Written by: Justin Brett
As mentioned in our page on the Chicora Incident, you can often never tell when something will become historical. Sometimes a work written on a whim can become very important. This can be shown very well with Anna Jameson, a woman born in 1794 who wrote an account of her tour through Canada that became a notable historical source.
That isn’t to say Jameson was not a fascinating person in her own right, of course. A creative woman from her youth, her first work was an autobiographical book by the invented personality of a dying woman. This was published as The Diary of an Ennuyée, gaining notoriety when the book’s real author was discovered. Her first significant work under her own name was Characteristics of Women. This book was an analysis of the heroines in Shakespeare’s work, and shows a great deal of critical insight. Jameson also worked as a governess from a young age, something that would influence her in the future.
In 1825 Anna married a lawyer she had been engaged to for several years by the name of Robert Jameson, who she would take her last name from. In many ways this marriage was not a happy one: for several years Robert left her in England for his job on the island of Dominica, never sending for her despite repeated promises. This trend would continue in 1836, when a change of position relocated Robert to Upper Canada. Jameson was summoned there by her husband, but upon arrival in nearby New York found no-one there to greet her, forcing her to travel the rest of the way to Toronto, in winter. It may not be a surprise, then, that in her book on her time in Canada, Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada, Jameson wrote that her initial impression of the city was of it being ‘ugly’ and ‘inefficient’.
Jameson did not stay in Toronto her entire time in Canada, however. The following Summer saw her take a trip around Ontario and its surrounding areas, Port Talbot, Detroit and Mackinaw among them, again without her husband around. Later she would travel by bateau to our own Sault Ste. Marie, and descended the rapids to Manitoulin, where she would witness a Native Assembly. Here she decided to draw a sketch of an Ojibway settlement, which you can see below.
Jameson would make her way back to Toronto through Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe, and would publish this account of her travels in 1838 upon returning to England. This ends her role when it comes to Canada, but it should be noted Anna Jameson was a notable early feminist. She would continue to work in that field in the years afterward, particularly when it came to education and employment. She seems to have been a fascinating, independent woman even outside her historical account.