Memorable Manitobans: Dorothy Kathleen May Livesay (1909-1996)
Born at Winnipeg on 12 October 1909, daughter of John Frederick Bligh Livesay and Florence Hamilton Randal, her journalist father joined the Canadian Press in 1920 and took his family to Toronto. She was educated at Glen Mawr School for Girls, Trinity College, University of Toronto, and the Sorbonne.
Arguably the most distinguished poet native to Manitoba, she published her first book of poems, Green Pitcher, at age 18. From early life she was a feminist and a socialist. She joined the Communist Party in 1932 and was an organizer for the party during the Depression, while employed as a social worker in New Jersey, and Montreal. She continually published poetry, winning the Governor General’s Award for poetry in 1944 (Day and Night) and 1947 (Poems for People).
In 1937, she married Duncan Cameron Macnair (1897-1959) and raised two children in Vancouver, then spent several years in Zambia with UNESCO in the early 1960s, and began a new career in poetry with The Unquiet Bed (1967) and Plainsongs (1969). She was the author of many volumes of poetry written in many different styles. She founded the poetry magazine CV/II in 1975. British Columbia’s major poetry prize is named in her honour. In later years she wintered in the Gulf Islands and summered at Lake Winnipeg. A fictionalized volume of her Winnipeg reminiscences was published in 1973 as Beginnings: A Winnipeg Childhood.
She died at Victoria, British Columbia on 29 December 1996. Her papers are at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections and the Archives of Manitoba.
Birth registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Death registrations [Duncan Cameron Macnair, Dorothy Kathleen May Livesay Macnair], British Columbia Vital Statistics.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 15 December 2021