This is a special day, in a very blessed country. And we wanted to do something different. We want to take a few moments to acknowledge as well as celebrate our country, its birthday, and our fellow Canadians, past and present, who in ways large and small first envisioned, created and continue to help to grow this nation.
As journalist Kevin Myers wrote in a much more sombre and very different context “Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance“. This is usually equally true when it comes to Canadians proclaiming our own marvelous achievements in our own country. Which is sad because the truth is we have an awful lot to be proud of. So we decided to celebrate today by posting about some of Canada’s note worthy citizens!
The contribution and accomplishments of women often get over looked in countries that are much more enthusiastic about announcing to the world how magnificent they are. This is even more true in a quiet modest country such as ours. Therefore, we thought we would take this opportunity, the birthday of our fabulous nation, to give a small tribute and a little recognition to a few of the multitude of extraordinary women who have helped to shape and enrich this beautiful country, our Canada!
Today we are proud to be sharing with you a piece written by one of our loyal subscribers. Cindy Cyr’s love for and admiration of her subject is clear to read in every word of her guest post. We feel sure you will be drawn into and fascinated by this brief glimpse of one of Canada’s greatest authors, ….
“So, if this were indeed my Final Hour, these would be my words to you. I would not claim to pass on any secret of life, for there is none, or any wisdom except the passionate plea of caring … Try to feel, in your heart’s core, the reality of others. This is the most painful thing in the world, probably, and the most necessary. In times of personal adversity, know that you are not alone. Know that although in the eternal scheme of things you are small, you are also unique and irreplaceable, as are all of your fellow humans everywhere in the world. Know that your commitment is above all to life itself.”
― Margaret Laurence
Jean Margaret Laurence, CC (née Wemyss) (18 July 1926 – 5 January 1983) Born in Neepawa, Manitoba, Canada
Jean Margaret “Peggy”was the daughter of Robert Wemyss and Verna Jean Simpson. Margaret’s life changed abruptly at the age of four when her mother died. Her maternal aunt, Margaret Simpson came to take care of the family, and after an appropriate interval, her father married Margaret Simpson.
Margaret’s father died when she was ten years of age. Margaret and her stepmother went to live with John Simpson, her maternal grandfather. In her book, A Bird in the House, Margaret Laurence portrays him as a tyrannical autocrat.
Margaret began to write short stories at the age of seven and continued writing throughout her high school and college years. She attended United College in Winnipeg, Manitoba (1944 – 1947). Here she met her husband, Jack Laurence whom she married in 1947. They moved to England in 1949 where Jack worked on building dams and Margaret pursued her love of writing.
In 1952 the Laurence family, Jack, Margaret, and two month old Jocelyn moved to Accra, Ghana. It is here where Margaret began to receive recognition for her writing. Her early novels take place in Africa and show a strong sense of ethical concern about being Canadian while living in a colonial state. Her second child, David, joined the family in 1955.
Her first novel, This side Jordan, 1960, was born of her African experience. It won the 1961 Beta Sigma Phi Award … best novel by a Canadian.
The Laurence family returned to Canada and lived in Vancouver from 1957 until 1962. Margaret decided to move her family back to England in 1962. Jack did not move with them. She and Jack divorced in 1969.
Margaret Laurence became a beloved, “unforgettable” author. The Stone Angel, first published in 1964, is the first in a series of novels set in Manawaka. It is a fictitious town in the province of Manitoba, Canada. In this novel the world is introduced to one of literature’s most memorable characters.
Hagar Shipley is ninety years of age and is querulous, sharp tongued and sharp witted. She does not want to enter an old age home (which she equates with death), and makes a brave, bold attempt to hold on to her self reliance and freedom.
Her narrative takes us back in time through the years of a stormy marriage, the pain of living with inherited virtue, and the struggle to find her place in an unforgiving world.
Through Hagar’s pain we explore the stark physical landscape of a bleak prairie town as well as the profound workings and strength of Spirit and the tremendous capacity of the human heart to love and to forgive.
Margaret Laurence is all of her characters. Through them we travel on an emotional journey which encompasses the whole of the human psyche. It is rooted in the firm soil of love, tragedy, passion and the irony of life. It is a voyage of self understanding and discovery.
For this great gift we thank The First Lady of Canadian Literature, Margaret Laurence.
* For a complete list of the work of Margaret Laurence click HERE
My thanks to the World Wide Webb for providing dates of events and book publications as well as some personal information on Margaret Laurence.
Please feel free to share your own stories about Canadian women of whom we should be reminded, we’d be thrilled to meet anyone you’d care to introduce in the comments section.
We hope everyone enjoys a lovely July 1st, and wish our fellow Canadians A Very Happy Canada Day!
Happy Birthday Canada!