University of Winnipeg | 50 Years Search

Margaret Laurence

Alumna, Author


Creating a rich and uniquely Canadian literary legacy

One of the most important writers in Canada, the late Margaret Laurence graduated from United College (now The University of Winnipeg) in 1947, with a degree in English (Hons).

She was born in the picturesque Manitoba town of Neepawa, which later became the inspiration for her fictional town Manawaka and the setting of her most beloved novel, The Stone Angel.

Laurence would influence an entire generation of writers with her ongoing themes of freedom, survival, home, colonialism, and isolation. She gave a voice to women in literature and created the memorable character Hagar Shipley, whose last journey towards freedom was a landmark event for Canadian literature and solidified Laurence's career.

Laurence married and lived with her husband (whom she later divorced) in England, Somaliland, and Ghana. Africa transformed Laurence as she saw first-hand the challenges people faced in emerging nations. She developed a deep, lifelong interest in African folklore and literature.

Beginning in 1960 with This Side Jordan, she wrote 14 books, the most famous being the novels set in rural Manitoba. Each of these books — The Stone Angel, A Jest of God, The Fire Dwellers, A Bird in the House, and The Diviners — brings an acute sense of life on the Prairies. Her childhood home in Neepawa remains a heritage site open to the public.

During her life, Laurence received many honours: the Governor General’s Award for A Jest Of God (1966) and The Diviners (1974), the Companion of the Order of Canada (1972), and 14 honourary degrees from Canadian universities. She remains an inspiration to many younger writers.

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