In her new, extremely well researched book, Joanne Findon crafts the tale of her great-grandmother and early feminist voice, Sarah Jameson Craig. Seeking Our Eden: The Dreams and Migrations of Sarah Jameson Craig is an insightful look into life as a feminist and poor woman in early Canada.
Seeking Our Eden draws heavily from Craig’s own detailed journals and memoir, chronicling her life from adolescence to just before her death. Throughout her numerous moves, starting in New Brunswick before finally ending up in western Canada, Craig documented every aspect of her life; her attempt to run away from home, building a family, and surviving tragic losses. Despite being stuck in the lower class all her life, Craig was courageous enough to have the ambitions of more affluent women, dreaming of building a utopian colony based on women’s equality, practicing alternative medicine and dress reform. Findon expertly uses Craig’s writings to contextualize feminist concerns that came before the suffragette movement.
As Findon points out, it was unusual for a woman of Craig’s status to have kept such detailed journals. It wasn’t typical for a lower class woman to be able to write. Luckily, her parents wanted their children to be educated, and as Craig practiced, she became better. Craig’s writings are eloquent, skilled, and paint a vivid picture of her life. Her accomplishments are impressive; she refused to let her circumstances limit her, and lived life on her own terms with incredible determination. Although she may not have achieved everything she wanted to, Craig’s resilience and commitment to her goals is admirable. During her own lifetime, Craig may not have made the impact she wanted to, but Findon ensures her legacy rightfully survives.
At times, however, Seeking Our Eden feels more like a summary of Craig’s life as opposed to readers getting the opportunity experience it through her eyes. Findon offers much-needed context and explanation for some of the topics Craig address (like describing the water-based treatments she used for illnesses), but these sections often tended to drag on, almost feeling tedious. Information is also difficult to keep track of. Journals are quoted out of chronological order, which can cause confusion, and so many names are thrown around it began to feel like Game of Thrones. The book works best when readers are immersed in Craig’s writings.
From the beginning, Findon is transparent about her familial link to Craig: her grandmother was Craig’s youngest child, Florence. Findon, understandably, does not elaborate on this connection throughout the book’s content. Seeking Our Eden’s sole purpose is to put the spotlight on Craig. However, she does address the relationship in the book’s afterword. Findon grew up watching her grandmother type out Craig’s journals, but did not read them until she was in her 30s. She describes how she felt a connection to her great-grandmother, and her quest to search for her home in New Brunswick. The afterword is an emotional and strong piece of writing. It’s authentic and solidifies a connection between Findon, Craig, and even the readers, truly making the book a worthwhile read.
Sarah Jameson Craig may not have been a typical feminist, or a woman who greatly influenced the world around her. But she was passionate and brave, and had an inspiring resolve to never give up.
byWith Seeking Our Eden, Findon helps Craig realize her dream of becoming a writer, and also demonstrates how the issues she struggled against, like dress codes and health care, still remain relevant feminists today.
by: Patricia Karounos