The prize-winning entry in a national competition for distinctively Canadian fiction, Winona was serialized in a Montreal story paper in 1873. The novel focuses on the lives of two foster-sisters raised in the northern Ontario wilderness: Androsia Howard, daughter of a retired military officer, and Winona, the daughter of a Huron chief. As the story begins, both have come under the sway of the mysterious and powerful Andrew Farmer, who has proposed to Androsia while secretly pursuing Winona. With the arrival of Archie Frazer, the son of an old military friend, there is a violent crisis, and the scene shifts southward as Archie takes the foster-sisters via Toronto to his family’s estate in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River. Farmer follows, and the narrative moves towards a sensational climax.
The critical introduction and appendices to this edition place Winona in the contexts of Crawford’s career, the contemporary market for serialized fiction, the sensation novel of the 1860s, nineteenth-century representations of women and North American indigenous peoples, and the emergence of Canadian literary nationalism in the era following Confederation.
“Winona; or, The Foster-Sisters is a lively and engaging novel that makes up for its reliance on conventions through its treatment of issues of gender, race, and modernity that are of continuing critical and theoretical interest. Not least because of its brightly illuminating introduction, annotations, and appendices, the Broadview edition of Winona by Len Early and Michael A. Peterman, two of the most highly esteemed scholars in the field, opens a large and revealing window onto Crawford’s times and writerly concerns. Now that it is readily available in an authoritatively edited text, Winona is sure to spark reconsideration of the achievements and trajectory of a writer who made a greater contribution than has hitherto been generally recognized to the literary culture that emerged in Canada during the post-Confederation period.” — D.M.R. Bentley, University of Western Ontario