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Interesting People

Pauline Johnson (1861-1913)

Pauline Johnson, ca. 1895

Pauline Johnson, around 1895

Daughter of Mohawk chief George Henry Martin Johnson and Englishwoman Emily Susanna Howells, Emily Pauline Johnson was born on the Six Nations Reserve in what is now known as Ontario. She had a priviledged upbringing, and many distinguished guests such as Princess Louise, Prince Arthur and Lord Dufferin visited the family home just outside of Brantford. She grew up belonging to two cultures and was mostly tutored at home.

As a means of supporting herself, Pauline published some of her poems, sometimes signing them under the name Tekahionwake, emphasizing her Native heritage. She eventually began to tour across Canada and the United States reciting her poetry. She published her first two poetry collections in London, England and toured there twice. In some of her performances she would first appear in Native dress, then halfway through the program would switch to a drawing-room gown. Pauline's talent for drama, her beauty and stage presence combined to make her a popular entertainer and performer. She performed in a wide range of venues, from elegant halls in large cities to remote settlements where the only transportation was by stagecoach.

During her lifetime, Pauline wrote for magazines and newspapers, published poetry, short stories and travel articles as well as articles about Native life. Pauline fell ill and was forced to retire from touring. She settled in Vancouver in 1909 and died on March 7, 1913 of breast cancer.

Photograph of Pauline Johnson, Brantford, Ontario, between 1885 and 1895

Pauline Johnson, Brantford, Ontario, between 1885 and 1895

Title page of book, THE WHITE WAMPUM, by Pauline Johnson, 1895, featuring a drawing of an Indian camp in the woods

Title page of The White Wampum, by Pauline Johnson, 1895


"Emily Pauline Johnson (1861-1913)." Canadian Poetry Archive.
(accessed February 23, 2005).

"Johnson, Emily Pauline." The Canadian Encyclopedia. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1985, p. 920

"Johnson, Emily Pauline." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
(accessed February 11, 2005).