Lillian Alling

The Journey Home

By Susan Smith-Josephy

Categories: Biography, BC History
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781894759540, November 2011


In 1926, Lillian Alling, a European immigrant, set out on a journey home from New York. She had little money and no transportation, but plenty of determination. In the three years that followed, Alling walked all the way to Dawson City, Yukon, crossing the North American continent on foot. She walked across the Canadian landscape, weathering the baking sun and freezing winter, crossed the rugged Rocky Mountains and hiked the untested wilderness of British Columbia and the Yukon. Finally, on a make-shift raft, she sailed alone down the Yukon River from Dawson City all the way to the Bering Sea.

Lillian Alling is a legend. She has been the subject of novels, plays, epic poems, an opera and more tall tales than can be remembered. Her life has been subjected to speculation, fiction and exaggeration. But as legendary as she may be, the true story of Lillian Alling has never been told. "The Mystery Woman," as she came to be known, is as intriguing to us now as she was to those she met on her trek. Lillian's name lives on in the folk tales of British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska, but her life leading up to her journey and what waited for her at home in Eastern Europe still remains a shadowy mystery.

Lillian Alling: The Journey Home is a collection of personal documents, first-hand recollections, family tales and archival research that provide tantalizing new clues to Lillian's story. Smith-Josephy places Lillian firmly in the context of history and among the cast of unique and colourful characters she met along her journey.


"Much has been written but so little known about this enigmatic woman who undertook a remarkable journey. Newspaper accounts, magazine articles, books, radio plays, even an opera have been written about her. Very little is known about Alling. She has been romanticized to such an extent that it is becoming increasingly hard to separate the fact, what little there is, from the fiction. That is why this new book is worth reading. Lillian Alling: The Journey Home, written by Susan Smith-Josephy and recently published by BC's Caitlin Press. In this 255-page book, the author has made a genuine and thorough effort of searching for the facts and sifting through the accounts to reveal who Alling really was."

Yukon News