Margaret was born on February 23, 1898 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Margaret’s parents, Einar and Sigridur Brandson, were among the earliest Icelanders to settle in Victoria. They came from the district of Mýrdalur, in Southern Iceland and emigrated to North Dakota in 1886 and then to Victoria in 1887. The Brandsons had six children (all born in Victoria). Mr. Brandson was the Superintendent of the Ross Bay Cemetery for over thirty years.
Margaret’s father, Einar Brandsson was born in Iceland on November 15, 1861 and died in Victoria on June 25, 1933. Einar’s parents were Brandur Einarsson who was born in Reynishjáleiga in Mýrdalur, Iceland and Kristín Einarsdóttir. Margaret’s mother, Sigrídur Einarsdóttir, was born June 9, 1859 in Iceland, and died November 6, 1928 in Victoria. Sigrídur was the daughter of Einar Bjarnasonar, born in Hvoll in Myrdalur, Iceland, and Ingveldur Andresdóttir.
Margaret studied art history at St. Ann’s Academy, Victoria, B. C., Canada, where she had excellent marks and won a gold prize. She was a graduate of the California School of Fine Arts and received her degree in 1933 with distinction. She went on to the University of California at Berkeley and received her B.A. in 1937. She became a member of the Everett Junior High School faculty in San Francisco and taught in San Francisco high schools for twenty-five years. She was an active member of Icelandic and Scandinavian organizations. She was the president of the Leif Erikson League in San Francisco and served for years as the secretary of the Icelandic Association of Northern California. She also lived in Iceland for one year, 1953-54.
Margaret married Dr. Richard Beck in June 1961. They moved to Victoria in 1967 when Richard retired. In a ceremony at their home on December 16, 1971, Richard and Margaret presented a token volume of their 2,500 volume personal library as a B.C. Centennial gift to the University of Victoria in memory of their pioneer parents. The rest of the collection was transferred gradually to the University, and completely when the donors no longer had any particular use for it. Margaret’s contribution to the collection included a number of books in the Icelandic and Scandinavian fields, notably in English translations, as well as two to three hundred volumes on the history of arts and on related subjects, which was her main field of specialization. Richard and Margaret also made provision in their wills for a special fund to be established at the University of Victoria to provide public lectures on Icelandic literature and culture. Richard passed away on July 23, 1980, and Margaret on December 10, 1985. The first "Richard and Margaret Beck Lecture on Icelandic Literature" took place on February 14, 1988.
Dr. Patricia Baer
Department of Literature, University of Victoria,