Her Name Was Margaret: Life and Death on the Streets

Her Name Was Margaret: Life and Death on the Streets

Denise Davy
  • $22.00

Feburary 2021
300 pages | ISBN 978-1-989496-32-9

**Shortlisted for the Sarton Award for Nonfiction**
**Winner of the 2022 Hamilton Literary Award for Non-fiction**
**Winner of the 2022 Kerry Schooley Book Award**

Margaret Jacobson was a sweet-natured young girl who played the accordion and had dreams of becoming a teacher until she had a psychotic break in her teens, which sent her down a much darker path. Her Name Was Margaret traces Margaret's life from her childhood to her death as a homeless woman on the streets of Hamilton, Ontario. With meticulous research and deep compassion author Denise Davy analyzed over eight hundred pages of medical records and conducted interviews with Margaret's friends and family, as well as those who worked in psychiatric care, to create this compelling portrait of a woman abandoned by society.

Through the revolving door of psychiatric admissions to discharges to rundown boarding homes, Davy shows us the grim impact of deinstutionalization: patients spiralled inexorably toward homelessness and death as psychiatric beds were closed and patients were left to fend for themselves on the streets of cities across North America. Today there are more 235,000 people in Canada who are counted among the homeless annually and 35,000 who are homeless on any given night. Most of them are struggling with mental health issues. Margaret's story is a heartbreaking illustration of what happens in our society to our most vulnerable and should serve as a wake-up call to politicians and leaders in cities across Canada.

Reviews | Interviews | Articles | Videos | Excerpt | About the Author

Advance Praise

“Read this book. Open your heart to the human beings in front of you surviving, against so many odds, on the streets. As a society, we have erased the history of so many people every time we walk by them without wondering what brought this person to this place. This story will help you find your humanity.” – Clara Hughes, Olympian and author of Open Heart, Open Mind

“Davy tells two stories in this fine book – the riveting, but tragic, story of Margaret and the bigger story about the failure of our social services to care for people with chronic mental illness. Davy helps us understand the point of view of homeless people and increases our empathy and desire to act on their behalf. I recommend this book to all who want to make the world a kinder place." – Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

“Being sick with mental illness shouldn’t lead to homelessness and premature death. Let the intimate story of Margaret touch you, make you weep, motivate you to rage against government’s inaction; then inspire you to work for change." – Olivia Chow, former MP, founder of Institute for Change Leaders


Her Name was Margaret by Denise Davy - Book Review (Kate Barlow, Oakville News, 16/10/2022)
"Her Name was Margaret puts a face – careworn and prematurely aged, to be sure – to [homelessness] in our and others’ societies and, in so doing, not only captures our attention but provides us with fresh insight."

this is not a review: ‘her name was margaret’, by denise davy (Carin Makuz, Matilda Magtree, 30/08/2021)
"Her Name Was Margaret is a compelling, unputdownable and strangely optimistic book."

Her Name Was Margaret (Katherine Itacy, Story Circle Network, 11/05/2021)
"A compelling, thought-provoking read – one that reminds the reader to have a little more compassion and consideration for all those struggling with mental illness and/or homelessness."

Her Name Was Margaret: Life and Death on the Streets (Anne Thériault, Quill & Quire, 04/02/2021)
"Davy is a skilled writer, and [...] able to communicate dry facts in a digestible and engaging fashion. Margaret’s story shows the unique ways in which one person was failed by a system that was supposed to support her, and Davy uses it as a jumping-off point to draw a broader portrait of how various government policies are actively harming large numbers of vulnerable people."


E252 with DENISE DAVY (Jamie Tennant, Get Lit, 14/09/2021)
Jamie Tennant interviews Denise about her Her Name Was Margaret.

A Searing Tale of Homelessness (Steve Paikin, The Agenda with Steve Paikin, 02/03/2021)
Denise discusses her book on The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

You can't fake respect: Interviewing trauma victims (All Lit Up, 24/02/2021)
Denise talks about interviewing trauma survivors with respect.

Her Name Was Margaret (CHCH Morning Live!, 24/02/2021)
Denise talks with Annette Hamm about Her Name Was Margaret.

Denise Davy's Her Name Was Margaret is a Heartbreaking and Unflinching Examination of Mental Health & Homelessness (Open Book, 20/01/2020)
As part of their True Story nonfiction series, Open Book invites Denise to talk about her writing process, how Margaret Jacobson inspired her, and more.


Books of my year (Lauren B. Davis, 22/12/2023)
Denise's book makes this year-end list from Lauren B. Davis.

Read Hamilton (Open Book, 27/11/2023)
A wonderful gathering of Hamilton books in one place, including Denise's book.

A write-up about the Hamilton Literary Awards, for which Denise is nominated in two categories.

Rad Reads – Hamilton Style! (Jessica Rose, Hamilton City Magazine, 22/04/2022)
Denise's book makes this round-up of rad Hamilton reads.

How did we lose our compassion for the homeless? (Denise Davy, The Toronto Star, 28/10/2021)
Denise writes a great piece on homelessness.

Her Name was Margaret: New book explores life and death of homeless Hamilton woman (Christine Rankin, CBC News, 18/06/2021)
A wonderful write up on Denise Davy's Her Name Was Margaret.

A Taster: Spring 2021 Nonfiction Preview (49th Shelf, 21/01/2020)
Denise's book is on the 49th Shelf's Spring 2021 Nonfiction Preview.

53 works of Canadian nonfiction coming out in spring 2021 (CBC Books, 11/02/2021)
Denise's book makes the CBC's list of 53 works of Canadian nonfiction coming out in spring 2021.

30 new books we can’t wait to get our hands on in the first half of 2021 (Deborah Dundas, The Toronto Star, 08/01/2020)
Denise's book makes the list of 30 new books the Toronto Star can’t wait to get their hands on in the first half of 2021.

Our homeless are the sickest of the sick (Denise Davy, The Hamilton Spectator, 05/12/2020)
Denise writes about the deep roots of homelessness in Hamilton.



Read an excerpt from Her Name Was Margaret.

About the Author

Denise Davy is a nationally recognized award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about mental health, homelessness and gender issues. She worked at the Hamilton Spectator for 26 years and was twice honoured with the Journalist of the Year award by the Ontario Newspaper Association and is a recipient of a National Newspaper Award, several Ontario Newspaper Association awards and two awards from the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. In 1993, the Canadian Association of Journalists awarded her for co-founding the National Women in the Media conference. She is the recipient of four national journalism fellowships, which allowed her to investigate child prostitution in Thailand, poverty in India and the crisis in children's mental health services in Canada. She is founder of Purses for Margaret, which provides toiletries to homeless women. She lives in Burlington, ON.

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