Howard, Blanche, 1923-

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Howard, Blanche, 1923-

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Blanche Howard was born Alice Blanche Machon on November 7, 1923 in Daysland, Alberta. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alberta in 1944, majoring in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. In 1945 she married Bruce Howard (1922-2002). After living in Toronto for three years, during which time Blanche Howard worked as an assistant chemistry lecturer at the University of Toronto, the Howards moved to Penticton, B.C. and had three children, Allison, Stephen, and Leslie. Beginning in 1958, Howard began to article and to earn a degree as a chartered accountant. While in Penticton, Howard also wrote a column for a community newspaper edited by her husband and had a short story published by Maclean’s magazine in 1957.

In 1968, Bruce Howard was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament. The couple moved to Ottawa, and Blanche Howard began to write her first novel “The Manipulator,” which was published in 1972 and received the Canadian Booksellers’ Award for outstanding first novel. Howard’s next two novels, “Pretty Lady” and “The Immortal Soul of Edwin Carlysle,” were published in 1976 and 1977, respectively. From 1969-1972, Howard also wrote the newspaper column "Report from Ottawa" for Bruce Howard’s constituents in the Okanagan. Howard is also the author of the novels “Penelope’s Way” (2000) and “Dreaming in a Digital World” (2010), and has had more than fourteen short stories and several essays published.

In 1971, Howard met author Carol Shields in Ottawa when a mutual friend invited Howard to a book club that Shields was hosting. After Bruce Howard lost his seat in Parliament and the Howards moved to North Vancouver in 1973, Howard and Shields maintained an active correspondence. Shields and Howard co-authored the epistolary novel, “A Celibate Season,” which was published in 1991. A stage version of “A Celibate Season,” adapted by Howard, was performed by North Vancouver’s Moodyville Theatre Company in 1990. Following Shields’s death, Howard and her daughter Allison edited a collection of letters between the two women, which was published in 2007 under the title “A Memoir of Friendship.”

In addition to her career as a writer, Howard worked as a part-time, self-employed accountant and was an instructor with the Business Administration Faculty of Capilano College from 1980-1981. Howard maintained an active interest in Liberal politics throughout her life, serving as the speech writer for the Minister of Health and Welfare, Marc Lalonde, from 1972-1973 and acting as co-chair for Iona Campagnolo’s failed 1984 election campaign. Howard also volunteered for a number of arts and other non-profit organizations, including the Vanier Institute of the Family, where she served as director for two terms, the Keep Well Society of the North Shore, the North Shore Unitarian Church, the North Shore Arts Commission, the North Vancouver Women’s Liberal Commission, and the North Vancouver District Library board, among other organizations. Howard was a member of The Writers' Union of Canada from 1977 on.

Blanche Howard passed away on June 12, 2014.

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Description updated by Gillian Dunks in March 2017.

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