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Blewett, Jean

Main entryBlewett, Jean
Birth placeScotia, Kent, Ontario (on Lake Erie)
Birth date4 November c1860
Death placeChatham, Ontario
Death date19 August 1934
Birth nameMary Jane McKishney
Alternate namesKathleen Kent
Married nameBlewett
Marital statusmarried
Religious affiliationEpiscopal Methodist; Presbyterian
Paid workjournalist
Other workvolunteer
BiographyMary Jane McKishney (1862-1934), later known and remembered as Jean McKishnie, was from a literary family. Her brother Archibald was a novelist, her sister, Mrs. W.W. Snider, did newspaper work in Detroit, and her cousin, Eve Brodlique Summers*, was a well known journalist. Jean attended the local school and was later enrolled at the St. Thomas Collegiate Institute. Some time during her mid to late teens (depending on which government document lists her correct birth date), Jean married a farmer from Cornwall, Basset Collins Blewett. As an older teenager, Jean began publishing poems, short stories, and articles in the public press and in magazines. Her first paid work was for a lullaby published in FRANK LESLIE'S MONTHLY that was written to her first child. OUT OF THE DEPTHS, her first novel, appeared in 1890. She spent a number of years with the TORONTO DAILY GLOBE, where she edited the "Homemaker's Department," and later with EVERYWOMAN'S WORLD, sometimes writing under the name "Kathleen Kent." As Jean Blewett she was the author of three volumes of poetry and four novels, popular for their expression of joy in the commonplace. In 1919, with the support of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, she published "Heart Stories," a booklet to benefit war charities. Because of a nervous breakdown, Jean retired in 1925 and went to stay with her daughter in Lethbridge until 1927. With the exception of this period, Jean spent most of her adult life in Toronto. For a short time before her death, she lived with her older brother William. Jean died of kidney failure in 1934 at the Public General Hospital in Chatham and was buried at Maple Leaf Cemetery. In 1946, she was designated a "Person of National Historical Significance" by the Government of Canada for her journalism and literary production.
Other notesJean is a typical example of nineteenth-century ladies' proclivity for age-bending; her age fluctuates from record to record. Marriage registry says "Mary Jane" was born in Harwich and is 16 years old. Death registry says born in Harwich Township on 9 November 1859. John Garvin's entry in CANADIAN POETS lists Jean's birth year as 1872, and marriage year as 1889. Supposedly, Blewett, Saskatchewan, a small stop along the CPR, was named after the poet. The Chatham-Kent Public Library has an historical plaque memorializing "Jean McKishnie Blewett."
Honours and awards1st place for "Spring," Best poem on spring (Chicago Times-Herald); International Poetry Prize (1896); Designated a Person of National Historical Significance (1946)
ResidencesScotia, Kent, Ontario (1860s); Harwich, Kent, Ontario (1871); Blenheim, Kent, Ontario (1891); Toronto, Ontario (1900-1925); Lethbridge, Alberta (1925-1927); Toronto (1927-); Chatham, Kent, Ontario
Geographic regionsOntario
Primary genrespoetry; fiction; journalism
Other publicationsAnthologized in: Burpee, CENTURY OF CANADIAN SONNETS (1910); Burpee, FLOWERS FROM A CANADIAN GARDEN (1909); Campbell, OXFORD BOOK OF CANADIAN VERSE (1913); Carman and Pierce, OUR CANADIAN LITERATURE (1934); Caswell, CANADIAN SINGERS AND THEIR SONGS (1902, 1919, 1925); French, STANDARD CANADIAN RECITER (1918); Garvin, CANADIAN POEMS OF THE GREAT WAR (1918); Garvin, CANADIAN POETS (1916, 1926); Garvin, CANADIAN VERSE FOR BOYS AND GIRLS (1930); Garvin, CAP AND BELLS (1936); Rand, TREASURY OF CANADIAN VERSE (1900); Stephen, VOICES OF CANADA (1926); Toronto Women's Press Club, VERSE AND REVERSE (1921); Edited: HEARTS OF GOLD (1915)
OrganizationsCanadian Authors Association, Canadian Women's Press Club, Dickens Fellowship
Father's nameJohn McKishnie (or McKishney)
Life dates of fatherc1826, Argyll, Scotland - 26 August 1918, Chatham, Ontario
Father's notefarmer; naturalist
Mother's nameJanet ("Jane") McIntyre
Life dates of mother12 October 1836, Chatham, Ontario - 25 September 1912, Chatham, Ontario
Mother's noteRelated to Duncan Ban MacIntyre, famous Gaelic poet
Spouse 1Basset Collins Blewett
Life dates of spouse 122 October 1848-51, Liskeard, Cornwall, England - 17 July 1918, Toronto, Ontario
Spouse 1 notefarmer; American Customs agent in Toronto
Marriage 1 date6 June 1876
Marriage 1 placeChatham, Ontario
Children number2
Children's names and datesJohn George (6 August 1878 - November 1958), m. Elizabeth; Hazel Lucy ("Eve") (19 October 1888 - ), m. to Edward Arthur Kelly
Biographical referencesFEMINIST COMPANION TO LITERATURE IN ENGLISH (1990); NEW WOMEN: SHORT STORIES BY CANADIAN WOMEN, 1900-1921, Campbell & McMullen, eds. (1991), pp. 139-140; Garvin, CANADIAN POETS (1916), pp. 189-196; 1871 Census of Canada; 1891 Census of Canada; 1901 Census of Canada; 1911 Census of Canada; Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1928; Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1936 and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947
Bibliographic referencesWatters, CHECKLIST OF CANADIAN LITERATURE...1620-1960 (1970), pp. 19, 250; British Library; University of British Columbia Library; National Library of Canada
Research referencescomplete
Archival referencesletters to John Willison, Willison fonds, National Archives of Canada; letter to J.S. Woodsworth, Woodsworth fonds, National Archives of Canada; letter to Henry Morgan, Morgan fonds, National Archives of Canada; letter to W.D. Lighthall, Lighthall Papers, McGill University; several letters and manuscripts, Logan Papers, Acadia University; letter, John Cooper fonds, North York Public Library; letters and poem, Newton McTavish papers, North York Public Library; letters, Margaret Cowie fonds, Rare Books and Special Collections, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC
Image creditsImage from John. W. Garvin, ed., CANADIAN POETS (2nd ed., Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1926).
CopyrightThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) at Please cite Canada's Early Women Writers. SFU Library Digital Collections. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. 1980-2014.