Mrs. Mike

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For the film, see Mrs. Mike (film).
Mrs. Mike
Author Benedict and Nancy Freedman
Country United States
Language English
Genre Historical fiction
Published 1947
ISBN 0425103285

Mrs. Mike, the Story of Katherine Mary Flannigan is a novel by Benedict and Nancy Freedman set in the Canadian wilderness during 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 Canadian North with the love story of Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sergeant Mike Flannigan and the young Katherine Mary O'Fallon, newly arrived from Boston, Massachusetts.

The novel is based on the stories of Katherine Mary O'Fallon Flannigan (1899-1954).[3][4][5] According to her fictionalized account, in 1907 at age 16 O'Fallon travels to Calgary to visit her uncle and recover from pleurisy. There she meets and marries Mike Flannigan, a sergeant with the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, moving 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 they adopt three orphaned children.[6]

Feeling that her story should be made into a film, Flannigan went to Los Angeles in 1945.[6] Although it attracted little attention, an agent felt the story might be suitable for a book and introduced her to the Freedmans. Based on a five-page outline, extended interviews and their research, they wrote a novel based on Flannigan's story.[6][7] Late in life they reaffirmed that aspects of Flannigan's life were fictionalized, including her adoption of three children,[6] and after Sgt. Flannigan's death in 1944 from a ruptured appendix Katherine Mary Flannigan left the North.[6][8] According to Benedict Freedman, "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 Mrs. Mike by RCMP member C.D. LaNauze, stationed in Grouard at the time of the story, noted a number of discrepancies. A journey allegedly requiring "weeks on the trail" was actually an "easy five-day journey", according to LaNauze; there was no diphtheria epidemic (and Grouard was served by a doctor at the time), and confirmed bachelor George Adams—not a Michael Flannigan—was the RCMP sergeant.[1] LaNauze said, "Nothing in [the book] even approaches the truth".[1]

A film version, with Evelyn Keyes as Katherine Mary and Dick Powell as Mike, was released in 1949.[9] Flannigan sued its producers and the Freedmans for $25,000, but the suit was dismissed because she had a legal claim against the authors only (not the producers).[10] The Freedmans published two sequels to Mrs. Mike: The Search for Joyful in 2002 and Kathy Little Bird in 2003.[11]

Katherine Mary Flannigan married John P. Knox, and lived in Vancouver.[3] In 1951 she published The Faith of Mrs. Kelleen, set in 1880s Ireland and based on the life of her great-aunt.[12] Flannigan 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

References[edit]

  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.""