This Week in History
Thinker and Wanderer: Newfoundland’s Margaret Duley
For the week of Monday September 24, 2007
On September 27, 1894,
Margaret Iris Duley – suffragist, feminist, and the first Newfoundland novelist to attain international popular acclaim – was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Margaret was an imaginative child who excelled in reading and acting, talents that she later cultivated at the Royal Academy of Drama and Elocution in London, England.
Returning home before the outbreak of the First World War, Margaret became active in the Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA), a group organized to provide small necessities to the Allied soldiers. Socks were one such necessity – the WPA produced 62,685 pairs – and socks became the subject of Margaret’s first published work. The epilogue poem, A Pair of Grey Socks, was her contribution to her mother’s modest booklet of the same name, a dedication to the Newfoundland Regiment fighting overseas.
Duley’s first novel was written in an established British literary model based on the male perspective. However, with her second novel, Cold Pastoral (1939), she rejected this style and began to incorporate 20th-century literary styles and themes, narrating each successive novel from a feminist viewpoint and attitude built solely from her experiences in Newfoundland.
For her significant contributions to Canadian literature and Newfoundland culture, Margaret Iris Duley was designated a National Historic Person in 1976.
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