Author and Historian Sylvia Olsen Wins Prestigious Award

Award Winner: Sylvia Olsen’s Working With Wool Wins Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing

Winning the Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Historical Writing for her recent book, Working With Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater is a double thrill for Sylvia Olsen. “As a writer and a historian, how much better does it get?” Olsen said after receiving the news of her win. Awarded annually by the BC Historical Federation, the Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal recognizes the best non-fiction book representing any aspect of BC history published in a given year.

Sylvia Olsen is well known for her award-winning books exploring the complex territory that lies in the place between First Nations and non-First Nations culture. Olsen is also a knitter who was involved for many years in all aspects of the production and marketing of Cowichan sweaters. After moving to the Tsartlip First Nation almost forty years ago, Olsen was drawn to the woolworking taking place in almost every home. “My mother-in-law, Laura Olsen, was an amazing knitter and she taught me to make wool and spin.”

Blending her own experiences working with knitters and sweaters from the late ‘70s to the early ‘90s, her desire to learn as much as possible about how government and business intersected with knitters and purchasers, the stories of the knitters themselves, and more than a hundred archival photographs, Olsen has woven a fascinating narrative, a cross cultural story that involves all British Columbians, First Nations, settlers, governments, and churches. “We have all been touched by, or involved with the sweaters in one way or another,” she says.

Working With Wool has also been nominated for the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize. The award recognizes the author of the book that contributes most to the enjoyment and understanding of British Columbia and will be announced on April 21, 2011 at the 27th annual Lieutenant Governor’s BC Book Prize Gala, at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver.

This year the BC Historical Federation’s awards banquet will be held on May 7 from 6-10pm at Dwight Hall in Powell River.