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Memorable Manitobans: Martha Ostenso (1900-1963)

Author, journalist.

Born in Norway, she came with her parents to North America at an early age, living in various American towns before settling in Brandon. She was educated at Brandon Collegiate, Kelvin Technical High School, and the University of Manitoba. She taught school in the Interlake region before becoming a Manitoba Free Press reporter. She became romantically involved with novelist/teacher Douglas L. Durkin, and he helped her with her writing. The two lived together for many years and married in 1945. In 1925 she published Wild Geese, a novel that in manuscript won a $13,500 prize for best first novel in competition with 1,700 others. Like many prairie novels, it features a patriarchal father (whose tyranny is compared to the land he farms) and inter-generational conflict. Ostenso subsequently lived in the United States, publishing a number of other novels and other writings as well as spending much time in Hollywood writing film scripts.

See also:

“The Development of Prairie Realism” by David Arnason, PhD dissertation, University of New Brunswick, 1980.

Sources:

Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by J. M. Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 16 June 2013

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