Catharine Parr Traill’s The Backwoods of Canada, first published in 1836, gives an intimate and vivid picture of life in the bush country of Upper Canada. The series of letters that make up the book cover a period of two and half years. Though most were originally written to her mother, the letters were later compiled and published for an intended audience of future female emigrants.
Traill’s account of life in the New World is cheerful and buoyant despite the hardships she relays—from the three-month journey to Upper Canada by ship to settling in the bush near Peterborough, Ontario. The letters offer remarkable insight into the skills a well-suited woman might be expected to learn, but the lasting appeal of her work is due to her astute observations of changing notions of class and economy, which reached well beyond her stated audience.
Traill typified a new type of woman—the pioneer—and contributed much to an emerging understanding of Canada and Canadian identity.