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Winnifred Eaton

Adriaensens, Vito

Winnifred Eaton is best known for her success as a novelist under the pseudo-Japanese pen name Onoto Watanna, but she also worked as a screenwriter, title writer, literary advisor, and scenario editor for Universal and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer between 1921 and 1930, and wrote a number of poignant articles on both the profession of the Hollywood screenwriter and the Asian-American experience. Eaton was born to a British father and a Chinese mother who left England for Hudson, New York, before settling in Montreal, where she was born. She supposedly wrote under a Japanese pseudonym to safeguard herself against fervent anti-Chinese sentiments of the time (Hicks et al. 2000, 201), expressed through legislation such as Chester A. Arthur’s 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which was not repealed until 1943. As Onoto Watanna, Eaton played into and strengthened the popular late-nineteenth century Japanese strand of orientalism known as japonisme, which permeated the arts, design, fashion, film, and literature, even though she would never visit Japan. She was progressive for her time, however, in that her romances were often characterized by interracial relationships. Her older sister, Edith Maude Eaton (1865-1914), tackled anti-Chinese sentiments head on, writing both journalism and fiction about the rough Chinese-American experience under the pen name of Sui Sin Far (Chen 2016, 185).

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Academic Units
Film
Libraries
Series
Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019