The Search for Canada’s
First Literary Agent
Doris Hedges (1896-1972) was a Montreal author who started Canada’s first literary agency in 1946. Despite her pioneering efforts to represent the work of Canadian writers to publishers in North America and abroad, Hedges is routinely excluded from Canadian literary histories. This is all the more surprising given the fact that she published several novels, short stories, and books of poetry; was influential in Montreal literary circles; did a stint as a radio broadcaster; and provided reports to the Wartime Information Board during World War II, possibly as an American spy. She lived a privileged life in the Golden Square Mile district of downtown Montreal with her husband Geoffrey Hedges, a member of the Benson and Hedges tobacco empire and the director of the Canadian Red Cross. This book reconstructs Hedges’ life and career, from her birth into the wealthy Dawes family in Lachine (a rural community on the outskirts of Montreal at the time) to her life as a permanent resident of the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Her works combine a sense of class, authority, and entitlement with a real concern for social and moral justice. The more one uncovers about Hedges’ life, the more one finds a courageous figure who was exploring many of the conflicted issues of her day: the rise of juvenile delinquency, the suppression of female sexuality, the place of women in business and finance, the difficulties confronting the publishing industry in the years leading up to and following the war. While Hedges achieved a certain level of success as a writer, her career was mischievously punctuated by her attempts at self-promotion. To this end, she became involved in vanity publishing, lied about her professional accomplishments, and used her wealthy family connections to capitalize a business that was funded by a group of oddball investors who knew little about publishing. In other words, there were many sides to Doris Hedges. Despite the fact that she started publishing in the 1920s and continued writing up to her death in 1972, Hedges has been virtually erased from Canadian literary history. This website anticipates the publication of a forthcoming book on Hedges by Robert Lecker.