Montgomery, L.M. “A Request.” Canadian Magazine 45.4 (August 1915): 324.
This post is not actually about L.M. Montgomery, who everybody knows, or at least has no reason not to know. This post is about Margaret Bell Saunders. Again, not Margaret Marshall Saunders, author of Beautiful Joe: An Autobiography (1893), which is also on the “you should already know about this” CanLit list.
Margaret Bell Saunders, on the other hand, is troublesomely elusive. I was reviewing the entry we have almost finished, and discovered that we have no solid birth or death dates, nor anything about her parents or siblings, spouse, or children—if she had any. And as she is known as both Miss Margaret Bell Saunders and Mrs. Margaret Bell Saunders, is it possible that she was Mrs. Margaret Saunders, née Bell? This contemplation is supported by the fact that she published as Margaret Bell, not Margaret Bell Saunders… but the greater portion of evidence suggests that she remained unmarried.
What do we know, then? She is known, as much as she is known at all, as a war correspondent during the First World War. The US Library of Congress has a collection of photographs of her from 1920 (including this delightful shot of her with her dog), and note that “Miss Saunders served with the British Army and was for two years under fire. She was the first English Speaking Woman to be wounded in the War.”
An article by Margaret Bell—”Women and Art in Canada (Everywoman’s World, 1914)—is oft referenced in discussions of Canadian women artists; that is about all I had to go on. A search on Early Canadiana Online, though, reveals that before the First World War, as early as 1911, she was writing a regular column in the Canadian Courier—”The Matinee Girl”—as well as publishing articles and stories in the Canadian Magazine. So the tentative birthday we had, 1894, seems unlikely. Ancestry.ca is of surprisingly little help: Margaret, Bell, and Saunders all being just that bit too much like Smith or Jones.
So that leaves me still missing a significant amount of biographical information in our entry on Margaret Bell Saunders. Early Canadiana Online was a good place to go, for it not only expanded our knowledge that little bit, but also gave us this poem by L.M. Montgomery, that follows an article by Margaret Bell in the Canadian Courier, and is where this post began…