7. ^ Anita Silvey (3 October 2006). 500 great books for teens. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-618-61296-3. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  8. ^ Kennedy, Paul (27 February 1947). "Mrs. Mike From Boston: Story of Her Life With Canadian Northwest Mountie Has Everything". Daily Boston Globe. 
  9. ^ Hal Erickson, Rovi. "Mrs-Mike". New York Times. Retrieved March 8, 2012. 
  10. ^ W. Lee Cozad (1 March 2006). More magnificent mountain movies: the silverscreen years, 1940-2004. W. Lee Cozad. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-9723372-2-9. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  11. ^ McLellan, Dennis (22 August 2010). "Nancy Freedman dies at 90; feminist had long and wide-ranging literary career". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  12. ^ Prescott, Orville, "Story Mingles Fact and Legend: A Widow's Fight to Vindicate Son". New York Times, Jan. 2, 1951 ""Having lived a life of dramatic adventure (her honeymoon was a 700-mile jaunt by dog team in the Canadian north) and having seen others write a popular novel about it, Flannigan has evidently decided that any other books about her relations might as well be written by herself.""