Jean Margaret Wemyss, was born at Neepawa, Manitoba on July 18, 1926. Her mother died when she was four years old. Her father subsequently married his wife's sister, a teacher and librarian. With her encouragement, young "Peggy" began writing stories at the age of seven. When she was nine, Laurence's father, Robert, died. The family moved into the home of the maternal grandfather. While living with her Grandfather Simpson, Laurence completed her secondary school education in Neepawa and obtained her first writing job as a reporter for the Neepawa Press in the summer of 1943. In 1944, she graduated from high school and began attending the United College in Winnipeg. She worked as the assistant editor of the college newspaper before graduated with her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1947.
In September of the same year, she married Jack Laurence, a hydraulic engineer. For a period she worked as a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press. Then, in 1949, they moved to England. The following year, Jack's work took them to British Somaliland and, two years later, to Ghana. Their daughter, Jocelyn was born in 1952 in England between the two postings and their son, David, was born in Ghana in 1955. Laurence's earliest major literary works were based on her experiences in Africa.
In 1957 the family returned to Canada, settling in Vancouver. In 1962 Laurence and the children moved to the village of Penn in Buckinghamshire (30 miles from London). Margaret and Jack Laurence were divorced in 1969.
After establishing a summer home on the Ontonobee River in the early 1970's, Laurence returned to live permanently in Lakefield, Ontario in 1973. She was active in organizations promoting the cause of world peace, particularly in Project Ploughshares. She was awarded the Order of Canada and honorary degrees by fourteen Canadian universities. For three years she was chancellor of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. She died at Lakefield on January 5, 1987.
Margaret Laurence's Literary Works:
A Tree for Poverty (1954) - Translation of Somali Poetry
This Side Jordan (1960) - Novel
The Tomorrow-Tamer (1963) - Short Stories
The Prophet's Camel Bell (1963) - Memoir
The Stone Angel (1964) - Novel
A Jest of God (1966) - Novel
Long Drums and Cannons (1968) - Study of Nigerian Literature
The Fire-Dwellers (1969) - Novel
A Bird in the House (1970) - Short Stories
Jason's Quest (1970) - Children's Book
Diviners (1974) - Novel
Heart of a Stranger (1976) - Essays
Six Darn Cows (1979) - Children's Book
The Olden Days Coat (1979; revised 1982) - Children's Book
A Christmas Birthday Story (1980) - Children's Book
Dance on the Earth (1989) - A Memoir
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