Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


A female character type, one which is arguably unique to Canada, can be found in English-Canadian fiction from the time of the earliest creative writing, up to and including the present time. By virtue of her historical origins, this character type should be labelled the "pioneer woman" since her creation was, in fact, grounded in the actuality of the pioneer experience, and on details of that experience that were reconstructed and reinterpreted in fiction, often through a moralistic or idealistic filter.;In The Backwoods of Canada (1836) and The Canadian Settler's Guide (1855), Catharine Parr Traill described a pioneer woman's role on the Ontario frontier of the mid-nineteenth century, mingling fact with fancy to paint an idealized portrait of the Canadian pioneer woman. Traill's transposition of this figure into fiction, as for example, Catharine Maxwell of Canadian Crusoes (1852), resulted in her creation of what was, in effect, a new fictional character type: the pioneer woman.;Various versions of the pioneer woman appear in English-Canadian fiction throughout the hundred years following Traill's development of the character type. Sara Jeannette Duncan's The Imperialist (1904) and Ralph Connor's The Man From Glengarry (1901) and Glengarry School Days (1902) feature pioneer women who cope on a real physical frontier and also cope with a new type of frontier environment, one grounded in social and personal concerns rather than in the physical landscape. The longevity of the pioneer woman as character type in fiction is further demonstrated in the fiction of Margaret Laurence. Hagar Shipley of The Stone Angel (1964), Rachel Cameron of A Jest of God (1966), and Morag Gunn of The Diviners (1974) inhabit an internal, personal frontier. Like Duncan's Advena Murchison and Connor's Mrs. Murray, they are more contemporary versions of Traill's pioneer woman. All exhibit traits which link them to Traill's original model of the pioneer; all are part of a creative continuity which extends from Traill to Laurence and beyond.



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