Margaret Laurence: Biography

Margaret Laurence

18 jul 1926

Jean Margaret Laurence was a novelist, writer and Chancellor who was born in Manitoba, Canada in 1926. She remains one of the most important figures in Canadian literature. Laurence had a tragic family life as a child, her mother died when she was four years old and her aunt took over her care. When her aunt’s son died tragically young, Laurence was sent to live with her grandmother. These early experiences are the inspiration for her novel Bird in the House.

Laurence began to write short pieces of fiction just after marrying her husband. Whilst the couple were living in Africa, both Laurence and her husband had stories published in literary magazines. Laurence continued to write and completed her novel The Stone Angel once she had returned to Canada. It was published in 1964 and remains the novel for which she is best known. The novel is told from the point of view of a ninety-year-old woman living in Vancouver. It looks back over an entire lifetime in rural Canada. It was required reading in the Canadian and US school systems for many years. The Stone Angel was turned into a film directed by Kari Skogland and was released in 2007.

In addition to her writing, she was also a founding member of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, an organization which is dedicated to encouraging the Canadian writing community on a not-for-profit basis.

Jean Margaret Laurence was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 1986, and took her own life in Ontario in 1987, aged 60 years old.