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Onoto Watanna (1875–1954)

Author of A Japanese Nightingale

Includes the names: Winnifred Eaton, Onoto [Pseud. of Winifred Eaton) Watanna

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Winnifred Eaton was the 8th child of 14 children of a British silk merchant and a Chinese mother, Grace, who had lived with missionaries. Although Winnifred was of Chinese descent she choose a Japanese pen name, Onoto Watanna, since Japanese novels were more popular. She was the first known writer of Asian descent to be published in America. Her first novel, Mrs Nomé of Japan was published in Chicago in 1899. Her granddaughter Diane Birchall wrote Onoto Watanna, a biography in 2001. www.famouscanadianwomen.com
Winnifred Eaton was born in Montreal, Quebec, one of 14 children of Edward Eaton, a British merchant, and his wife Grace Trefusis, the adopted Chinese daughter of British missionaries. Her older sister Edith Eaton grew up to become a writer and journalist under the pseudonym Siu Sin Far. Winnifred was educated at home and began writing articles for local English-language newspapers at a young age. Before long, she had published articles in several popular magazines, notably the Ladies' Home Journal. She left home at age 17 to work for a Canadian newspaper in Kingston, Jamaica, then moved to the USA to work in Chicago, Illinois, where she published stories in the Saturday Evening Post. She presented herself as a Japanese-American and used the Japanese- sounding pseudonym "Onoto Watanna" to publish romance novels and short stories, including Mrs. Nume of Japan (1899), A Japanese Nightingale (1900), A Japanese Blossom (1906), Daughters of Nijo (1907), and the bestseller Tama (1910). She wrote a semi-autobiographical novel entitled Me, A Book of Remembrance (1915), which proved extremely popular. Winnifred Eaton married twice and had four children from her first marriage to Bertrand Babcock. She lived for several years in Calgary, Canada before leaving in 1924 for New York City, where she wrote numerous screenplays for the rapidly-growing movie industry. She returned to Calgary and founded the Little Theatre group in 1932. She served as president of the local branch of the Canadian Authors’ Association.
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