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Anna Harriet Edwards Leonowens
Birth: Nov. 6, 1831, India
Death: Jan. 19, 1915
Montreal
Quebec, Canada

Folk Figure. Current scholarship indicates that Anna was born Ann Harriet Edwards in 1831 India to a British father, Thomas Edwards, a cabinetmaker, and a half British, half East Indian mother, Mary Anne Glasscott. In 1849, Anna met and married Thomas Leon Owens, a clerk. After the death of their first child they left India. They would eventually have two more children, Avis and Louis. When her husband found work in Malaysia as an hotel manager, the family travelled there with him. He died of apoplexy in Penang in 1859 at 33, leaving Anna an impoverished widow. To support herself, she opened a school for the children of British officers in Singapore. When her school proved inadequate financially, she accepted an offer made by the Siamese consul as a teacher of English at the Siamese court. King Mongkut, was an enlightened and cultured man who was breaking new ground for Siam simply by concieving the idea to educate his wives and children. Anna's daughter was duly sent to school in Britain while she and her son traveled to her new post in Bangkok. Although her life at the Siamese court as depicted in popular media is an undoubted exageration, she probably did indeed weild a modicom of influence on the children she taught. She taught the royal children English for a period of five years but was never accepted by the small British expatriate community there despite her position at court. One contemporary described Anna as "a dumpty, middle-aged, half-caste schoolteacher." She left Siam in 1867, a year before Mongkut died. She wrote the new king a letter of condolence. He replied politely, but did not invite her back to Siam. She then traveled to England with Louis. He was left there at school and Avis accompanied her mother to America. Anna tried to make a living by lecturing and writing about her travels. Her foray into writing was not particularly successful. In 1867, Anna moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she became involved in women's education, and was a suffragette. She was one of the founders of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Anna died in 1915 and was interred in the Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, Quebec. After the 1940s, author Margaret Landon wrote a fictionalized account of the original Leonowens memoirs, after which the story of Anna and her stay in Siam became very popular. It was quickly made into a film, Anna and the King of Siam, which took more liberties with accuracy than even Anna had; and was followed by a musical which made even more drastic changes. All of the movies based on these writings have long been banned in Thailand (formerly Siam) due to historical inaccuracy and what Thai censors perceive as a disrespect for the monarch. Anna's grand-nephew was the actor Boris Karloff(bio by: Iola) 
 
Family links: 
 Spouse:
  Thomas Leonowens (1828 - 1859)*
 
 Children:
  Louis Thomas Gunnis Leonowens (1856 - 1919)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Mount Royal Cemetery
Montreal
Montreal Region
Quebec, Canada
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 2663
Anna Harriet <i>Edwards</i> Leonowens
Added by: Ron Moody
 
Anna Harriet <i>Edwards</i> Leonowens
Added by: andrée parent
 
Anna Harriet <i>Edwards</i> Leonowens
Added by: Dale Lahey
 
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