Born in St. Marys, Ontario on 22 December 1882, the daughter of Henry Lincoln Rice and Charlotte Carter Rice, and granddaughter of Samuel Dwight Rice, Kathleen (Kate) Creighton Starr Rice grew up in a family of privilege and education. Graduating from the University of Toronto in 1906, Rice began her career as a mathematics teacher in Bellville Ontario before moving to Western Canada, where she taught in Tees Alberta and Yorkton Saskatchewan. Leaving teaching in 1913 she homesteaded on a piece of land four miles north of The Pas Manitoba, registering under her brother’s name because the law of the day did not allow single women to enter homestead claims.

Over the winter of 1913/14 Rice learned Cree and taught herself geology and the business of prospecting. In 1914 she hired a number of Aboriginal guides, including a man known locally as "Old Isaac,” who helped her improve her skills in trapping, hunting, mushing dogs (a skill she became well known for), and living off the land. In the summer of 1914 Rice headed north, traveling 800 km by dog team to Beaver Lake and then by canoe to Brochet and Reindeer Lake, where she discovered zinc and vanadium. Over her lifetime, she would also hold claims in the Kiski, Crowduck Bay, Burntwood MB, Beaver Lake  and Scoop'n Rapids SK areas.

In 1916 she entered into a prospecting partnership with Richard (Dick) Woosey (26 May 1883 - 02 September 1940 ), which brought her to the Snow Lake area, 190 km east of The Pas. There she staked claims on Assessment Island (renamed Rice Island in her honour) in Wekuso Lake in 1920 and 1922.

During 1928, Rice formed the Rice Island Nickel Mining Company, allowing her to go into joint partnership with C.E. Herman, of St. Louis, MO., and drilling began on Rice Island. Shortly after, the mining company Ventures optioned the property. Ventures’ financial offer caused a rift between Rice, Woosey, and Herman, and Herman brought suit against Rice and Woosey. The suit dragged on until 1930, stalling drilling until it was settled, rights to the claim being spilt 50 per cent to Herman, and 25 per cent each to Rice and Woosey. When Woosey died suddenly in 1940, Rice continued on.

While it has been rumoured that Rice and Woosey may have earlier turned down an offer of $250,000 from the International Nickel Company (INCO) for their Rice Island property and interests, the Canadian Nick­­­el Company Limited (CNCL) optioned the Rice Island claims in 1948, and in 1950 renegotiated the option. Asserting her continued ownership on the claims, Rice paid the taxes on them in 1950.In 1958, CNCL’s options were assigned to INCO, who then made a final payment, which Rice refused.

Remaining in the Snow Lake area, Rice continued to prospect, hunt, and, in keeping with her ongoing interest in gardening and horticulture, run a commercial market garden. She wrote as a freelancer for The Toronto Star, and researched and published a scientific article on the aurora borealis ("The Aurora - Arctic Will O' The Wisp"), all the while sketching, painting, and enjoying the magnificence of the boreal region. In 1960, Kate Rice moved south, spending her final years in Minnedosa, MB where she died in 1963. She is buried in the Minnedosa Cemetery.

Related MHS contents:


A collection of Kate Rice’s papers can be found at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections. Other related records can be found at the St. Marys Museum, St. Marys, ON http://stmarysmuseum.ca/, and the Sam Waller Museum, The Pas, MB http://www.samwallermuseum.ca/

Bibliography:

Newspaper articles

  • Beck, Carl. "Miss Rice (One Man's opinion)." Northern Miner;  17 February 1977.
  • Jackson, Marc. "Rice and Woosey memorials dedicated." Editorial. The Underground Press,  7 August 2009.
  • "Woman has prospected in North for 14 years." Winnipeg Evening Tribune, 31 December 1927. Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.
  • "Ontario girl winning out as pioneer and prospector." Toronto Daily Star, 28 January 1928, see also: Star Weekly 5 October 1929.
  • "Makes valuable discovery on lone trip to the North.” Toronto Daily Star, 17 July 1928, Toronto Daily Star Archives.
  • "What's Next?” The Globe; 18 July 1928. Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.
  • "Lure of the out-of-doors led girl to rich claims.” Toronto Daily Star, 20 July 1928. Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.
  • "Drills on Kathleen Rice strike indicate copper, nickel, gold ore.” Manitoba Free Press, 21 July 1928. Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.
  • "High grade ore is reported in Rice drill core.” Manitoba Free Press, 27 July 1928. Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.
  • "College woman prefers a life in the wilds.” Toronto Daily Star, 21 December 1928. Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.
  • "First Woman Prospector ‘Swings on her own gate’." Toronto Daily Star [ca1928]. Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.
  • "Woman finds Copper In Northern Manitoba.” Schenectady Gazette, 16 July 1928.
  • "Canadian Girl Works Island Claim As Miner.” The Pittsburgh Press. 15 July 1928.
  • Connolly, Kate. "Kathleen Rice, B.A.” Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.
  • "Judgement given Rice-Woosey claims.” Toronto Daily Star, 3 November 1930. Copy located at Toronto Daily Star Archives.
  • "’Vegetable Map’ of Canada is changed by activities of northland producers.” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 October 1933; Copy located at Winnipeg Free Press Archives.
  • "Toronto woman grad is now prospecting.” Toronto Daily Star, 13 February 1934. Copy located at Toronto Daily Star Archives.
  • "Perth registrar dies.” Toronto Daily Star, 4 March 1952. Copy located at Toronto Daily Star Archives.
  • "Thirty Years Ago” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 July 1958. Copy located at Winnipeg Free Press Archives
  • "Miss Kathleen Rice still lives at Herb Lake, Man.” Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.
  • "Nickel Co pays $20,000 to Manitoba hermit lady.” Copy at University of Manitoba Archives, Kate Rice fonds.

Books

  • Duncan, Helen. Kate Rice: Prospector. Toronto: Simon & Pierre, 1984.
  • Forster, Merna. One Hundred More Canadian Heroines. The Dundurn Group, 2011.
  • Fraser, Hugh S. A Journey North: The Great Thompson Nickel Discovery.  INCO Ltd, 1985.
  • Hessell-Tiltman, Marjorie. Women in Modern Adventures.  George G. Harrap, 1935.
  • Millar, Ruth Wright. Saskatchewan Heroes & Rogues. Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2004.
  • Parres, James R. B., Marc Jackson.  Headframes, Happiness & Heartaches. Manitoba Department of Innovation, Energy & Mines Library, 2009.
  • Sproxton, Birk. Phantom Lake: North of 54. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2005
  • Steinburg, Will, "High Stakes and Hard Times: Herb Lake and Depression-Era Mining in Northern Manitoba.”  Manitoba History, Number 68, Spring 2012.
  • Black Pearl and Kate; Maxton July; 2008; MB Dep’t Innovation, Energy & Mines Library

Kathleen Rice’s Writings

  • "Under Cosmic Rays.” 1922. Copy located at University of Manitoba Archives.
  • "The Aurora - Arctic Will O' The Wisp” see Journal listing below, 1932. Copy located at University of Manitoba Archives.
  • "Prosing of a Woman Prospector.” 1939. Copy located at University of Manitoba Archives.
  • "The Legend of Nanaboozho, 193_.” Copy located at University of Manitoba Archives.
  • "To Every Dog his Due.” 193_. Copy located at University of Manitoba Archives.
  • "The Odyssey of a Mile.”  193_. Copy located at University of Manitoba Archives.
  • "Survival of the Fittest.”  193_. Copy located at University of Manitoba Archives.
  • Sam Waller Museum, The Pas, Kathleen Rice, Diary, 1939 – 1951.
  • "Homo Aspirans.” 1940, 1953. Copy located at Sam Waller Museum, The Pas, MB.
  • "Gravity.”  1951. Copy located at Sam Waller Museum, The Pas, MB.
 

Journal Articles

  • Rice, Kathellen. "The Aurora - Arctic Will O' The Wisp,” The Journal of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, September 1932, 304-312.
  • Sherriff, Barbara L.  & Shelley Reuter, "Notable Canadian Women in the History of Geology,”  Geoscience Canada, 21:3, 1995, 123-125.

Poetry & Songs

  • Ode to Miss Rice; Kate and Dick; Randall Hans Crone; Rhymes and Ballads from Berry Bay; 1997
  • Black Pearl and Kate; Maxton Juby; 2008; MB Dep’t Innovation, Energy & Mines Library
  • The Ballad of Kathleen Rice; song lyrics; 2009, 2012

Museums & Archives

  • Kathleen Rice Fonds, University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.
  • St. Marys Museum,  St. Marys ON
  • Sam Waller Museum,  The Pas MB
  • Snow Lake Mining Museum,  Snow Lake MB
  • Toronto Daily Star Archives
  • University of Toronto Archives, Toronto, ON
  • Winnipeg Free Press Archives 

Miscellaneous

Mineral Inventory card No 497; Manitoba Department of Innovation, Energy & Mines Library

We thank the Town of Snow Lake and the Women in Mining Manitoba Chapter for providing additional information used here.