About the Conference

Onoto Watanna’s Cattle at 100: Indomitable Women in the West During Chinese Exclusion

July 27-29, 2023

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

“Onoto Watanna’s Cattle at 100: Indomitable Women in the West During Chinese Exclusion” is a public-facing scholarly conference about the first Asian North American novelist, Winnifred Eaton, organized by the Winnifred Eaton Archive.

Winnifred Eaton Babcock Reeve (1875-1954) was a popular early Chinese North American fiction-writer, journalist, screenwriter, and playwright whose best known works were published under the pen-name “Onoto Watanna,” a controversial Japanese persona that she assumed for over two decades. Eaton was also the sister of Edith Eaton (“Sui Sin Far”), author of Mrs. Spring Fragrance.

This gathering seeks to explore Winnifred Eaton’s transnational and multi-genre career beyond her problematic Japanese phase in response to newly recovered and newly digitized works by her and to situate her within new contexts, including the Canadian west, Canadian literature, middlebrow fiction, film, and Indigenous studies on the centenary of the publication of her powerful naturalist novel Cattle.

2023 is also the centenary of the passage of Canada’s Chinese Immigration Act, sometimes referred to as Canada’s Chinese Exclusion Act. Presenters and attendees will consider Eaton’s controversial masquerade and representations of race against the backdrop of over a century of anti-Asian racism and violence in North America and within a history of the Chinese diaspora. 

Conference Plenaries

Diana Birchall, Biographer

Winnifred Eaton’s granddaughter and the author of Onoto Watanna: The Story of Winnifred Eaton.

Nancy Rao, Professor, Rutgers University

Author of Chinatown Opera Theater in North America and a manuscript about 19th-century Chinese theatre in the US.

Spencer Tricker, Assistant Professor, Clark University

Author of the forthcoming Imminent Communities: Liberal Cosmopolitanism and Empire in Transpacific Literature (1849-1924).