Susanna Moodie

Susanna Moodie (1803-1885), from Types of Canadian Women..., 1903. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Susanna Moodie
Born December 6, 1803
Died April 8, 1885 (aged 81).
Occupation Author

Susanna Moodie (December 6, 1803 - April 8, 1885), was an English-born Canadian author who wrote about her experiences as a settler in Canada (which was a British colony at the time).


Moodie was born Susanna Strickland in Bungay, on the River Waveney in Suffolk, the younger sister of 3 other writers, including Agnes Strickland and Catharine Parr Traill. She wrote her first children's book in 1822, and published other children's stories in London, including books about Spartacus and Jugurtha. In London she was also involved in the Anti-Slavery Society, transcribing the narrative of the former Caribbean slave Mary Prince.[1]

On April 4, 1831, she married John Moodie, a retired officer who had served in the Napoleonic Wars. In 1832, with her husband and daughter, Moodie emigrated to Canada. The family settled on a farm in Douro township, near Lakefield, north of Peterborough, Upper Canada, where her brother Samuel worked as a surveyor.

She observed life in what was then the backwoods of Ontario, including native customs, the climate, the wildlife, relations between the Canadian population and recent American, and the strong sense of community and the communal work,known as "bees" (which she, incidentally, hated). She suffered through the economic depression in 1836, and her husband served in the militia against William Lyon Mackenzie in the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837.

As a middle-class Englishwoman Moodie did not particularly enjoy "the bush", as she called it. In 1840 she and her husband moved to Belleville, which she referred to as "the clearings". She studied the Family Compact and became sympathetic to the moderate reformers led by Robert Baldwin, while remaining critical of radical reformers such as William Lyon Mackenzie. This caused problems for her husband, who shared her views, but, as sheriff of Belleville, had to work with members and supporters of the Family Compact.

In 1852, she published Roughing it in the Bush, detailing her experiences on the farm in the 1830s. In 1853, she published Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush, about her time in Belleville. She remained in her cottage in Belleville after her husband's death, and lived to see Canadian Confederation. She died in Toronto, Ontario on 8 April 1885 and is buried in Belleville Cemetery.


Moodie continued to write in Canada and her letters and journals contain valuable information about life in the colony. Her greatest success was Roughing it in the Bush; which came of a suggestion by her editor that she write an "emigrant's guide" for British people looking to move to Canada. Moodie wrote of the trials and tribulations she found as a "New Canadian", rather than the advantages to be had in the colony. She claimed that her intention was not to discourage immigrants but to prepare people like herself, raised in relative wealth and with no prior experience as farmers, for what life in Canada would be like.


Susanna Moodie's artifacts are housed in a museum in Lakefield. Founded by Samuel Strickland, the museum was formerly an Anglican church, which overlooks the Otonabee river where Susanna once canoed. It also displays artifacts concerning both Samuel and Catharine Parr Traill.

Moodie's books and poetry inspired Margaret Atwood's collection of poetry, The Journals of Susanna Moodie, published in 1970. It was also an important influence on one of Atwood's later novels, Alias Grace, based on an account of murder convict Grace Marks which appeared in Life in the Clearings Versus the Bush. Moodie has also been a source of inspiration for Carol Shields, who published a critical analysis of her work, Susanna Moodie: Voice and Vision. Additionally, the central character of Shields's novel, Small Ceremonies, is working on a biography of Mrs. Moodie.

Commemorative stampEdit

On September 8, 2003, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Library of Canada, Canada Post released a special commemorative series, "The Writers of Canada", with a design by Katalina Kovats, featuring two English-Canadian and two French-Canadian stamps. Three million stamps were issued. Moodie and her sister Catharine Parr Traill were featured on one of the English-Canadian stamps. [2]



  • Patriotic Songs (poems by Susanna and Agnes Strickland). London: R. Green, 1830.
  • Enthusiasm, and other poems. London: Smith, Elder, 1831.



  • The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian slave. London: Westley & Davis / Edinburgh: Waugh & Innis, 1831.
    • (edited by Moira Ferguson). London: Pandora, 1987.
  • Negro Slavery Described by a Negro: Being the narrative of Ashton Warner, a native of St. Vincent's. London: Maunder, 1831.




Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy Library and Archives Canada.[8]

Oh! Can You Leave Your Native Land? Susanna Moodie Tolkingbook English18:45

Oh! Can You Leave Your Native Land? Susanna Moodie Tolkingbook English

Audio / videoEdit

  • Roughing It in the Bush (CD; read by Billie Mae Richards). Toronto: Canadian National Institute for the Blind, 2001.[8]

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. Davies, Carole (2008). Encyclopedia of the African Diaspora: origins, experiences, and culture. N-Z, Volume 1. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. p. 770. 
  2. "50th Anniversary of the National Library / Canadian Authors," Canada Post, Web, 28 Mar. 2011.
  3. Search: Susanna Moodie, Project Gutenberg, Web, Apr. 8, 2012.
  4. Life in the Backwoods by Susanna Moodie, Project Gutenberg, Web, Apr. 8, 2012.
  5. Adventures of Little Downy, the Field Mouse (1844), Internet Archive. Web, Oct. 5, 2013.
  6. George Leatrim, or The mother's test by Susanna Moodie], Early Canadiana Online. Web, Oct. 5, 2013.
  7. Letters of a Lifetime, Google Books. Web, Oct.5, 2013.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Susanna Moodie – Bibliography of Major Works, Susanna Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill, Library and Archives Canada,, Web, Apr. 8, 2012.

External links Edit

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