Breaking New Ground: The First Generation of Women to Work as Professional Authors in English Canada (1880-1920)
Quirk, Linda Elizabeth
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In the later decades of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth, large numbers of Canadian women were stepping out of the shadows of private life and into the public world of work and political action. Among them, both a cause and an effect of these sweeping social changes, was the first generation of Canadian women to work as professional authors. Although these women were not unified by ideology, genre, or date of birth, they are studied here as a generation defined by their time and place in history, by their material circumstances, and by their collective accomplishment. Chapters which focus on E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake), the Eaton sisters (Sui Sin Far and Onoto Watanna), Joanna E. Wood, and Sara Jeannette Duncan explore some of the many commonalities and interrelationships among the members of this generation as a whole. This project combines archival research with analytical bibliography in order to clarify and extend our knowledge of Johnson’s and Duncan’s professional lives and publishing histories, and to recover some of Wood’s “lost” stories. This research offers a preliminary sketch of the long tradition of the platform performance (both Native and non-Native) with which Johnson and others engaged. It explores the uniquely innovative ethnographic writings of Johnson, Duncan, and the Eaton sisters, among others, and it explores thematic concerns which relate directly to the experiences of working women. Whether or not I convince other scholars to treat these authors as a generation, with more in common than has previously been supposed, the strong parallels revealed in these pages will help to clarify and contextualize some of their most interesting work.