Jean Margaret Laurence was a Canadian novelist and short story writer, and is one of the major figures in Canadian literature. She was also a founder of the Writers’ Trust of Canada, a non-profit literary organization that seeks to encourage Canada’s writing community. Margaret Laurence was born on 18 July 1926 in Neepawa, Manitoba, as the daughter of solicitor Robert Wemyss and Verna Jean Simpson. In 1944, Laurence attended Winnipeg’s United College and she had studied ; English, History, Ethics, and Psychology. Laurence had published works of poetry in the University of Manitoba’s publication “The Manitoban”. She had submitted this work under the pseudonym “Steve Lancaster”. Laurence graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 1947.She aslo had joined in Christian socialist movement known as the Social Gospel.
Laurence worked at a leftist weekly newspaper, The Westerner, and then at a new independent newspaper, the Winnipeg Citizen in which she reported numerous social and political issues. Laurence was so moved by the oral literature of Somalia that she began recording and translating poetry and folk tales, which would later be compiled into the work “A Tree for Poverty: Somali Poetry and Prose” (1954). Laurence began writing short stories in her teenage years while, her first published piece is “The Land of Our Father”. Her first novel was “The Side Jordan” (1960) (Britannica) Laurence’s another works are ; “The Prophet’s Camel Bell”(19 63), “The Stone Angel”(1964) (1966) , “The Fire Dwellers” and “The Diviners” (1974). She was the subject of a National Film Board of Canada documentary, Margaret Laurence: First Lady of Manawaka. Laurence served as Chancellor of Trent University in Peterborough from 1981 to 1983.She also wrote sequential short stories, which she collected under the title “A Bird in the House”(1974).
Laurance was known for her outspoken support for peace, women’s rights and other progressive causes. Laurence’s novels portray strong women striving for self –realization while immersed in the daily struggle to make a living in a male –dominated world. Her stories feature strong women and their struggle for self – understanding and acceptance. Throughout all her works, Laurence explores themes concerning the role of women, the injustices of sex –role stereotyping and the equality of opportunity .The point of view is limited to the female protagonist’s consciousness. Laurence’s protagonists are oppressed, they never blame the men in their lives or the male –dominated society. All of Laurence’s heroines come to realize that the environment has also given them the strength and the courage to endure.
“Manawaka” is a fictional town in the Canadian province of Manitoba, frequently used as a setting in novels and short stories by Margaret Laurence. The name is an amalgam of Manitoba and Neepawa. The town was based on Laurence’s real life hometown. Margaret Laurence’s Manawaka, like Hardy’s Wessex or Faulkner’s Yocknapatawpha County, universalises human experience through mythologizing it. Laurence certainly brings back the old names from the Old Testament.Laurence spent years seven in Africa ,in Somaliland and Ghana and the experience was a catalyst to her own best writing. Her early novels were influenced by her experience as a minority in Africa. Laurence developed an admiration for Africa and its various populations.