Leonowens, Anna Harriette

Anna Harriette Leonowens, née Crawford, author, teacher, feminist, lecturer (b at Caernarvon, Wales 5 Nov 1834; d at Montréal 19 Jan 1915). After her officer husband died in Singapore in 1858, she established a school there for officers' children and then became a teacher at the Siamese court (1862-67). Her experiences there were the inspiration for 2 of her books, The English Governess at the Siamese Court (1870) and The Romance of the Harem (1872), which dealt with the exploitation of women in this exotic environment. These later became the basis for Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon (1943) and the play The King and I (1951).

Moving to Halifax in 1876, Leonowens organized a book club and a Shakespearean society, was active in a suffrage association, and was founding secretary of the Halifax Council of Women. She helped found the Victoria School of Art and Design in Halifax (later the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) in 1887, before leaving there in 1897. She then lived in Germany for some years before settling in Montréal.