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University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections

Robertson, Heather

  • robertson_h
  • Person
  • 1942-2014

Heather Robertson was born in Winnipeg in 1942. She received a B.A. (Honours) in English from the University of Manitoba in 1962. Robertson displayed a penchant for invoking controversy during her term as Editor of the University's student newspaper, The Manitoban. A column criticizing Bison football resulted in her being hung in effigy. She was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and studied Victorian Literature at Columbia University in New York, where she received an M.A. in English.

Returning to Winnipeg, Robertson began a journalism career at the Winnipeg Free Press. She was quickly hired away by the Winnipeg Tribune, where she worked for two years. Robertson received $3000 to pursue her research on Aboriginal Peoples. The resulting voluminous study became the foundation for her first book Reservations are for Indians, published in1970. Three years later, she wrote Grass Roots, with Salt of the Earth appearing the following year. In 1975, Robertson profiled Barbara Frum and Judy Lamarsh in the book, Her Own Women. Two years later, she wrote A Terrible Beauty : The Art of Canada at War. In 1981, she chronicled the life of the infamous Winnipeg bank robber, Ken Leishman, in the screenplay, The Flying Bandit.

Robertson's literary career took a new direction in 1983 with the publishing of Willie, A Romance. The book marked the author's initial attempt at fiction, and she garnered a best first novel award, Books in Canada. The intimate look at the life of Prime Minister Mackenzie King was further developed in Lily, A Rhapsody in Red, published in 1986, and Igor, published in 1989. Robertson has published a number of other works of non-fiction. A Gentleman Adventurer: The Arctic Diaries of R.H.G. Bonnycastle , appeared in 1985. The bestseller More Than a Rose was released in 1991, followed by On The Hill (1992). Robertson also wrote Meeting Death (2000), The Road Well Kept: Branksome Hall Celebrates 100 Years (2001) and Driving Force: The McLaughlin Family and the Age of the Car (2003). In 2003, Robertson edited the autobiography of Angus Shortt, entitled My Life With Birds. Robertson's most recent book, which she co-wrote with Melinda McCracken, is Magical, Mysterious Lake of the Woods (2003). It received the Fred Landon award for the best work on Ontario regional history in 2004.
Like most Canadian writers, Robertson has held a host of other jobs to supplement her literary career. She worked for the CBC and wrote columns for Macleans, Chatelaine, Saturday Night, Canadian Forum, and Equinox. Robertson passed away on her 72nd Birthday, March 19, 2014.