This Week in History


Susanna Moodie: Pioneer and Writer

For the week of Monday August 27, 2001

Following a long trip across the Atlantic, Susanna Moodie arrived in Canada on August 14, 1832, at the Grosse-Île Quarantine Station with her husband and first child. This talented writer left Canadians a rich historical and literary heritage.

Susanna Moodie

Susanna Moodie
© Library and Archives Canada / NL-15557

Susanna Moodie, née Strickland, was born December 6, 1803, in England. In her home where she was raised with her two brothers and five sisters, a great emphasis was placed on literature and creativity. From the time they were very young, the children enjoyed theatre, poetry and history. Many of them went on to have successful literary careers. Susanna's many influences allowed her to develop a distinctive body of work. She adopted various literary styles throughout her career, including poems, articles, short stories and novels.

While living in London in 1830, and a member of the Anti-Slavery Society, she met her future husband, John Moodie. They lived in England for a short time. Looking for more financial stability, they immigrated to Canada with their first child in the summer of 1832. Settling on land that was difficult to cultivate proved to be a frustrating experience and eventually they moved to Belleville in 1840.

The trials and tribulations that Susanna Moodie faced did not keep her from pursuing her literary career and even became a source of inspiration. Roughing It in the Bush (1852), her first successful book, is a testament to that. This book is appreciated as much as an account of the Canadian adventure as for its literary qualities. It describes what the Moodies experienced upon their arrival in Canada, during the most difficult and happiest of times. Their stop at the Grosse-Île Station upon their arrival in the country was part of it. From 1832 to 1937, this station was the entry point where immigrants were quarantined to prevent infectious diseases from entering the country. Susanna then wrote two complementary books. One depicted life in Canadian towns in the middle of the 19th century (Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush, 1853), and the other an autobiographical account of a couple immigrating to Canada, (Flora Lyndsay: Passages in an Eventual Life, 1854). She died in Toronto in 1885.

Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site

Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial
National Historic Site

© Parks Canada

Susanna Moodie was recognized as a person of national historic significance. A plaque in Susanna's honour can be found in Belleville, Ontario. Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial, Quebec, was also recognized as a site of national historic significance.

For more information on Susanna Moodie, visit the National Library and Archives Web site. For more information on Grosse Île, visit the Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial Web site.

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