The Winnifred Eaton Archive

Romancer — Journalist — Screenwriter

The wild and wonderful career of a pioneer Asian North American writer

The Winnifred Eaton Archive is a research and teaching tool that offers over 200 works by Winnifred Eaton Babcock Reeve (1875-1954). Winnifred Eaton was a popular early Asian North American author, journalist, screenwriter and playwright whose best known works were published under the pen-name Onoto Watanna, a controversial persona that she assumed for over two decades. She was also the sister of Edith Eaton (Sui Sin Far). Drawing on the resources of libraries and special collections from around the world, this digital archive provides freely accessible scans and fully searchable transcriptions of much of Winnifred Eaton’s collected oeuvre. Our goal is to provide a more complete picture of this complex and problematic figure. The archive will expand as Eaton’s known oeuvre expands. It also houses supplemental materials: photographs, reviews, illustrations, a biography, a bibliography, and unpublished manuscripts. Read More

Featured Items

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  • Li Ching’s BabyLi Ching’s Baby, although one of the earliest texts signed Onoto Watanna, is set in a Canadian Chinatown and features characters and themes typically associated with the works of Winnifred Eaton’s sister, Edith Eaton (Sui Sin Far). When his Chinese bride gives birth to a stillborn, a Chinese businessman and smuggler pays his former French-Canadian lover to replace it, while his wife is sleeping, with a baby stolen from her white employer. Read More Written by Mary Chapman
  • A Neighbor’s Garden, My Own, and a Dream One (Part 1)A Neighbor’s Garden, published while Eaton was living on Long Island, details her love of flowers as well as the trials of the work involved in homemaking. Illustrative of the New York years during which she worked to reinvent herself, it is also an example of Eaton’s orchestration of identity. While presented as autobiographical nonfiction, the text is credited to her Japanese pseudonym and many of its ‘autobiographical’ details—the flowering land of Japan which had been [my mother’s] home (347)--are fiction. Eaton uses the autobiographical genre to fashion the character/self of Onoto Watanna and thus the text is simultaneously self-revealing and self-obscuring. Read More Written by Daisy Couture
  • Butchering BrainsWhile researching the biography of my grandmother Onoto Watanna, I was particularly struck by this vivid account of famous writers being imported into Hollywood. How little attitudes and practices have changed! Butchering Brains is a vital and sometimes hilarious window into the past, all the more for being laced with the corroding professional resentments engendered by such an atmosphere. Read More Written by Diana Birchall
  • Marion (Part 4)Isn’t it curious that Hearst’s synopsis of the serial novel claims that Marion’s mother is a Frenchwoman when the first instalment begins with Marion’s mother’s foreignness being whispered about by French Montrealers? But perhaps it’s unsurprising; this was the era of the Chinese Exclusion Act and fierce prejudice against the Chinese, and Marion, after all, is our beautiful heroine! You would never know, reading this instalment, that the route taken across the border by the real Marion—Winnifred Eaton’s sister Sara Eaton Bosse—was fraught with danger, or that her beau’s reluctance to marry her had to do with anything more than her financial status! Read More Written by Karen Skinazi
  • Johnny’s Calf and Pa’s CowJohnny’s Calf and Pa’s Cow is one of many stories Eaton set on the prairie after her relocation to Alberta ranch country. Her characters, marked predominantly by vulgar rawness with fleeting moments of affection, offer readers a glimpse of Canadian prairie life. Eaton appears to leave Johnny’s hard-working mother intriguingly out of her title just as Pa, in the story itself, cannot recognize Ma’s significant contributions to their household. Perhaps she is like Pa’s cow, milked for all its worth? Read More Written by Sijia Cheng
  • Wild RoseIn many respects, Eaton’s draft screenplay of Wild Rose reads like a short story that aims to portray Alberta as a prominent character, with the title recalling both the province’s provincial flower and the screenplay’s protagonist. Accordingly, the plot Eaton maps out is a picturesque and uniquely Canadian interpretation of classic American western tropes—one example being her substitution of Northwest Mounted Police for the sheriffs, Pinkerton agents, and cavalry officers who typically pursue outlaws in the American Wild West. The preliminary state of Eaton’s draft is evident in her characterization of the Forest Ranger, whose last name changes from Rowan to Kenyon without explanation. Perhaps the name Kenyon plays on the name of fictional lumberjack Paul Bunyan, first popularized in 1916. Read More Written by Samantha Bowen
  • A ProtestThe conflict between two writers in Calgary’s small literary community played out on a national stage over several issues of Canadian Bookman in early 1924. Laura Goodman Salverson and her allies responded to Eaton Reeve’s protest with counter-statements and eventually an affidavit. Eaton Reeve retreated. I should not have allowed what I thought was an unkind and ungrateful act on her part toward me to have hurt me. Few of us can rise above our personalities. Read More Written by Shaun Hunter

People Mentioned

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and the User Interface Developer at the Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (Simon Fraser University). He is also an M.A. student in English at the University of British Columbia where his research focuses on Indigenous and diasporic Canadian literature; he is currently completing a digital edition of His Royal Nibs.

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/mchapman/.

Diana Birchall

Diana Birchall is the author of Onoto Watanna: The Story of Winnifred Eaton and the granddaughter of Winnifred Eaton. She is a collaborator on this project.

Author of Headnote

Karen Skinazi

Karen E. H. Skinazi is the Director of Liberal Arts at the University of Bristol. She writes about women’s literature and republished Winnifred’s 1916 novel Marion: The Story of an Artist’s Model with a long introduction situating the text in a history of passing narratives (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2012). She is a collaborator on The Winnifred Eaton Archive.

Shaun Hunter

Shaun Hunter is the author of Calgary through the Eyes of Writers (Rocky Mountain Books, 2018) and consultant for an exhibition of the same name, featuring Winnifred Eaton, at the Lougheed House in Calgary. She is a collaborator on The Winnifred Eaton Archive

Author of Headnote

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