SUI SIN FAR was born Edith Eaton in England in 1865, the eldest daughter of an English-educated Chinese mother, Lotus Blossom Trufusis, and an English father, Edward Eaton.In 1873 the family (including Sui Sin Far's younger sister Winnifred, also a writer) emigrated to Canada and settled in Montreal, where Sui Sin Far received her education and where she began her career as a writer. Between 1898 and 1912, she traveled through the United States working as a journalist, stenographer, and writer of short fiction. Her collection of short stories, Mrs. Spring Fragrance ( 1912), is commonly held to be the first book-length collection by a North American writer of Chinese descent.
Curiously, Sui Sin Far's sister also chose a pseudonym for herself, but in creating a pen name she also created an entire fictional identity; she became Onoto Watanna, a Japanese noblewoman. By choosing a Japanese identity, Winnifred Eaton capitalized on the favored status of the Japanese, who were seen by Americans and Canadians to be the "good Orientals," and were regarded with less suspicion than the Chinese. The difference in perceptions of the Chinese and Japanese was due, in part, to the fact that there were few Japanese in the United States at the turn of the century, and therefore they posed much less of a threat to the white labor force than did the Chinese. In choosing a Chinese pseudonym, therefore, Sui Sin Far made it her life's work to defend her mother's maligned race.
In 1896, Sui Sin Far published an open letter in a Canadian newspaper that explicitly detailed the discriminatory practices used against the Chinese in Canada.Titled " A Plea for the Chinaman," the article argues against a proposed five-hundred-dollar head tax for Chinese‐ American immigrants. In another article a year later, called " The Chinese Woman in America," she described the double bind trapping many Chinese women, who were faced with the archaic sexism of their Chinese husbands and the rampant racism of the white North Americans. She chronicles some of her own experiences with racism and sexism in an article published in 1909, "Leaves from the Mental Portfolio of an Eurasian." The piece anticipates much of the writing done later in the century by other Chinese American writers like Maxine Hong Kingston and Amy Tan.
Mrs. Spring Fragrance combines stories for children and stories about a Chinese woman, her husband, and their community. The