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Roughing it with Moodie and Traill

The Story


"These guys had no farming experience. What the heck were they doing emigrating to become farmers?" asks CBC-TV host Evan Solomon. He's talking about the husbands of English sisters Susanna Moodie and Catharine Parr Traill. 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.

Medium: Television
Program: Hot Type
Broadcast Date: Feb. 18, 2000
Guest(s): Charlotte Gray
Interviewer: Evan Solomon
Duration: 15:24

Did You know?


• Catharine Parr Traill was born Catharine Parr Strickland in England in 1802. Less than two years later, also in England, her sister Susanna was born. There were six Strickland sisters in total, and five of the six became accomplished writers.

  • Catharine began her writing career penning children's books while living in England. After coming to Canada, she wrote several books for immigrants describing how to adapt to Canadian life (such as The Backwoods of Canada, published in 1836, and The Female Emigrant's Guide, published in 1854) as well as a number of books on wildlife and horticulture (including Canadian Wild Flowers [1868] and Studies of Plant Life in Canada [1885]).

 

• Between 1833 and 1847 Catharine gave birth to nine children, two of whom died as babies. Susanna had five children, the eldest of whom was born while she still lived in England.

 

• Susanna also wrote children's books in England, and while in Canada she was prolific in writing poetry, novels and memoirs. Her memoir Roughing it in the Bush (1852) is probably the most famous book published by either of the sisters. The book is a detailed account of Moodie's immigrant settler experience. It has a more grim, realistic tone than any of her sister's books -- she included descriptions of cholera outbreaks, back-breaking work, difficult weather and dangerous living conditions. She opened the book with a warning to prospective immigrants that settler life in Canada isn't the Eden it's promoted as in Britain. 

 


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