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The principal source of primary material for Isabel Mackenzie King is the collection of family papers and correspondence in the W. These are the chief sources used in secondary works, notably R.
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In 1893 the family moved to Toronto, where John had accepted a lectureship at Osgoode Hall.
He made no headway in private practice, however, so that in middle age Isabel experienced the pattern of financial difficulty, frequent moves, and disappointments that she had known as a child.
Of greater importance was her strong influence on her elder son’s personality.
Like so many women before and after her, Isabel Mackenzie is remembered only as a reflection of others – daughter, wife, and mother – a common but not-to-be-scorned epitaph. Additional background detail concerning the Mackenzie family is available in the Mackenzie-Lindsey papers at AO, F 37.
At the same time she hoped that the youth who displayed much of his grandfather’s promise could be the family’s salvation.
She attempted to guide his life at every turn with gentle loving words that nevertheless made clear her wish to see him follow a path that would facilitate his exploitation of patronage and produce financial security for them all.
For a time after her father’s death in 1861, she and her mother and sisters ran a school themselves.
Her marriage in 1872 to a personable and promising lawyer, John King, and the setting up of a home in Berlin (Kitchener), Ont., appeared at first to fulfil her need for a prestigious lifestyle.
Vivacious and attractive, with a penchant for fine clothing and jewellery, she entertained well, was active in St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and local music circles, and encouraged John’s intellectual stimulation of their children.
Though Isabel was spared the aftermath of the rebellion – she was born in 1843 in New York, where Mackenzie had fled – the subsequent years of family life, characterized by feast and famine and by the deaths of 6 of her 12 siblings, engendered in her an unease that would dominate her life.
1843 in New York City, 13th child of William Lyon Mackenzie* and Isabel Baxter; m. (Her husband would publish a small volume in 1886 as part of this endeavour.) But Mackenzie was no more successful as a steady provider than he had been as a rebel.
But at the same time the Mackenzie heritage seemed to lead in this direction.