Wilson, Ethel (1888–1980) By Pinder, Kait
Ethel Wilson was a modernist prose writer who lived in Vancouver, Canada. Wilson began writing late in life; although she was only six years younger than Virginia Woolf, she published her first book, Hetty Dorval, in 1947, six years after Woolf’s death. Wilson was one of the first Canadian writers to represent both the growing city of Vancouver — including its Chinese-Canadian population and the class divisions in Vancouver society — and the rich landscape of British Columbia’s interior. Her published work includes three novellas, three novels, a collection of short stories, and a collection of essays, stories, and letters published posthumously. An orphan herself, Wilson often wrote about women without families who must negotiate the difficult social world in order to become self-sufficient and self-fulfilled. For this reason, her works are latently, if not radically, feminist. Furthermore, she often presents and meditates on difficult moral questions. Wilson commonly quotes John Donne’s phrase ‘No Man is an Island’ to emphasize her protagonists’ obligation to juggle their own desires and the needs of others. Wilson died on 22 December 1980 at a private hospital in Vancouver.