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Memorable Manitobans: Martha Ostenso (1900-1963)

Author, journalist.

Born at Bergen, Norway in 1900, she came with her parents to North America at an early age, living in South Dakota and Minnesota before settling in Brandon. She was educated at Brandon Collegiate, Kelvin Technical High School, and University of Manitoba. She taught school at Hayland School (1918) 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 1944. 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. She died while visiting Seattle, Washington on 25 November 1963.

See also:

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


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

“Author Ostenso is dead,” Winnipeg Free Press, 26 November 1963, page 29.

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

We thank Nathan Kramer for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 1 December 2018

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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