Sisters in the Wilderness

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 with their husbands in 1832. Both Catherine and Susanna had developed their writing skills by the time they were teenagers, writing children's books and short stories for annual magazines in England. By the time they relocated to Canada, they were eager to write about their experiences in the new land.

The lives of these brave women are absolutely fascinating and inspiring. From a life of tea and crumpets they adjusted to one of cold, hunger and endless labour but along with these hardships, they discovered the beauty of the Canadian wilderness.


Sisters in the Wilderness by Charlotte Gray

Catharine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie are icons of the Canadian imagination. Yet most of what we know of these two English gentlewomen who spent their adult lives struggling in Britain's harsh and vigorous colony comes from their own self-consciously crafted writings and from other writers' sometimes fanciful depictions of them. But what were the women behind the authorial voices really like? In Sisters in the Wilderness, award-winning author Charlotte Gray breathes life into two remarkable and fascinating characters and brings us a vivid picture of life in the backwoods of Upper Canada.

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Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie

This wonderful book chronicles Susanna Moodie’s harsh and often humorous experiences homesteading in the woods of Upper Canada. A frank and fascinating account of how one woman coped, not only with a new world, but with a new self, this work continues to justify the international sensation it caused when it was first published in 1852.

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Roughing it in the Bush (ebook) by Susanna Moodie

Available for the first time in enriched e-book format, this edition offers visual and historical insights into Susanna Moodie's writing via electronic weblinks. Like a full-colour footnote, select words and phrases throughout the book are links to websites that contain a wealth of additional information, pictures, definitions and historical information that gives context to the text. Now, with the click of a mouse, you can investigate the world of Moodie's Upper Canada without having to leave your screen.

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The Female Emigrant's Guide by Catherine Parr Traill

What did you eat for dinner today? Did you make your own cheese? Butcher your own pig? Collect your own eggs? Drink your own home-brewed beer? Shanty bread leavened with hops-yeast, venison and wild rice stew, gingerbread cake with maple sauce, and dandelion coffee - this was an ordinary backwoods meal in Victorian-era Canada. Originally published in 1855, Catharine Parr Traill's classic Female Emigrant's Guide, with its admirable recipes, candid advice, and astute observations of local food sourcing, offers an intimate glimpse into the daily domestic and seasonal routines of settler life.

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Catherine Parr Traill's Home


Roughing it with Moodie and Traill by The CBC

In 1832, the two couples emigrated from Britain expecting an idyllic farming life in the Canadian countryside. Instead, they encountered extreme hardship. In this 2000 interview, biographer Charlotte Gray discusses the literary sisters, who managed to write a number of best-selling books despite (or perhaps because of) the difficulties they faced in Canada's wilderness.

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Catherine Parr Traill's Wildflower Book

In this short video, Elizabeth Debeljak from the Museum of Nature shows us the first book on Canadian wildflowers by Catharine Parr Traill, which was hand-coloured and produced in 1868.

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Thank you to Marianne Farag for curating these resources.