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Bemister, Margaret

Main entryBemister, Margaret
Birth placePortage La Prairie, Marquette, Manitoba
Birth date31 August 1877
Death placeVancouver, British Columbia
Death date3 March 1984
Identifier0165
Birth nameMargaret Bemister
Marital statussingle
Religious affiliationCatholic
Degree and dateteacher certificate, Winnipeg Normal School
Paid workteacher (school); journalist, contributed columns to MANITOBA FREE PRESS
BiographyDescended from Newfoundlanders on her father's side, Margaret Bemister (1877-1984) was born in Manitoba, into a family of thirteen children. Over her life of nearly 107 years, Margaret collected many stories, beginning with the legends told to her in the 1880s by a native chief (Antowyne) who was a regular visitor at her pioneer parents' home in Winnipeg. After she qualified to teach at the Winnipeg Normal School, she used her story-telling skills to entertain her classes, and began to publish her tales in collections for schoolchildren. Her INDIAN LEGENDS, first issued in 1914, was still popular over seventy-five years later. An early member of the Winnipeg branch of the Canadian Women's Press Club, where her colleagues included Abbie Lyon Sharman* and Florence Randal Livesay*, Margaret wrote for the MANITOBA FREE PRESS and was one of the creators of the CHRISTMAS KNAPSACK (1914) anthology issued by the CWPC to raise money for soldiers' comforts at the outbreak of World War I. During the 1920s and 30s, Bemister wrote a regular column for the FREE PRESS PRAIRIE FARMER. She was eighty-two when she retired to Vancouver to live with one of her sisters. Even as an elderly woman, she continued to publish stories for children, producing THE ARROW SASH and THE GOLDEN CARAVEL in the 1960s. Margaret died at St. Vincents Hospital in Vancouver, on 3 March 1984. She was buried at Gardens of Gethsemane.
Other notesWilliam Willis Bemister, Margaret's great-grandfather, immigrated from England and settled in Newfoundland in 1803. While he had arrived as a clerk working on behalf of George & James Kemp, Bemister soon set up his own firm, W. Bemister & Co. As the Bemister family grew in size, so they grew in importance; several members worked as captains in the flourishing seaside industries.
ResidencesPortage La Prairie, Manitoba (1877, 1881); Winnipeg, Manitoba (1906, 1911); Vancouver, British Columbia (1959-1984)
Geographic regionsManitoba; British Columbia
Primary genresfiction; journalism
BooksSTORIES FROM PRAIRIE AND MOUNTAIN (1909); MANITOBA PRIMER (1910); THIRTY INDIAN LEGENDS OF CANADA (1912); INDIAN LEGENDS (1914); THE PIXIES' REWARD (1917); THE GOLDEN CARAVEL (1962); THE ARROW SASH (1965)
PeriodicalsST. ANTHONY MESSENGER; CATHOLIC BOY; COUNTRY GUIDE; MANITOBA FREE PRESS
Other publicationsAnthologized in: Canadian Women's Press Club (Winnipeg), CHRISTMAS KNAPSACK (1914)
OrganizationsCanadian Women's Press Club
Father's nameGeorge Bartlett Bemister
Life dates of father26 May 1845, Carbonear, Newfoundland (possibly at sea) - 22 May 1932, Winnipeg, Manitoba; m. 1874
Father's notesurveyor, Canadian National Railway
Mother's nameMary Elizabeth ("Lizzie") McPhillips
Life dates of motherJuly 1856, Ontario - 30 August 1939, Winnipeg, Manitoba; m. 1874
Biographical referencesDagg, THE FEMININE GAZE (2001), p. 37; 1881 Census of Canada; 1906 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta; 1911 Census of Canada; Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s; Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada); Winnipeg Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
Bibliographic referencesWatters, CHECKLIST OF CANADIAN LITERATURE...1620-1960 (1970), p. 247; University of British Columbia Library
Research referencescomplete
Archival referencesLetter to Abby Lyon Sharman, Sharman papers, National Archives of Canada; family photographs, Rorke Family Fonds, Memorial University Digital Archives Initiative
Image creditsImage from THE CANADIAN MAGAZINE 54.3 (January 1920): 275.
CopyrightThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/. Please cite Canada's Early Women Writers. SFU Library Digital Collections. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. 1980-2014.