Other Titles

The Ballad of Mrs. Smith

About the Book

The Ballad of Mrs Smith is a narrative sequence of poems, telling the story of an abused wife who flees from her home in an upscale neighbourhood to find refuge in a rooming house in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. Struggling as an alcoholic herself, she befriends drug addicts and sex trade workers, depicting them with sensitivity and sympathy. She celebrates the moments of beauty, loyalty and grace to be found even in the darkest settings. Enlivened with humour and a keen eye for detail, the poems deepen our understanding of an often-neglected segment of society.

Cover and text design by Frances Hunter.

“These poems—at times grim and violent, tender and compassionate—bristle with a necessary and defiant anger at the violence men and their institutions wreak upon women.”
Pierre Coupey

“The corners of Mrs Smith’s mouth and these verses brim with bitter and bawdy humour, subtle as thyme and cyanide, coarse and dark as Demerara sugar.”
George McWhirter


The Ballad of Mrs Smith was one of the five finalists for the 2013 City of Vancouver Book Award. The award honours “authors of excellence of any genre who contribute to the appreciation and understanding of Vancouver's history, unique character, or the achievements of the residents.”


“There's a fine balance between anger and despair in the poetry collection....The poems were written when Andrews attended First United Church in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside—a church that offered a safe place for prostitutes. Andrews' observation of the characters Mrs Smith meets on these means streets and those who live in rooming houses where social services places her are profoundly intense and often compassionate.”
Coast Reporter, 25 January, 2013

“Powerful poems, both tough and sensitive, that crack open the humanity of the afflicted, a humanity that is too often buried under a cloak of otherness. Jancis Andrews' commitment to community activism, especially trying to end violence against women and children, comes through clearly in this collection, as does her commitment to the power of language.”
ROOM Vol.36.1

About the Author

Jancis Maureen Andrews was born in Northumbria, England in 1934. At age 14 she ran away from a violent home life and, when apprehended by the police, refused to return to school because she had missed many classes. She was ordered to reform school; later this was altered to one year’s probation, which included an order that she not venture outside an area of five square miles. In 1952 she joined the Women’s Royal Naval Service and served as a radio operator on the staff of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten. In 1965 she immigrated to Canada with her husband, son and daughter. She then took correspondence courses until she had enough credits to study at Capilano College and later at the University of British Columbia where, at the age of 53, she obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, majoring in Creative Writing.

When her marriage of forty-three years fell apart and her husband refused to pay alimony, Jancis at age 65 took a job as live-in cleaner at a boys’ school in England. She returned to Canada after one year and now makes her home in Sechelt, B.C.

Jancis is the author of Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair and Other Stories (Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 1992) and Walking on Water and Other Stories (Toronto: Cormorant Books, 2009). Her work has been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies and she has won several awards for fiction, non-fiction and poetry. She is an active community volunteer with a particular interest in helping to end violence against women and children. Her personal motto is, “No matter how overwhelming the enemy, you must never give in.”

Author photograph by:
Betty Pehme

About the Cover Artist

Carolyn Bell lives in Vancouver, B.C. where for the last few decades she has created a series of traditional and modern icons, drawings and watercolours, as well as impressionist pieces. Her late 2012 exhibition in London, England was of portraits of characters from the novels of Iris Murdoch. Learn more at carolynbell.ca

Hedgerow Press: 10876 Madrona Dr, North Saanich BC, V8L 5N9 · Phone: 250-656-9320 · E-Mail: hedgep@telus.net