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Margaret Duley (1894-1968) was a Newfoundland writer. Born into a prosperous St. John’s family, she was surrounded by art and literature in her youth. Known by her nickname ‘Peg’, she was intelligent and witty and her parents encouraged her studies by sending her to school in England. World War I interrupted her studies and the war affected her family deeply. One of her brothers was killed fighting with the Newfoundland Regiment and another brother was severely wounded. The trauma of these events influenced her later writing. The death of her father in 1920 and the depression led to financial hardship which inspired her to start writing to supplement the family’s income. Her first novel, The Eyes of the Gull tells the story of a young woman struggling to survive in a remote outport settlement and yearning to escape to a more cultured place. Her novels often featured strong women living in Newfoundland outports. During the Second World War, she volunteered at a hostel in St. John’s that catered to servicemen who were stationed in the city. Her last book, The Caribou Hut is a history of the establishment during the turmoil of the times. Duley was afflicted by Parkinson’s Disease in the 1950s and she lost the ability to write. Her slow decline ended in 1968 with her death.
Duley was Newfoundland’s first novelist of repute and her four novels earned her (and Newfoundland) international recognition. In 1974 the Newfoundland Writer’s Guild established the Margaret Duley Writing Award in her honour and in 1976 she was designated a Person of National Historical Significance by the Government of Canada.
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