Catharine Parr Traill

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Catharine Parr Traill
Catharine Parr Traill, Canadian settler and author
Catharine Parr Traill, Canadian settler and author
Born(1802-01-09)9 January 1802
Southwark, England
Died29 August 1899(1899-08-29) (aged 97)
Lakefield, Ontario, Canada
OccupationAuthor, naturalist
GenreChildren's and Settler Literature

Catharine Parr Traill (born Strickland; 9 January 1802 – 29 August 1899) was an English-Canadian author and naturalist who wrote about life in Canada, particularly what is now Ontario (then the colony of Upper Canada). In the 1830s much of Canada had not yet been explored by Europeans. There were hardly any universities, and scientists were more interested in practical subjects such as agriculture and mining than in theoretical research. Traill is considered important because she pioneered investigations into Canada's natural history and also, through her writing, related the colonial experience and the natural environment of Canada for English readers.[1]

Early years[edit]

Mrs Catharine Parr Traill by William James Topley

Catharine Parr Strickland was born in the district of Rotherhithe in Southwark (then in Surrey, today part of Greater London) in 1802, fifth daughter of Thomas Strickland and Elizabeth Homer.[2] She grew up in East Anglia, first near Bungay, and later Southwold and was educated at home.[3] After Thomas Strickland passed away in 1818, Catharine and her sisters turned to writing and editorial work as the main source of family income.[3]


Sister to fellow authors Agnes Strickland, Jane Margaret Strickland, Susanna Moodie, and Elisabeth Strickland, Traill was the first of her siblings to commence writing.[4] She began writing children's books in 1818 after the death of her father. Traill's first book The tell tale: an original collection of moral and amusing stories appeared anonymously in 1818; she was only 16.[2] Her early works, such as Disobedience, or Mind What Mama Says (1819) and "Happy Because Good", were written for children, and often dwell on the benefits of obedience to one's parents. A prolific author, until her marriage she averaged one book per year. In 1832, she married Lieutenant Thomas Traill, a retired officer of the Napoleonic Wars and a friend of her sister's husband, John Moodie, despite objections from her family (aside from Susanna). Soon after their marriage, they left for Upper Canada, settling near Peterborough, where her brother Samuel was a surveyor. Her sister, Mrs. Susanna Moodie, emigrated soon afterwards.

She described her new life in letters and journals and collected these into The Backwoods of Canada (1836), which continues to be read as an important source of information about early Canada. She describes everyday life in the community, the relationship between Canadians, Americans, and Indigenous peoples, the climate, and local flora and fauna.

Agnes Chamberlin's watercolour painting for Studies of Plant Life in Canada, by Catherine Parr Traill

More observations were included in a novel, Canadian Crusoes (1851). She also collected information concerning the skills necessary for a new settler, published in The Female Emigrant's Guide (1854), later retitled The Canadian Settler's Guide. She wrote "Pearls and Pebbles" and "Cot and Cradle Stories".

After suffering through the depression of 1836, her husband Thomas joined the militia in 1837 to fight against the Upper Canada Rebellion. In 1840, dissatisfied with life in "the backwoods," the Traills and the Moodies both moved to the city of Belleville. While Susanna was more concerned with the differences between rural and urban life, Catharine spent her years in Belleville writing about the natural environment. She often sketched the plant life of Upper Canada, publishing Canadian Wild Flowers (1865), Studies of Plant Life in Canada (1885) and "Rambles in the Canadian Forest".

She received a grant c. 1899 from the Royal Bounty Fund, which was supplemented by a subscription from her friends in Canada, headed by Sir Sandford Fleming. She died at her residence, "Westove," in Lakefield, Ontario on 28 August 1899.[5]

Her many albums of plant collections are housed in the National Herbarium of Canada at the Canadian Museum of Nature.


Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario, named their downtown campus after her. Catharine Parr Traill College is the University's main college for graduate studies.

Commemorative postage stamp[edit]

On 8 September 2003, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Library of Canada, Canada Post released a special commemorative series, "The Writers of Canada", designed by Katalina Kovats and featuring two English-Canadian and two French-Canadian stamps. Three million stamps were issued. Traill and her sister Susanna Moodie were featured on one of the English-Canadian stamps.[6]


  • The Tell Tale – 1818
  • Disobedience – 1819
  • Reformation – 1819
  • Nursery Fables – 1821
  • Little Downy – 1822
  • The Flower-Basket – 1825
  • Prejudice Reproved – 1826
  • The Young Emigrants – 1826
  • The Juvenile Forget-Me-Not – 1827
  • The Keepsake Guineas – 1828
  • Amendment – 1828
  • Sketches from Nature – 1830
  • Sketch Book of a Young Naturalist – 1831
  • Narratives of Nature – 1831
  • The Backwoods of Canada – 1836
  • Canadian Crusoes – 1852
  • The Female Emigrant's Guide – 1854
  • Lady Mary and Her Nurse – 1856
  • Canadian Wild Flowers – 1868, with illustrations by Agnes Dunbar Moodie Fitzgibbon[7]
  • Studies of plant life in Canada, or, Gleanings from forest, lake and plain (Q20891795) – 1885
  • Pearls and Pebbles – 1894
  • Traill, Catherine Parr Strickland, (1996). I bless you in my heart : selected correspondence of Catharine Parr Traill. Ballstadt, Carl, 1931-, Hopkins, Elizabeth, BA., Peterman, Michael A., 1942-. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 3. ISBN 0802008372. OCLC 36640963.Cot and Cradle Stories – 1895


  1. ^ Patricia., Fara, (2007). Scientists anonymous : great stories of women in science. Thriplow: Icon. ISBN 9781840468403. OCLC 137222064.
  2. ^ a b Peterman, Michael A. (1990). "Strickland, Catharine Parr". In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. XII (1891–1900) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  3. ^ a b 1802-1899., Traill, Catharine Parr Strickland, (1996). I bless you in my heart : selected correspondence of Catharine Parr Traill. Ballstadt, Carl, 1931-, Hopkins, Elizabeth, BA., Peterman, Michael A., 1942-. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. p. 3. ISBN 0802008372. OCLC 36640963.
  4. ^ Mitchell, Rosemary. "Strickland, Agnes (1796–1874)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26663.(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Morgan, Henry James, ed. (1903). Types of Canadian Women and of Women who are or have been Connected with Canada. Toronto: Williams Briggs. p. 334.
  6. ^ "50th Anniversary of the National Library / Canadian Authors Archived 23 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine," Canada Post, Web, 28 March 2011.
  7. ^ Traill, Catherine Parr Strickland; Fitzgibbon, Agnes (1870). North American wild flowers. S.l. :: s.n.,. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.38665. ISBN 9780665014482.

Further reading[edit]

Ainley, Marianne Gosztonyi (1970–80). "Traill, Catharine Parr". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 25. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 78–80. ISBN 978-0-684-10114-9.

External links[edit]