Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2003 Issue

The Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill Website: A Celebration of Canadiana

Courtesy of the National Library of Canada


By Julie Carleton

The National Library of Canada and the National Archives of Canada has created a website that celebrates the lives and literary works of Canada's most celebrated 19th century sibling female writers: Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill.    This website is located on the Internet at: www.nlc-bnc.ca/moodie-trail.

The Moodie-Traill website provides extensive information on the lives and writing careers of these two remarkable women.    It describes in detail Susanna Moodie's and Catherine Parr Traill's personal and professional history.    The website includes a biography, genealogy, bibliography and links to manuscript collections owned by the National Library of Canada and National Archives of Canada.    As this exhibit is also meant to be an educational resource, there is even a study guide included.    This exhibit is very encompassing, and it is clear that the National Library of Canada and National Archives of Canada had put great effort into showing off two of their most famous 19th century female literary icons.

Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill not only had remarkable careers as writers; their lives also epitomized the harsh experiences of emigrants in 19th century Canada.    Their works included first hand narratives of pioneer life in Canada, children's books, novels and natural history books and poetry.

Susanna and Catherine Strickland were born into a genteel family in Suffolk, England.    Seeking a fruitful existence in the British Canadian colonies, the two sisters immigrated to Ontario Canada with their husbands in 1832.   Both Catherine and Susanna had developed their writing skills by the time they were teenagers, as their other siblings were writers as well.   They began their writing children's books and short stories for annual magazines in England.    Catherine wrote her first book by 1818, and Susanna's first book was completed by 1822.    By the time they relocated to Canada, they were eager to write about their experiences in the new land.

Catherine's book, The Backwoods Of Canada: Being Letters From The Wife Of An Emigrant Officer, Illustrative Of The Domestic Economy Of British America was first published in Great Britain in 1836, as at the time there were no Canadian publishers available.    The first Canadian edition of this book was printed in 1929 as a result of the efforts of Catherine's granddaughter Florence for the publishing of a first Canadian edition.    The Backwoods of Canada accounts for the first three years of life in rural Canada.   Both Catherine and her husband Thomas were unprepared for the harsh lifestyle, which eventually led to near poverty conditions.    Through the eyes of a genteel English woman, this book is perhaps considered a classic piece of Canadiana.

Susanna Moodie's account, Roughing It in the Bush or, Life in Canada was initially published in London in 1852.    A Canadian edition was not released until 1871.    In this book Susanna

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