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Two women talking, by Edith S. Watson, Crow Head, Newfoundland, 1913. Image: Library and Archives Canada

Cooks and their work area, by Edith S. Watson, Stag Harbour, Newfoundland, 1913. Image: Library and Archives Canada

Ferryland, Newfoundland, by Edith S. Watson, 1913. Image: Library and Archives Canada

Hopedale, Newfoundland, by Edith S. Watson, August 1913. Image: Library and Archives Canada

  • Edith S. Watson

    In the 1890s, American artist Edith S. Watson ventured north of the border to Newfoundland and Labrador. With her camera in hand, Watson documented rural life. Many of Watson’s photographs featured women at work – digging the land, milking cows, carrying water, drying fish. These contrasted against the posed portraits of middle and upper class women. Her ground-breaking shots make Watson a pioneering photojournalist.

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  • Watson and Hayward

    Each spring, Watson travelled to Bermuda. There in 1911, she met Victoria ‘Queenie’ Hayward, a math teacher-turned-journalist. The two became partners in work and in life. They travelled across Canada, primarily to rural or remote areas, encountering a diversity of cultures. They were invited to stay with the Doukhobors, who had fled persecution in Russia; with the Haida on the West coast; in fishing villages, tiny mining towns and everywhere in between.

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  • Romantic Canada

    In 1922, the publishing company MacMillan commissioned Watson and Hayward to write a travelogue of their journeys. They settled in Toronto, at No. 24 McGill Street to work on the book, Romantic Canada. It featured Watson’s photographs supplemented by Hayward’s text. In the book, Hayward coined the phrase ‘the Canadian mosaic’ to describe the country’s multiculturalism – a term still used today. The book offered readers a glimpse into remote Canadian settlements and different ways of life across the country.


    Victoria Hayward and Edith Watson, Romantic Canada, Toronto: Macmillan, 1922.

    Frances Rooney, Working Light : the Wandering Life of Photographer Edith S. Watson. Ottawa: Carlton University Press, 1996.

    Frances Rooney, Working the Rock : Newfoundland and Labrador in the photographs of Edith S. Watson, 1890-1930. Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, Newfoundland and Labrador : Boulder Publications, 2017.

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