Margaret Marshall Saunders was born on 13 April 1861 in Milton, Nova Scotia. The daughter of a Baptist minister, Saunders lived in Halifax and Maine before moving to Toronto, Ontario in 1914. She died 15 February 1947 at her home.
When Saunders began her writing career, books by male authors sold better than those by female authors. Because of this, she chose to omit the name Margaret from her works. The strategy was successful. Beautiful Joe was the first Canadian book to sell over a million copies.