Saunders, Margaret Marshall

Margaret Marshall Saunders, writer (b at Milton, NS 13 Apr 1861; d at Toronto 15 Feb 1947). She moved with her family to Halifax at age 6. At 15 she attended boarding school in Edinburgh, then studied French at Orléans. On her return home she taught school for a short time.

Saunders's first novel, a romance, My Spanish Sailor, was published in 1889. She wrote Beautiful Joe (1894), the story of an abused dog, for an American Humane Society competition. It won first prize and became a best-seller, was translated into more than 14 languages and was reportedly the first Canadian book to sell more than a million copies.

Saunders travelled widely in the US, setting her children's stories of domestic animals and birds in the locales she visited. Her romantic novels include Esther de Warren (1927), her own favourite, based on her experiences in Scotland. In 1914 she moved to Toronto. In the 1920s she and her sister toured Canada and the US giving illustrated lectures.

A woman of charm and humour, she had an ever-growing interest in humanitarian concerns (especially regarding children) and the treatment of animals. Her stories of pets, while sentimental and didactic, are gracefully written and entertaining.