Canada's First Capital 'L' Lesbian Sexual Assault: Yellowknife, 1955

AuthorConstance Backhouse
Tprosecutions for sexual assault during the t wentieth
centurybutthe caseof ReginavMoore appearstohavebe enthe rstin
Canadian history where the complain ant and the accused were both female.
sancebylawsandvagrancyc hargestoha rasswomencrossdr essingasmen
for years.P ro sec ut io nsa ga in stg aym enf or bu gge ry ind ec ent as sau ltu pon
amale andacts ofgrossindecency als ostretc hedback many years But
thisse emstohavebee ntherstprosecutionofawomanforindec entassault
upona femaleThe presiding judgeswhoc haracterized the case ash ighly
T in formation about Willimae Moore, the woman at the
centre of this unprecedented prosec ution. Like many of the residents of Yel
lowknifeshewas newto thetown AnA mericanciti zenby birthshe had
ownintothe northernm iningcom munityon SeptemberHertrav
elling companionwas Beatrice Gonzales who hadbeen hired as the vice
principal for the Yellowknife High School. Willimae had found work as a
NorthernAairs andNatural ResourcesThe twowomenlivedtogether in
theschoolteachershouseonFran klinRoadAlthough herageisu ncertain
it seems that Willimae was in her fort ies.
NFB photo , pu blished i n Susan Jack son, ed., Yellowknife, N.W.T.: An Illustrated History (Sechelt: Nor’West,  ) at 
GiantMineYellowknifeaeri alview
NWT Archives , N-/:  
Thetowninto whichWillimae MooreandBeatrice Gonzalesewatt he
SlaveLake Travellers arrived by plane mostlyCa nadian Pacic Airways
turn. Because the routes were generally mi lk runs, with stops at every town
along the way, it could take seven hours to reach Yellowknife, even if the
plane wason t imeA lthoughit was oen described as a child of the air
ageYellowknife wassusta inedduri ngthe briefsu mmerby waterfreight
transport, which ferried i n materials ordered a year ahead. Residents dined
on dehydrated and canned vegetables and fruits, supplemented with cari
bousteak andpta rmiganT hosewhol ivedthere int heies recalled Yel
lowknife as memorable for its small houses, board sidewalks, and absence of
long distance phones.
from the plane with their dog, t hey must have been struck by the stark land
of the Canadian Shield, and wild mosses g rowing in the bush. Newcomers
were usually staggered by the weather. The harsh winters produced light
snow for months on end, and temperatures that varied between four and mi
itwasamere twentybelow wedthinkBoythisis agreatdaywe can
pushbackour parkahoodsThecolourfu lauroraborealis alsok nownas
Thepopulationh adreachedi ninacommunityt hatwasover
to Detah, across the bay. More than half the workforce was employed in the
Con and Giant gold mines. Virtually all t he white residents of the isolated
town came from somewhere else. Their uni fying characteristic was a strong
streakof individuality andnoncon formityThetownspe opletookpride
inthei rcamaraderieand thethril lof isolationreferring toareas other
than Yellowknifeas the outside Social norms were substantia lly looser
than inthe southAstenog rapherwhoa rrived inrecor dedhers urpri se
when she discovered that some of the coupleswere shackedupa new
term to herwithout benet of marriage And many of the si ngle women
whocame aer herdescr ibedfendi ngo amorous assaultsf romdr unken
miners, taxi drivers, and pilots, who seemed to take a licence for wayward
behaviour from the boisterous dri nking culture.

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