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Themes - Writing

Isabella Valancy Crawford

Photograph of Isabella Valancy Crawford

(1846(?) - 1887)



Although now considered a leading 19th-century Canadian poet, Isabella Crawford achieved little recognition during her lifetime. Born in Dublin, Isabella Crawford immigrated to Canada with her family in 1857 when she was 10 years old. Her family eventually settled in North Douro, Ontario. Here she had the occasion to meet Catharine Parr Traill before the family relocated to Peterborough. In 1875 her siblings and father died, leaving Crawford and her invalid mother with scant financial resources.

To earn a living, Crawford sold her prose and poetry to newspapers. While some of her earlier work appeared in the Favourite and the Toronto Mail, between 1875 and 1879 she published only in American periodicals. Crawford and her mother relocated to Toronto, and in 1879 she began contributing to the Toronto Globe and the Toronto Evening Telegram.

Crawford submitted her work to literary journals but her efforts were rejected, leaving her with no choice but to publish in newspapers. In 1884, struggling to gain recognition, she used her own money to publish "Old Spookses' Pass", "Malcolm's Katie" and Other Poems, a collection of some of her best narrative poems. This collection received critical praise but sold only 50 copies. Apart from newspapers, it was the only publication of Crawford's work during her lifetime. With some difficulty, what remains of her work has been posthumously compiled and published from newspapers and her surviving manuscripts.


Information on the Crawford family's immigration was found on the ship's manifest for the Ship R. Robinson which arrived in New York on January 2, 1857. This information was provided to Library and Archives Canada by a descendent of the Crawford family.


The existing Crawford manuscripts can be found in the Lorne Pierce Collection at the Queen's University Archives, Kingston, Ontario.

Books of Prose or Poetry

The collected poems of Isabella Valancy Crawford. — Edited by John W. Garvin with an introduction by Ethelwyn Wetherald. — Toronto: W. Briggs, c1905. — 309 p.

Fairy tales of Isabella Valancy Crawford. — Edited and with an introduction by Penny Petrone. — Ottawa: Borealis Press, c1977. — 85 p. — ISBN 0919594530

Selected stories of Isabella Valancy Crawford. — Edited and with an introduction by Penny Petrone. — Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, c1975. — 90 p. — ISBN 0776643355

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