Who Is Margaret Atwood?

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian writer who has written award-winning poetry, short stories and novels, including The Circle Game (1966), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Blind Assassin (2000), Oryx and Crake (2003) and The Tent (2006). Her works have been translated into an array of different languages and seen several screen adaptations, with both Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace becoming miniseries in 2017.

Early Life and Education

Atwood was born on November 18, 1939, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada to a nutritionist mother and entomologist father who fostered a love of nature. Also growing up in Quebec and showing a passion for writing at an early age, Atwood eventually pursued her undergraduate studies at Victoria College at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1961. She then earned her master’s at Radcliffe the following year. Over the course of her career, Atwood went on to teach at a variety of colleges and universities in both Canada and the United States.

Poems Acclaimed Literary Career

Atwood’s first published work was the pamphlet of poetry Double Persephone (1961), published via Hawkshead Press. More poetry followed during the decade as seen with the books Talismans for Children (1965) and The Animals in That Country (1968). She then published her first novel, The Edible Woman, in 1969, a metaphoric, witty work about the social status of a woman about to wed.

A tenacious spirit, Atwood would later describe taking Greyhound buses to read at gymnasiums and sell books. Atwood continued to publish poetry as well as the novels Surfacing (1973), Lady Oracle (1976) and Life Before Man (1980).

Books: 'The Handmaid's Tale'

Several more books followed, yet it was 1985’s The Handmaid’s Tale that garnered Atwood a massive wave of acclaim and popularity. A prescient warning over what could be, the book chronicles a puritanical, theocratic dystopia in which a select group of fertile women — a condition which has become a rarity — are made to bear children for corporate male overlords.

The Handmaid’s Tale, also performed as an opera, was turned into a 1990 film starring Natasha Richardson as the title character Offred, along with Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall.

Decades later, Handmaid’s Tale was adapted into a spring 2017 TV miniseries, starring Elisabeth Moss as Offred, along with Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel and Joseph Fiennes. It later won multiple Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series. In addition, Atwood’s novel Alias Grace, a murder tale set in the mid-19th century in upper Canada, released as a miniseries in the fall of 2017.

Speculative Fiction and Comics

Atwood is a prolific writer who has penned additional novels that include Cat’s Eye (1989) and The Blind Assassin, which won the Booker Prize. Continuing her output of speculative fiction with real-world parallels, the new millennium saw Atwood releasing the environment focused MaddAddam trilogy, consisting of Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009) and MaddAddam (2013). In addition to The Penelopiad (2005) and The Tent (2006), she also released the book of essays In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, looking at the nuances of sci-fi/fantasy genre writing.

In 2016, Atwood published the graphic novel Angel Catbird, an undertaking done with fellow Canadian artist Johnnie Christmas which profiles the super-heroic adventures of a genetic engineer who becomes part feline, part owl. The work is slated to be followed up by the February 2017 release, Angel Catbird: To Castle Catula.

Atwood lived in Toronto with her partner Graeme Gibson until his death in September 2019. The couple has one daughter.


  • Name: Margaret Atwood
  • Birth Year: 1939
  • Birth date: November 18, 1939
  • Birth City: Ottawa, Ontario
  • Birth Country: Canada
  • Gender: Female
  • Best Known For: Margaret Atwood is an award-winning Canadian poet, novelist and essayist known for books like 'The Handmaid’s Tale,' 'Cat's Eye' and 'Oryx and Crake,' among an array of other works.
  • Industries
    • Fiction and Poetry
    • Journalism and Nonfiction
    • Education and Academia
    • Writing and Publishing
  • Astrological Sign: Scorpio
  • Schools
    • Radcliffe College
    • Victoria College
    • Harvard University

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  • Article Title: Margaret Atwood Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/authors-writers/margaret-atwood
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: September 30, 2022
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014


  • ...I am forever grateful to Orwell for alerting me early to the danger flags I've tried to watch out for since. As Orwell taught, it isn't the labels – Christianity, socialism, Islam, democracy, two legs bad, four legs good, the works – that are definitive, but the acts done in their names.
  • War is what happens when language fails.
  • I’ve never bought into any sort of hard and fast, this-box/that-box characterization. People are individuals. Yes, they may be expected to be a particular way. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to be that way.
  • My women suffer because most of the women I talk to seem to have suffered
  • [Trump] brings out the temper-tantrum-throwing willful brat in all of us. ‘Why can’t I do what I want? Why can’t I have what I want? Those other people are stopping me. Those other people have a bigger lollipop that I do, I’m going to take their lollipop away from them.’ But on the other hand, he couples that with the most amazing whining.
  • If you don't want to have children, don't have them; if you do want to have them, have them. There's going to be consequences either way. I mean poor old Charlotte Brontë possibly shouldn't have had children because it killed her, but Emily didn't and she died anyway. Sooner or later, I hate to break it to you, you're gonna die, so how do you fill in the space between here and there? It's yours. Seize your space.
  • The majority of dystopias – Orwell's included – have been written by men and the point of view has been male. When women have appeared in them, they have been either sexless automatons or rebels who've defied the sex rules of the regime. I wanted to try a dystopia from the female point of view – the world according to Julia, as it were.
  • As a child I read the collected Grimms’ fairy tales. This was the whole hog, with all the red-hot shoes, eye-pecking and barrels full of nails: a bloodthirsty assemblage. This was in the days before the ’50s got hold of fairy tales and weeded out the gruesomeness, and shifted the emphasis to lovely dresses and people who behaved well.
  • Storytelling is a very old human skill that gives us an evolutionary advantage. If you can tell young people how you kill an emu, acted out in song or dance, or that Uncle George was eaten by a croc over there, don’t go there to swim, then those young people don’t have to find out by trial and error. Primate mothers show their young, do this, don’t do that, though they don’t have the gift of narrative and the most attentive ones raise better equipped young.
  • If you have a job in the daytime, you write at night. It's all a question of how much you want to do it. You don't want to do it, then throw it out the window. Make your choice. Stop whining about it and filling up copy in magazines with your guilt. Sorry to sound so pragmatic. How dirty it is under your bed is your business, not anyone else's.
  • The most peculiar word that I’ve just come across, not necessarily my favorite, is 'jorts,' meaning jean shorts. It actually sounds like something I might have made up myself.