Trent University Library & Archives continues to offer electronic collections and virtual services. As part of the University’s limited and reduced campus presence, Bata Library and the Durham GTA Campus Library & Learning Centre are closed and physical collections are unavailable. Virtual services and support are available by contacting Check for updates regularly on our COVID-19 Alert Page.

Curbside Pickup for Faculty & Graduate Students is available starting June 23rd.

Finding Aid:

Search the Archives

Fonds Level Description

Accession Number: 92-1004


Margaret Laurence collection. -- 1963-1980. -- 7 items. -- 1 photograph. -- 2 audio discs.

Biography / History

Margaret Jean Laurence (nee Wemyss) was born in Neepawa, Manitoba in 1926. Her mother died when she was four years old. Her father remarried her aunt. He died when she was nine years old and at that point her aunt and stepmother raised her. Margaret married Jack Laurence on September 13, 1947 (they later divorced) and they had two children; Jocelyn and David. She was educated at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Margaret lived in a number of different places including: Somaliland (1950-1952), Ghana (1952-1957), Vancouver (1957-1962), England (1949-1950 and 1962-1969) and finally Ontario until her death in 1987. Her most important piece of literature was the Manawaka series which consists of: "The Stone Angel" in 1964, "A Jest of God" in 1966, "The Fire Dwellers" in 1969, "A Bird in the House" (connected short stories) in 1970 and "The Diviners" in 1974. The subject matter of this series dealt with women and how the prairies were treated by politics. She also wrote about Africa which included: "This Side of Jordan" in 1960, "The Tomorrow-Tamer" in 1963, "The Prophet's Camel Bell" in 1963, "Drums and Cannons" in 1968, "Heart of a Stranger" (personal essays about Africa, her Canadian roots, and her discovery and recognition of her own Canadian identity) in 1976, various short stories, a non-fictional account of her life in Somaliland and a study of Nigerian novelists and playwrights. Her autobiography "Dance on the Earth" was published posthumously in 1989. (Taken from: Ousby, Ian. "The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English." Great Britain: Cambridge University Press, 1993.) Margaret won the Governor General's Award for "A Jest of God" and "The Diviners". She received honorary degrees from 12 universities including Trent University in 1972. She was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1973 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1977. She was Chancellor of Trent University from 1981 to 1983, a writer-in-residence and frequent guest speaker at Trent. Margaret Jean Wemyss Laurence died at Lakefield January 5, 1987. (See the Trent Fornightly, Vol. 17, No. 9.)

Custodial History

This collection was part of a bequest of made by Margaret Laurence in her will. This collection was housed at Traill College, Trent University until it was separated from the rest of the collection and donated to the Trent University Archives by Professor John Wadland of Trent University.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of items taken out from the collection of books from the Margaret Laurence collection at Catharine Parr Traill College. Publications by Laurence which are referred to include "The Prophets Camel Bell", "Long Drums and Cannons", "The Christmas Birthday Story", "The Diviners", "Six Darn Cows" and "Manawaka works". Other records have information which refers to, or are from, Helen Margaret Buss, Philip Shirley, Scott Hutcheson, Angus Mowat, Al Purdy, William Ready, and the book "Poet Cop" by Hans Jewinski.


Title based on creator of the collection.

This collection was donated by Professor John Wadland.

Restrictions: N

Finding aids: Y

Associated material located at McMaster University and Archives, Hamilton, Ontario, the National Archives of Canada and at the York University Archives in Toronto.

Finding Aid


1. A note from Helen Margaret Buss that accompanied her study of M. Laurence's Manawaka works, n.d.

2. A letter to M. Laurence from Philip Shirley, Oct 3, 1963, re The Prophets Camel-Bell, and a photograph of "Musa", 1964.

3. A Clipping of a review of Long Drums and Cannons, by M. Laurence, 1969

4. "Scott Hutcheson's Boat", a card with two photos (Hutcheson and his boat) and a poem to Angus Mowat by Al Purdy with a hand- written dedication to Margaret; Prince George, B.C. Caledonia Writing Series, 1973

5. Collection of six items about William Ready, friend of M. Laurence, August 1979

6. Collection of 4 letters and 2 Clippings related to The Christmas Birthday Story, September 1980

7. Poet Cop, by Hans Jewinski, Simon & Schuster, Markham, 1975 with dedication inscription and hand-written poem in front cover.

8. Copy 33.3 rpm disc of songs from The Diviners, Quality Records, 1973 with inscription "For the Children-Margaret Laurence" on jacket.

9. Copy disc of Six Darn Cows read by Margaret Laurence, 1979