Beautiful Joe

As an inspiration for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), in November, I would like to introduce you to a great author who has known success and is behind great works as a conservationist.

Margaret Marshall Saunders
Margaret Marshall Saunders. Source: Harkins and Johnstone (1902) Little Pilgramages among the Women Who Have Written Famous Books, L.C. Page & Co., Boston

Margaret Marshall Saunders was born on May 13, 1861 in the village of Milton, Nova Scotia; she died on February 15, 1947, in Toronto, Ontario. She is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto.

She was a teacher in Nova Scotia who thought something was missing in her life.  Her friends and family encouraged her to write a novel.  She did just that.  Her first published novel was a melodramatic romantic story, My Spanish Sailor. [A Tale.]. Afraid of how other women would react to this book, she published under the name Marshall Saunders. And so began her writing career.

A chance encounter with William Moore in Meaford, Ontario, inspired her to write his real-life tale of a dog rescued from a brutal owner who clipped his ears and tail. The book is Beautiful Joe. It told the story of an abused dog from his point of view. Not only did her 1893 story win first prize in an American Humane Society competition, but Saunders was the first woman – the first Canadian – to sell more than a million copies. Her book was also translated in over fourteen languages!

“I don’t believe that a dog could have fallen into a happier home than I did.”

How’s that for inspiration?

In 1934, Saunders was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). Together with fellow Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Saunders co-founded the Maritime branch of the Canadian Women’s Press Club.

Following the success of Beautiful Joe, Saunders wrote more than twenty other stories, a number of which provided social commentary on such things as the abolition of child labor, slum clearance, and the improvement of playground facilities.

In 1994, the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society was formed to celebrate the life and story of Beautiful Joe and the achievements of Margaret Marshall Saunders. A park dedicated to Beautiful Joe has been established in Meaford, Ontario, Canada.

2014 Participant of the NaNoWriMo challenge
Natioanl Novel Writing Month


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