Reeve, Winnifred Eaton

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Reeve, Winnifred Eaton

Parallel form(s) of name

  • Babcock, Winnifred Eaton
  • Eaton, Winnifred
  • Reeve, Winifred Eaton
  • Eaton, Winnie

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      Dates of existence

      1875-1954

      History

      Canadian novelist and screenwriter Winnifred Eaton Reeve, née Eaton, was born in Montreal, Quebec. Though her birth date is sometimes given as 1879, she was born on August 21, 1875. At age 17 she went to Jamaica to report debates of the Legislative Council. In 1897 she moved to Chicago at which time her short stories were first published in The Saturday Evening Post and other periodicals.

      Reeve was of mixed Chinese and British ancestry, but she assumed an English Japanese identity, which was more politically acceptable at the time, and wrote under the pseudonym Onoto Watanna. Her first novel, Miss Nume, was published in 1899, followed by her best-selling novel, A Japanese Nightingale, in 1901. She continued to publish novels at about the rate of one per year.

      In 1917, after marrying Francis F. Reeve, she moved to a ranch near Morley, Alberta, and then after several years to Calgary. She was prominent in cultural organizations in Calgary, founding the Little Theatre movement and serving as first president of the Calgary branch of the Canadian Authors Association. She lived in the United States from 1924 to 1931, where she worked as an editor for Universal Pictures and wrote stories and screenplays for several film companies, such as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Fox Films and Universal Pictures. Reeve returned to Calgary in 1931; however, poor health restricted her writing and she wrote only a few short stories after that time. She died on April 8, 1954 in Butte, Montana, while on route to Calgary, Alberta, from California.

      Further biographical information available in Onoto Watanna : the story of Winnifred Eaton Reeve / by Diana Birchall (Urbana, Illinois : University of Illinois Press, 2001). Winnifred Reeve's work and interest in the theatre prompted a generous donation by the Francis F. Reeve Foundation, which made possible the construction of the Reeve Theatre at the University of Calgary.

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