A Canadian, Irwin was born in 1907 and celebrated her 100th birthday in 2007. Irwin first tried her hand at writing in 1927 with the novel Compensation. Rejected, she continued with her education, getting a B.A. and a M.A. from the University of Toronto. Irwin then taught at Humberside Collegiate Institute as a high school teacher of Latin, English, and ancient history, and she headed the classics department. Already a successful teacher, Irwin tried writing again, and in 1952 she saw her work Least of All Saintspublished. Over the years Irwin wrote biographical fiction, poems, novels, and Three Lives of Mine which was something of an autobiography. This work gave a Christian perspective on life, work, and society in long-ago Toronto. Also, upon retiring from Humberside Collegiate Institute after thirty-eight years of service, Irwin rediscovered her rejected novel Compensation. She resubmitted it, and the novel was published in 2003.
Irwin received the Canadian Centennial Medal for her teaching and her writing. She also earned the Honorary Doctorate of Sacred Letters given by Victoria College, University of Toronto. In 2001, the Ontario Classical Association set up The Grace Irwin Secondary School Teaching Award. This is given to a teacher who wants to advance their skills in Latin, Ancient Greek, or Classical Civilization. Irwin still resides in Toronto, Canada.
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