Grace and Susan Blackburn

In 1894, Grace went to Minnesota to teach dramatic reading and English, later becoming principal of a school in Indiana, while continuing to send home articles. In 1903, the sisters were sent by the Free Press to New York as art and drama critics. During this period, Grace became one of Canada’s best theatre critics. In 1906, they went overseas. 1988 Susan spent a year in both Germany and Japan, teaching and writing travel articles, while Grace furthered her theatrical education in Europe. Grace wrote much poetry, and her novel set during the First World War, The Man Child, was published in 1930. She helped establish the London Drama League, and was president of the London Women’s Mess Club and the Women’s Canadian Club. Susan was a director of both the Community Concert Association and the Women’s Music Club. She was active in the Western Art League and the London Drama League.

Josiah Blackburn (1823- 1890) emigrated to Upper Canada in 1851 and the following year purchased a London newspaper, the Canadian Free Press, for $500, renaming it the London Free Press. Of the eight children of Josiah and his wife, Emma Jane, four served at the newspaper: Walter and Arthur as publishers; and Grace and Susan as writers.

Grace and Susan were born in 1865 and 1871 respectively. They attended public and high schools in London, and Grace went on to Hellmuth Ladies College. Susan attended the Western University of London, Ontario and in 1900 was its first woman graduate. From 1894 until 1928, Grace, under the penname Fanfan, wrote a weekend column of travel narratives, poetry, and essays. Susan wrote editorials and some travel narratives. They were so well regarded as journalists that notables in the world of art, music, and drama would visit them while in London.

Both sisters died in this house, Grace in 1928, and Susan in 1946.


Grace and Susan Blackburn
652 Talbot Street
London, ON
42° 59' 25.8432" N, 81° 15' 20.3832" W