Gabrielle Roy was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba, and educated at Saint Joseph's Academy and the Winnipeg Normal School. Following her formal training, Ms. Roy devoted a number of years to teaching in elementary schools. She then spent two years in Europe before returning to Canada at the outbreak of World War II in 1939.
Gabrielle Roy settled in Montreal, where she worked as a journalist for various newspapers and magazines. After her first novel, The Tin Flute, appeared in 1945, she returned to the West for a short stay and, in August 1947, married Marcel Carbotte, a Saint Boniface doctor. After their wedding, the couple went to Europe where Carbotte studied gynaecology and Roy spent her time writing.
During this period, she wrote Where Nests the Waterhen and The Cashier, both of which were published on her return to Canada. Other books followed, including: Street of Riches, The Road Past Altamont, Windflower, Enchanted Summer, Garden in the Wind, Children of My Heart and The Hidden Mountain, an excerpt from which is featured on the back of the new $20 note.
"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"
« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »
This excerpt reminds us that arts and culture define who we are, as well as the system of beliefs, values, and customs we share as Canadians. It is taken from Roy's novel La montagne secrète, published in 1961. The English translation by Harry L. Binsse, The Hidden Mountain, was published in 1962.
Gabrielle Roy was the recipient of many literary awards, including France's Prix Femina, an award from the Literary Guild of America, and three Governor General's Awards. Her works have been translated into more than fourteen languages.
The Manitoba writer, who was the first woman elected to the French section of the Royal Society of Canada (1947), also won the Society's Lorne Pierce Medal. In 1967, she was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.
She died in Quebec City in 1983, and her autobiography, La Détresse et l'Enchantement (Enchantment and Sorrow), was published the following year.