Catharine Parr Traill was born Catharine Parr Strickland in London, England, in 1802. The fifth daughter of a soon-to-retire dock manager, she grew up in a middle-class family that encouraged the children in reading and in writing. Her sisters Agnes and Elizabeth wrote Lives of the Queens of England and other biographies of the aristocracy, her sister Susanna (later Moodie) emigrated to Canada and wrote novels and autobiographical accounts of pioneer life, and her brother Samuel, another emigrant to Canada, wrote of a settler’s life. Catharine’s juvenilia include children’s stories and nature tales designed to teach moral lessons.
In 1832 Catharine Parr Strickland married Thomas Traill, a lieutenant in the Twenty-first Royal Scottish Fusiliers, and in the summer of that year they emigrated to Upper Canada (Ontario). They settled on a farm near Lakefield and close to Samuel Strickland’s home. Their pioneering experiences formed the subject of Catharine’s The Backwoods of Canada: Being Letters from the Wife of an Emigrant Officer, Illustrative of the Domestic Economy of British America (1836).
Thomas Traill, less enthusiastic than his wife about their pioneer life, sold their farm in 1839, and the family moved to Peterborough. Poverty seemed to follow them, and in 1846 they accepted an offer to live rent-free in a friend’s home at Rice Lake. Battling continual depressions, Thomas Traill relied on his wife to raise their seven surviving children and, when time permitted, to write her natural history studies. He died in 1859, and his wife settled in Lakefield. In her later years Catharine Parr Traill continued her two main writing interests, natural history and juvenile fiction.
Catharine Parr Trail died in Lakefield, Ontario in 1899.
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