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TRAILL, Catharine Parr

Rotherhithe, London, England, 1802
Lakefield, Ontario, 1899
Biography synopsis
As her father had an intellectual bent, Catherine Parr Traill (née Strickland) was encouraged to be resourceful, knowledgeable and self-reliant from a very young age. Her mother schooled her in the "womanly arts," but her father also ensured that she had a solid grounding in mathematics, history and geography. She made her own toys, kept a small garden and pets, and engaged in philosophical debates with her father. After his death, she began writing to supplement the family income and had her first work of fiction published at the age of fifteen. She married Lieutenant Thomas Traill in 1832, much to her family's disdain, and they immigrated to Canada shortly after, eager to escape their life of genteel poverty in England. She continued to publish in Canada, authoring her most famous work, "The Backwoods of Canada." The couple's fortunes did not improve, however, and they continued to move around Ontario searching for new opportunities. After teaching in Peterborough, Traill continued to write stories, sketches of nature, and autobiographical narratives, desperately searching for markets in England, the United States, and the Canadas. However, her artistic endeavours were frequently interrupted for long periods of time due to the birth of nine children, two of whom died in infancy. Her work, "Forest Gleanings" (1852-53) included some of her sketches, and she wrote the text for her niece, Agnes Fitzgibbon's, botanical study, "Canadian Wildflowers" (1868). Although financial difficulties and illness plagued her long life, she received some recognition in old age including tributes from historical societies in Toronto and Peterborough, a pension from the Royal Literary Fund in England, and a testimonial organized by her old friend Sir Sandford Fleming.
Media used
File & Archive locations
Trent University Archives, ON
National Gallery of Canada, ON - Library and Archives
Canadian Museum of Civilization Archives, QC
Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada, ON

Writings about
"Book Notices: Studies of Plant Life in Canada." Week 12 Feb. 1895: 171
"Literary Notes." Globe (Toronto) 7 Feb. 1885
"Portrait." Maclean's 95 (23 Aug. 1982): 52
"Postage Stamps for the National Library of Canada's 50th Anniversary." Canadian NewsWire (Ottawa) 8 Sept. 2003: 1
Aalders, Cynthia Yvonne. Catharine Parr Traill: A grounded spirituality. Vancouver: Regent College, 2001
Ainley, Marianne Gosztonyi. "Science in Canada's Backwoods: Catharine Parr Traill." Natural Eloquence: Women Reinscribe Science. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997
Allodi, Mary. "Two Gentlewomen of Upper Canada." Rotunda 10 (Summer 1977)
Ballstadt, Carl. Catharine Parr Traill and her works. Downsview, Ontario: ECW Press, 1984
Ballstadt, Carl P. A. "Catharine Parr Traill (1802-1899)." ECW's Biographical Guide to Canadian Novelists. Toronto: ECW Press, 1993
Ballstadt, Carl, et al. "Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill." http://www.collectionscanada.ca/moodie-traill/index-e.html Library and Archives Canada, ?
Berger, Carl. "God." Science, God, and Nature in Victorian Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1983: 31-50
Burnham, Hampden. "Gable Ends: Mrs. Traill." Canadian Magazine 4 (Nov.1894-Apr.1895): 388-90
Cole, Jean M. "Catharine Parr Traill - Botanist." Portraits: Peterborough Area Women Past and Present. Woodview, Ontario: Portraits Group, 1975
Colgate, William. Canadian Art, its Origin and Development. Toronto: Ryerson, 1943
Collard, E. "Flowers to heal and comfort: Mrs. Traill's books for collectors." Canadian Collector 13 (May-Jun. 1978): 32-36
Colombo, John Robert. Colombo's Canadian References. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1976
Crosson, Selena M. Pilgrim sisters: Exploring female friendship in Upper Canada in the life of Frances Stewart (1794-1872). Peterborough: Trent University, 2005
Crowder, Adele, and Vivien Taylor. "Mrs. Traill, Mrs. Roy and Miss Boyd: Plant Collectors in 19th Century Upper Canada." W. D. Jordan Special Collections Occasional Paper No. 1, Queen's University Library. Kingston: Queen's University Library, 2003
Dahl, Edward H. Mid Forests Wild: A study of the concept of wilderness in the writings of Susanna Moodie, J.W.D. Moodie, Catharine Parr Traill and Samuel Strickland, c. 1830-1855. Ottawa: National Museum of Man, National Museums of Canada, 1973
Dando, Susan and Charlotte Gray. Sisters in the wilderness the lives of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill [motion picture]. Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 2004
Delgado, Ana Beatriz. "Paradigms of Canadian Literary Biography: Who Will Write Our History?" Prose Studies (United Kingdom) 27.2 (2005): 330-343
Dickenson, Victoria. First Impressions: European Views of the Natural History of Canada from the 16th to the 19th Century. Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 1992
Dignam, Mary Ella. "Canadian Women in the Development of Art." Women of Canada: Their Life and Work. Toronto: National Council of Women of Canada, 1900
Downie, Mary A. "Consulting Catharine Parr Traill: a writer turns to a pioneering Canadian botanist to get to know her cottage wild flowers." Imperial Oil Review 86.445 (Summer 2002): 2
Eaton, Sara. Lady of the backwoods: a biography of Catharine Parr Traill. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1969
Finlayson, Carolyn. The habit of close observation: an ecocritical investigation of Catharine Parr Traill's nature writing in "Studies of plant life in Canada" Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1999
Fleming, Robert. "Supplementing self: A postcolonial quest(ion) for (of) national essence and indigenous form in Catharine Parr Traill's 'Canadian Crusoes.'" Essays on Canadian Writing 56 (Fall 1995): 198
Floyd, Janet. Writing the Pioneer Woman. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2002
Floyd, Janet. "'I am a Gleaner': Catharine Parr Traill and Forest Gleanings." British Journal of Canadian Studies 17.1 (2004): 93
Fowler, Marian. The Embroidered Tent : Five Gentlewomen in Early Canada, Elizabeth Simcoe, Catharine Parr Traill, Susanna Moodie, Anna Jameson, Lady Dufferin. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1982
Gates, Barbara T. and Ann B. Shteir. Natural eloquence: Women reinscribe science. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997
Gerson, Carole. "Nobler Savages: Representations of Native Women in the Writings of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill." Journal of Canadian Studies 32.2 (1997): 5-21
Goldman, Marlene and Joanne Saul. "Talking with Ghosts: Haunting in Canadian Cultural Production." University of Toronto Quarterly 75. 2 (Spring 2006): 645-655
Grady, Wayne. Bright Stars, Dark Trees, Clear Water: Nature writings from north of the border. Boston: David R. Godine, 1999
Gray, Charlotte. Sisters in the Wilderness: The lives of Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill. Toronto: Viking, 1999
Gray, Charlotte. "Wild at Heart." Canadian Geographic 119.6 (Sept-Oct. 1999): 44-51
Guillet, Edwin Clarence. Pioneer Arts and Crafts. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968
Guillet, Edwin Clarence. The Valley of the Trent. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1957
Halpenny, Francess G. Dicitonary of Canadian Biography, 1000-1910. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966
Harper, J. Russell. Painting in Canada: A History. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966, 2nd edition 1977
Hume, Blanche. The Strickland Sisters. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1929
Huneault, Kristina. I'm Not Myself at All: Women, Art, and Subjectivity in Canada Montreal; Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018
Ivits, Shantel. Traill ale for the Trent soul. Belleville, Ontario: Seraphine, 2004
James, Suzanne. Gathering up the Threads: Generic and discursive patterns in Catharine Parr Traill's The backwoods of Canada. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 2006
James, Suzanne. "The 'Indians' of Catharine Parr Traill's 'The Backwoods of Canada.'" The Rhetoric of Canadian Writing. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2002
Johnston, Judith. "Woman's Testimony': Imperialist Discourse in the Professional Colonial Travel Writing of Louisa Anne Meredith and Catharine Parr Traill." Australian and New Zealand Studies in Canada 11 (Jun. 1994): 34-55
Kröller, Eva-Marie. "Resurrections: Susanna Moodie, Catharine Parr Traill and Emily Carr in Contemporary Canadian Literature." Journal of Popular Culture 15.3 (1981): 39-46
Lennox, John. "'Speech Attempted' - and Won." American Review of Canadian Studies 28.1-2 (1998): 157-166
Light, Beth and Alison Prentice, eds. Pioneer and Gentlewomen of British North America 1713-1867. Toronto: New Houston Press, 1980
Lischke-McNab, Ute and David McNab. "Petition from the Backwoods." Beaver 308.1 (1977): 52-57
MacCallum, Elizabeth. "Catharine Parr Traill: A Nineteenth-Century Ontario Naturalist." Beaver 306.2 (1975): 39-45
MacIntyre, Christine Anne. Turn-of-the-century Canadian women writers and the "New Woman". Ottawa: University of Ottawa, 1996
MacLulich, T. D. "Crusoe in the backwoods: a Canadian fable?" Mosaic 9 (Winter 1976): 115-26
Mallory, E. "Pioneer Naturalist, Catharine Parr Traill." Canadian Audubon 27 (Mar-Apr. 1965): 42-45
Marsh, James H, ed. Canadian Encyclopedia. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1988
Martin, Carol. Catharine Parr Traill: Backwoods Pioneer. Toronto: Groundwood Books, Douglas & McIntyre, 2004
McKendry, Blake. A to Z of Canadian Art: Artists and Art Terms. Kingston: B. McKendry, 1997
McKenzie, Ruth. "Fanny Amelia Bayfield (Wright)." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online Ottawa: Libraries and Archives Canada, 2008
McMullen, Lorraine. Pioneering Women: Short stories by Canadian women: beginnings to 1880. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1993
Montgomery, L. M. et al. Courageous Women. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1934
Morgan, H. J., ed. Types of Canadian Women and of women who have been connected with Canada. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1903
Morgan, Henry J. Sketches of Celebrated Canadians, and Persons Connected with Canada. Quebec: Hunter, Rose and Co, 1862
National Archives of Canada, National Library of Canada. Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 2001
National Library of Canada. Canadiana Authorities. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, ?
Needler, G. H. "The Otonabee Trio of Women Naturalists: Mrs. Stewart - Mrs. Traill - Mrs. Moodie." Canadian Field-Naturalist 60 (Sept-Oct. 1946): 97-101
Partridge, F. G. "Stewarts and the Stricklands, the Moodies and the Traills." Ontario Library Review 40 (Aug. 1956): 179-81
Peterman, Michael. "In search of Agnes Strickland's sisters." Canadian Literature 121 (Summer 1989): 115
Peterman, Michael A. My old friend the Otonabee: glimpses by Samuel Strickland, Catharine Parr Traill & Susanna Moodie. Peterborough: Peterborough Historical Society, 1999
Peterman, Michael A. "'Splendid Anachronism': The Record of Catharine Parr Traill's Struggles as an Amateur Botanist in Nineteenth-Century Canada." Re(dis)covering our foremothers:nineteenth-century Canadian women writers. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1990
Peterman, Michael A. "Catharine Parr Traill." Canadian Writers before 1890. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 1990
Peterman, Michael A. and Janet B. Friskney. "'Booming' the Canuck Book: Edward Caswell and the promotion of Canadian writing." Journal of Canadian Studies 30.3 (1995): 60-90
Robbins, John Everett, ed. Encyclopedia Canadiana. Ottawa: Canadiana Company of Canada, Grolier Society of Canada, 1957
Roberts, Katherine A. "Discours de la féminité dans 'The Backwoods of Canada' de Catharine Parr Traill et 'Roughing It in the Bush' de Susanna Moodie." Tangence 62 (Apr. 2000): 34-49
Sampson, Margaret Virginia. Building Nation, Writing Self: The Autobiographical Writings of Anna Jameson, Susanna Moodie, and Catharine Parr Traill. Halifax: Dalhousie University, 1992
Schieder, R. "Quest for 'Crusoes'." Books in Canada 12 (Mar. 1983): 4, 6-7
Schieder, Rupert. "Catharine Parr Traill: Three Bibliographical Questions." Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada 24 (1985): 8-25
Shteir Ann B. Flora's Fieldworkers: Women and Botany in Nineteenth-Century Canada. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2022
Sparrow, Fiona. "'This Place Is Some Kind of a Garden': Clearings in the Bush in the Works of Susanna Moodie, Catharine Parr Traill, Margaret Atwood and Margaret Laurence." Journal of Commonwealth Literature 25.1 (1990): 24-41
Stanzel, Franz K. "Innocent Eyes? Canadian Landscape as seen by Frances Brooke, Susanna Moodie and others." International Journal of Canadian Studies 4 (1991): 97-109
Stefaniak, Lisa. "Botanical Gleanings: Susan Fenimore Cooper, Catharine Parr Traill and the Representation of Flora." Susan Fenimore Cooper: New Essays on Rural Hours and Other Works, Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia, 2001
Steffler, Margaret and Neil. "If We Would Read It Aright: Traill's 'Ladder to Heaven'." Journal of Canadian Studies 38.3 (Fall 2004): 123-152
Stott, Jon C. and Raymond E. Jones. Canadian Books for Children: A Guide to Authors and Illustrators. Toronto: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Canada, 1988
Thom, Molly. The Bush-Ladies in Their Own Words: Susanna Moodie, Catharine Parr Traill, Anne Langton, Anna Jameson. Victoria: Scirocco Drama, 2000
Thomas, C. "Journeys to Freedom." Canadian Literature 51 (Winter 1972): 11-19
Thomas, Clara. "The Strickland Sisters." The Clear Spirit: Twenty Canadian Women and their Times. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966
Thompson, Elizabeth. "Illustrations for 'The Backwoods of Canada'." Studies in Canadian Literature 19.2 (1994): 30-56
Thompson, Elizabeth Helen. The Pioneer Woman: A Canadian character type. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 1991
Tunnell, Arthur L. and Charles G.D. Roberts, eds. Canadian Who Was Who, 1875-1933. Toronto: Trans Canada Press, 1938
Vahabzadeh, Peyman. "This Elusive Land: Women and the Canadian Environment." Canadian Journal of Sociology 31.1 (Winter 2006): 150-54
Westerhout, Lynn and Liz Milkau. Making it Home: The story of Catharine Parr Traill. Toronto: Napoleon, 2004
Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske, eds. Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton and Co, 1887-89

Writings by
Fitzgibbon, Agnes and Catherine Parr Strickland Traill. Canadian Wild Flowers: Painted and Lithographed. Montreal: J. Lovell, 1868
Parr, Catharine Parr. Stories of the Canadian Forest; or Little Mary and her nurse. Boston: Crosby and Nichols, 185?
Parr, Catharine Parr. "Forest Flowers." Genesee Farmer 13.9 (Sept. 1852): 288
Traill, Catharine Parr. Canadian Crusoes: A tale of the Rice Lake plains. Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1986
Traill, Catharine Parr. Cot and Cradle Stories. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1895
Traill, Catharine Parr. Forest and Other Gleanings: The fugitive writings of Catharine Parr Traill. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1994
Traill, Catharine Parr. Pearls and Pebbles, or, Notes of an Old Naturalist. Toronto: W. Briggs, 1894
Traill, Catharine Parr. Sketches From Nature, or Hints to Juvenile Naturalists. London, England: Harvey and Darton, 1830
Traill, Catharine Parr. Studies of Plant Life in Canada, or, Gleanings From Forest, Lake and Plain. Ottawa: A.S. Woodburn, 1885
Traill, Catharine Parr. Symbiosis. Carlisle: Brandstead Press, 1984
Traill, Catharine Parr. The Backwoods of Canada: being letters from the wife of an emigrant officer, illustrative of the domestic economy of British America. London, England: C. Knight, 1836
Traill, Catharine Parr. The Canadian Settler's Guide. Vancouver: Alcuin Society, 1971-75
Traill, Catharine Parr. The Female Emigrant's Guide, and Hints on Canadian Housekeeping. Toronto: Maclear, 1854
Traill, Catharine Parr. The Step-Brothers: A Tale. London, England: Harvey and Darton, 1828
Traill, Catharine Parr. The Young Emigrants: or, Pictures of Canada, calculated to amuse and instruct the minds of youth. London: Harvey and Darton, 1826
Traill, Catharine Parr. "Floral Sketches: No. 1, The Violet." Literary Garland (Feb. 1843): 87-90
Traill, Catharine Parr. "Floral Sketches: No. 2, The Rose." Literary Garland (Mar. 1843): 129-31
Traill, Catharine Parr and Agnes Fitzgibbon. Canadian Wildflowers. Almonte: Algrove, 2003 (reprint)
Traill, Catharine Parr and Elizabeth Thompson. "Catharine Parr Traill's 'Something Gathers Up The Fragments' [Exerpt from Traill's work, with introduction]." Canadian Poetry 42 (Spring-Summer 1998): 140
Traill, Catharine Parr, et al. I bless you in my heart: selected correspondence of Catharine Parr Traill. Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1996
Traill, Catharine Parr, et al. Little Downy: The story of a field mouse. Embrun, Ontario: Winding Trail Press, 2005
Traill, Catharine Parr, et al. With Cheerful Heart: a sampler of the botanical writings of Catharine Parr Traill. Carlisle, Ontario: Brandstead Press, 1983
Traill, Catherine Parr and Clifford-Ward, Lynne. The Old Doctor: A backwoods sketch. Peterborough: Hutchison House Museum, 1985
Traill, Mrs. "Mrs. Grundy's Gleanings: Canadian Flower Gatherer." Anglo-American Magazine 3 (Jul-Dec. 1853): 219

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