Sui Sin Far
|Sui Sin Far|
|Born||Edith Maude Eaton
March 15, 1865
Macclesfield, Cheshire, England
|Died||April 7, 1914
|Genre||journalism, short stories|
|Notable works||Mrs. Spring Fragrance
"Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of a Eurasian"
Sui Sin Far (Chinese: 水仙花; pinyin: Shuǐ Xiān Huā, born Edith Maude Eaton; 15 March 1865 – 7 April 1914) was an author known for her writing about Chinese people in North America and the Chinese American experience. "Sui Sin Far", her pen name, is the Cantonese name of the narcissus flower, popular amongst Chinese people.
Born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, Far was the daughter of Englishman Edward Eaton, a merchant who met her Chinese mother while on a business trip to Shanghai, China. Her mother was Grace "Lotus Blossom" Trefusis, the adopted daughter of English missionaries.
Far was the oldest daughter and second child of fourteen children. In the early 1870s, her family left England to live in Hudson, New York, United States, but stayed there only a short time before relocating to Montreal, Canada. Her father struggled to make a living and the large family went through difficult times. Because of their poverty, at a young age, Far left school to work in order to help support her family. Nonetheless, the children were educated at home and raised in an intellectually stimulating environment that saw both Far and her younger sister Winnifred Eaton, who wrote under the pen name, Onoto Watanna, become successful writers.
Eaton began writing as a young girl; her articles on the Chinese people were accepted for publication in Montreal's English-language newspapers, the Montreal Star and the Daily Witness. She eventually left Montreal to live in the United States, first in San Francisco, then in Seattle, before going to the east coast to work in Boston. While working as a legal secretary she continued to write and although her appearance and manners would have allowed her to easily pass as an Englishwoman, she asserted her Chinese heritage and wrote articles that told what life was like for a Chinese woman in white America. First published in 1896, her fictional stories about Chinese Americans were a reasoned appeal for her society's acceptance of working-class Chinese at a time when the United States Congress maintained the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned Chinese immigration to the United States.
Over the ensuing years, Far wrote a number of short stories and newspaper articles while working on her first collection of fiction. Published in June 1912, Mrs. Spring Fragrance, was a collection of linked short stories marketed as a novel.
Far never married and died in Montreal. She is interred in Mount Royal Cemetery.
A study of Far and her life, Sui Sin Far/Edith Maude Eaton: A Literary Biography by Annette White-Parks, was published in 1995.
- Mrs. Spring Fragrance (1912)
- Chan Hen Yen, Chinese Student (1912)
- A Love Story from the Rice Fields of China (1911)
- The Bird of Love (1910)
- An Autumn Fan (1910)
- Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian (1909)
- A Chinese Ishmael (1899)
- Chinese American literature
- Chinese American history
- List of Asian American writers
- Onoto Watanna
- The Land of Sunshine, v.13, 1900, p. 336 has a very nice picture of her. The serial can be accessed through Hathi Trust.
- "EATON, EDITH MAUD". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. Retrieved 2008-07-17.