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Ethel Davis Wilson (née Bryant) was born in 1888 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and was the only child of English Wesleyan minister Robert William and Lila (Malkin) Bryant. Following the death of her mother in 1890, she was taken to England and cared for by her maternal grandparents and other relatives. When her father passed away in 1898, she was moved to Vancouver, BC to be with her grandmother, Annie Malkin. After receiving her Teacher's Certificate from the Vancouver Normal School in 1907, Wilson taught in various Vancouver public schools until 1920. In 1921, she married Dr. Wallace Wilson and, together, they formed a highly respected couple due to her writing and his work with the Canadian Medical Association and World Health Organization.
Although Wilson began writing in 1937, she only produced a few short stories until 1947, when her first novel Hetty Dorval was published. That year began her most productive period, from 1947 to 1957, during which time she wrote her four other novels--The Innocent Traveller, The Equations of Love, Swamp Angel, and Love and Salt Water--as well as a small number of short stories. In 1961, Wilson's final published work, Mrs. Golightly and Other Stories, was produced. The same year, she was awarded a special medal by the Canadian Council for her contributions to Canadian literature. Her final years were spent in the Arbutus Nursing Home in Vancouver until her death in 1980.
Her writing legacy is still felt throughout Vancouver, British Columbia, and Canada at large. The Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize was established in 1985 and is awarded annually to the best work of fiction written by a resident of British Columbia. There is also a Literary Landmark plaque recognizing her place in Canadian literary canon on a lamppost outside her former residence in Vancouver on Beach Ave., across the road from 1386 Nicola St.