Carol Ann Warner Shields was born on June 2, 1935, in Oak Park, Illinois, a middle-class community on the outskirts of Chicago. After graduating from a local high school, she attended Hanover College. While there, she participated in an exchange program with Exeter University in England where, when traveling to Scotland, she met her future husband, Canadian civil engineer Donald Hugh Shields. In 1957, Carol graduated from Hanover with a B.A. in English. Soon afterward, she married Donald, and the two moved to Canada. There, the couple lived in Vancouver, Toronto, and finally Ottawa. Two of their five children were born during this time: John and Anne. The Shields family moved to England in 1960 so that Donald could complete a doctorate at Manchester University. When the family returned to Canada, they settled in Toronto, where Shields took a magazine writing course at the University of Toronto. Her teacher sold Shields’s first short story to the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC); she won CBC’s Young Writers Competition in 1965.
Meanwhile, Shields’s family continued to grow: Daughters Catherine, Margaret, and Sara were born. Carol enrolled in an M.A. program at the University of Ottawa and earned her degree in 1975 after writing a thesis on a nineteenth century Canadian writer, which became the basis for her critical book Susanna Moodie: Voice and Vision (1976).
During her time at the University of Ottawa, Shields became a...
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