Kate Armstrong (memoirist)
Flin Flon, Manitoba, Canada
|Known for||Member of the first cohort of female officer cadets to graduate from The Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario in the Class of 1984; First woman to be assigned a cadet College number at RMC: 14390.|
Kate Armstrong (born 1962) is a Canadian author. She won the 2019-20 Ontario Historical Society Alison Prentice Award for her debut memoir, The Stone Frigate: The Royal Military College's First Female Cadet Speaks Out (Dundurn Press 2019) and was a finalist for the 2020 Kobo Emerging Writer Nonfiction Prize.
Kathryn Anne Armstrong was born in Flin Flon, Manitoba; her father worked for Eaton's Catalogue and moved the family frequently due to his work. Armstrong spent the majority of her childhood in British Columbia: Kelowna, Fort St John, Williams Lake, Vernon, and Abbotsford. She studied Commerce at the Royal Military College in Kingston Ontario, where she was the first woman to receive a cadet College number: 14390. She graduated in the Class of 1984.
Captain (Ret'd) K.A. Armstrong, CD, served as a Supply Logistics Officer (Air) in the Canadian Armed Forces (1980-1993) at CFB Kingston, NDHQ Ottawa, and 1CFSD Toronto. Upon her release, Armstrong moved to Vancouver, BC, and worked for BC Hydro (1993-2013). She started in Labour Relations, and later worked as a Customer Service Area Manager and a Transmission Scheduling Manager. Eventually Armstrong transferred to the wholly owned subsidiary of Powerex Corp, and worked in the newly deregulated electricity market, at first as a Real Time Electricity Trader and later as a Marketing Manager negotiating long term electricity trade and renewable energy deals.
In 2013, Armstrong left her corporate career to pursue her dream to become a writer.
The Stone Frigate
In 1980 Armstrong was in the first small cohort of female officer candidates attending Canada's official military academy. She encountered harassment there. In 2019 she published The Stone Frigate: The Royal Military College's First Female Cadet Speaks Out, about her experiences at RMC. The book was nominated for a Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. In 2020 the Ontario Historical Society gave the book its 2019-20 Alison Prentice Award.
A March 2019 review in the eVeritas, a publication for the students and alumni of Canada's Military Colleges, said Armstrong went to the Royal Military College as a way to "escape from a traumatic childhood". The review praises Armstrong for choosing not to apply a "modern lens" to practices that were routine decades ago: "The author does not apply a modern lens, nor does she claim RMC to have been any worse or better than anywhere else. She simply tells the truth: what was done to her and her peers, how it made her feel, and how it impacted her life. A courageous act."
Awards and honours
- 2020: The Stone Frigate was winner of the 2019-20 Ontario Historical Society Alison Prentice Award
- 2020: The Stone Frigate was a finalist for the 2020 Kobo Emerging Writer Nonfiction Prize
Armstrong lives in Nelson, British Columbia, with her husband, Rick Kutzner, and their three Black Labrador Retrievers.
- VIDEO: Nelson author wins history award for debut memoir, Nelson Star, 2020-12-10. Retrieved on 2020-12-11. “'The Stone Frigate is most deserving of the Alison Prentice Award for its vivid, engaged writing that places the reader in the author’s boots and its documentation of a critical chapter of women’s history,' said the society in a statement.”
- Kate Armstrong. I was the first female cadet at Royal Military College. Decades later I realized I was never ‘one of the guys’, Toronto Star, 2019-05-26. Retrieved on 2020-12-11.
- Steph Crosier. First female RMC cadet's memoir honoured by Ontario Historical Society, The Observer, 2020-12-10. Retrieved on 2020-12-11. “'I’m astounded to be today’s recipient and especially thrilled because the category is so dear to me,' Armstrong said. 'When I was a cadet at RMC in 1980, it occurred to me that I didn’t know a lot about women’s history and our collective struggle towards emancipation. This sparked a lifelong passion in me to learn about women’s history.'”
- Ron Lawson. "Military College is graduating 21 women", Toronto Star, 1984-05-12, p. C8.
- Tyler Harper. ‘Don’t expect justice or fairness’: B.C. author wins prize for book on sexism in military school, Abbotsford News, 2020-05-16. Retrieved on 2020-12-11. “What followed was four years of sexual harassment and, as Armstrong later found out, a co-ordinated effort by older male students to break her because she was seen as having leadership potential.”
- 15566 Helga Grodzinski. Review of The Stone Frigate, by Kate Armstrong, RMC Club, 2019-03-03. Retrieved on 2020-12-11. “Indeed, following the implementation of the Canadian Human Rights Act, 1980 was a time when women were entering many male-dominated fields and those women might also have received rough receptions.”