Margaret, a staunch Anglican, has arrived in Barkerville with her husband Albert, a banker. She is a leader in the community, deeply committed to the British way of doing things and to Victorian values. As part of the 'upper crust' of Barkerville, she rallies the forces of conservatism and is deeply offended by the rougher aspects of pioneer life. She sees it as her duty to uphold the values of hard work, clean living and Christian charity.
She reacts viscerally to the notion of the town's most prominent and flamboyant prostitute installing a stained glass window in St. Saviour's. To her, the apse window admits God's light into the church, and to have it filtered through a lens provided by 'whores and their depraved clients' seems a mortal sin. Her blaze of indignation is doubly fierce because she had initiated the failed drive to raise funds for the window in the first place, and to see a 'harlot' succeed so easily where she had failed galled her beyond endurance.
At first there is a great deal of sympathy for Margaret amongst the moral minority that control much of the church's affairs. But as Reverend Dryden is swayed, and the miners, and Madame Blavinsky's colleaugues, opinion begins to shift away from Margaret, who becomes increasingly strident as she becomes marginalized.
Finally, isolated with a small, vocal group of opponents, she is driven to her desperate terrorist act. Using her husband's shotgun, she blows out the Stained Glass window during the ceremony celebrating its installation. The Shard that has been carefully preserved in Maggie Welland's living room, atop the upright piano, is the physical testament to that incendiary act; Reverend Christopher Dryden's unfinished memoir, the written testament.
In Stained Glass a 50s-something reporter, who has been jaded by overexposure to media hype and is cynical about every aspect of his wretched life, is given an assignment by his aging mother to complete the memoir of his great-great-grandfather Christopher Dryden. In the early 1870s Christopher had been sent on a mission to the boisterous Gold Rush town of Barkerville, BC, where a fund-raising campaign to install a stained glass window behind the alter of St. Saviour's Anglican Church (flickr image at right by jmegjmeg) turned into a heated controversy when it was revealed that the anonymous donor, who was covering most of the cost for the painted glass, was none other than the owner of the town's most notorious brothel...