Marjorie Picknell was born in West London in 1883, the daughter of a surveyor. Her family moved to Toronto in 1890 on account of her father’s job and she grew up there. She was educated at Bishop Strachan School and contributed articles to magazines and newspapers while still a student. She had cherished an ambition to be a writer since childhood and on leaving school commenced writing on a full time basis, winning several prizes and competitions. In 1903 she wrote a short story The Greater Gift and a number of juvenile novels about boys’ adventures.
In 1910 she was devastated by the loss of her mother and in the same year took a job locally as a librarian but left for health reasons after two years. In 1912 she travelled to England, staying with a maternal uncle in Hammersmith and later on with a cousin in Wiltshire. She published her first collection of poetry in 1913, The Drift of Pinions, a historical romance Little Hearts two years later and a second volume of poetryThe Lamp of Poor Souls in 1916.
When WWI broke out she trained as a vehicle mechanic but for whatever reason was not accepted. Instead, to help the war effort she worked as a secretary and market gardener, an experience which she recorded in her essay Women on the Land in England. She later worked as an assistant librarian at South Kensington Meteorological Office but had to give up this job for health reasons. She returned to Wiltshire where she wrote twenty short stories, a novel, The Bridge: A Story of the Great Lakes and a verse drama, The Woodcarver’s Wife.
In 1920 she moved back to Canada and after a short time in Toronto relocated to Vancouver Island off Canada’s west coast where she died aged 38, not long after she had written one of her best known poems, The Sailor’s Grave at Clo-oose VI. Her father published her collected poems after her death. Marjorie Picknell was a prolific writer, producing over 200 stories, more than 100 poems on a wide range of themes and numerous articles. Her poetry was much admired during her lifetime for its exquisite lyricism, flawless rhyme and melody but suffered a plunge in popularity after her death, it being viewed as dated.