Friday, January 29, 2010

Mrs. Spring Fragrance

Edith Maude Eaton (1865–1914)
From Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing

Born in Cheshire to an English father and a Chinese mother, Edith Maude Eaton immigrated with her family to New York in the 1870s before living in Quebec, San Francisco, Seattle, and back east in Boston. Under the pseudonym Sui Sin Far, she wrote articles and stories featuring Chinese immigrants and communities and focusing on themes of assimilation and discrimination. (Her younger sister Winnifred enjoyed even greater success, publishing best-selling novels and stories under the Japanese-sounding pseudonym Onoto Watanna.) The title story from Edith’s 1912 collection, Mrs. Spring Fragrance, portrays an “Americanized” couple who struggle to reconcile their own traditions regarding love and marriage with the view of love illustrated by two lines from a Tennyson poem. Additional information about Eaton is included in the headnote that precedes the selection.

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When Mrs. Spring Fragrance first arrived in Seattle, she was unacquainted with even one word of the American language. Five years later her husband, speaking of her, said: “There are no more American words for her learning.” And everyone who knew Mrs. Spring Fragrance agreed with Mr. Spring Fragrance. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

This selection may be photocopied and distributed for classroom or educational use.

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