Spring 2022 - Virtuoso



Louise de Kiriline Lawrence’s life was filled with extraordinary events from the beginning. Born into Swedish aristocracy in 1894, she turned her back on privilege and trained as a nurse during the First World War, marrying a Russian POW and following him back into the Russian Civil War. After he was murdered by the Bolsheviks, she emigrated to Canada in 1927, setting up a Red Cross Outpost Hospital in Bonfield, Ontario, where she visited her patients by Model T in summer and dogsled in winter. Among her “mothers” was Elzire Dionne, who gave birth to the first quintuplets in the world to survive for more than a day. Louise became nurse-in-charge of the famous Dionne Quints, but disturbed by the media circus around the infants, she quit after a year, retreating to her wilderness cabin, where she devoted the rest of her life to studying the birds nesting in her three acres of forest. A passionate, self-trained observer, she wrote life histories of wilderness birds whose daily existence was a mystery at the time and parsed the meaning of complex bird behaviours. Decades later, scientists continue to confirm her findings ...


Merilyn Simonds is the author of 20 books, including The Convict Lover, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint, and most recently the novel Refuge. She lives with writer Wayne Grady and divides her time between Kingston, Ontario, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Woman, Watching: Louise de Kiriline Lawrence and the Songbirds of Pimisi Bay will be released this May by ECW Press.

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