Margaret Laurence

Jean Margaret Laurence (née Wemyss18 July 1926 – 5 January 1987) was a Canadian writer.

She attended Winnipeg’s United College,  where she took courses in English, History, Ethics, and Psychology, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 1947. Laurence worked as a journalist at the independent newspaper the Winnipeg Citizen. After marriage, she and her husband moved to England, in 1949; then to the then-British protectorate of British Somaliland, from 1950 to 1952; to the British colony of the Gold Coast (now Ghana), from 1952 to 1957; and, finally, moved back to Vancouver, British Columbia, where they stayed for five years. In 1962, she separated from her husband and moved to London for a year.  In 1969, she became writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto, and later, she moved to Lakefield, Ontario.

In 1986, Laurence was diagnosed with lung cancer, and committed suicide at her home in 1987.


  • Governor General’s Award for her novel A Jest of God (1966)
  • Companion of the Order of Canada (1972)
  • Governor General’s Award for her novel The Diviners (1974)
  • National Historic Person (2016)



  • This Side Jordan (1960)
  • The Stone Angel (1964)
  • A Jest of God (1966)
  • The Fire-Dwellers (1969)
  • The Diviners (1974)

Short story collections

  • The Tomorrow-Tamer (1963)
  • A Bird in the House (1970)

Children’s books

  • Jason’s Quest (1970)
  • Six Darn Cows (1979)
  • The Olden Days Coat (1980)
  • The Christmas Birthday Story (1982)


  • A Tree for Poverty (1954, anthology of Somali poetry and folk stories)
  • The Prophet’s Camel Bell (1963, non-fiction account of Laurence’s life in British Somaliland)
  • Long Drums and Cannons: Nigerian Dramatists and Novelists 1952-1966 (1968)
  • Heart of a Stranger (1976, essays)
  • Dance on the Earth: A Memoir (1989)

Books about her

  • The Life of Margaret Laurence, by James King (1998)
  • Alien Heart: The Life and Work of Margaret Laurence, by Lyall Powers (2004)
  • Margaret Laurence: the Writer and Her Critics, by W. H. New, ed. (1977)
  • Margaret Laurence, by Clara Thomas (1969)
  • The Manawaka World of Margaret Laurence, by Clara Thomas (1975)
  • A Place To Stand On: Essays By and About Margaret Laurence, by George Woodcock, ed. (1983)

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