Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - June - 2003 Issue

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

Courtesey of the National Library of Canada


gives a personal account of seven years in the Canadian bush. She describes the change in lifestyle from her cushy British upbringing, class differences in the colonies, Native American Customs and general hardships.

The Moodie-Traill website is divided into eleven major areas: Biographies, Life in England, Emigration and Bush Life, Town Life, Writing and Publications, Natural Environment, Religion and Spiritualism, Matriarchs, Glossary, Lesson Plans and Resources.    The Writing and Publications section provides links to images of text from such books as Roughing it in the Bush and The Backwoods of Canada.    As both women were nature enthusiasts, this is well described in the Natural Environment section.    Susanna Moodie later became a prolific floral painter in addition to her writing career.    One example of Susanna’s artistic talents is “Wildflowers” a painting that is part of the Traill Family Collection.   A major example of Catherine’s naturalistic writing is Studies of Plant Life in Canada, or, Gleanings From Forest, Lake and Plain written in 1885.    This book was illustrated by Catherine’s niece, Agnes FitzGibbon Chamberlin.   Catherine also kept copious notes of the Canadian environment in her unpublished journals.

As a complement to the Moodie-Traill website, the National Library of Canada and the National Archives of Canada owns three distinct manuscript collections that relate to Catherine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie: the Patrick Hamilton Ewing Collection of Moodie-Strickland-Vickers-Ewing Family Papers (1821–1949), the Traill Family Collection (1816–1974), and the Susanna Moodie Collection (1828–1914 and 1966).    Finding aids for these three collections can also be found on the Moodie-Traill website under the link “About the Collections”.   The Patrick Hamilton Ewing Collection of Moodie-Strickland-Vickers-Ewing Family Papers contains correspondence between Susanna Strickland and her future husband Dunbar Moodie, as well as photographs, paintings and manuscripts.    The Traill Family Collection consists of letters written by Catherine Parr Traill between 1845 and 1899, as well as journals, manuscripts, paintings and photographs.    The Susanna Moodie Collection comprises a series of letters that Susanna Moodie wrote between 1871 and 1882, as well as correspondence from Catherine Parr Traill and original manuscripts of Susanna Moodie's writings.

In summary, the Moodie-Traill website is much more than an exhibit. It is clearly designed to serve as an educational resource for both primary and secondary materials on Catherine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie.    A visitor to this website can decide for himself just how deep into the lives and careers of these two sisters he wants to go.    The extensive text, images and content contained in the website clearly imply the literary and national importance of both women to Canadian culture and history.

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