Margaret Dorothea Mortenson was born September 7, 1903 to A. D. and Adelle Mortensen in Somers, Wisconsin. She was one of three daughters in a devout Methodist family. The family moved to Evanston, Illinois, where she graduated from high school. She then attended Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, graduating in 1925. She taught school for a year, then married Kenneth Landon, whom she had met at Wheaton, and in 1927 they signed up as Presbyterian missionaries to Thailand.
In addition to having three children and running a mission school in Trang, Landon read extensively about the country. It was during this reading that she first heard about Anna Leonowens. When their family returned to America in 1937, she took up writing. They moved to Washington, D. C. in 1942 when Mr. Landon joined the US State Department as an adviser on Southeast Asia.
Margaret Landon first became interested in Anna Leonowens' story, when a friend recommended to her the book The English Governess at the Siamese Court which was published in 1870. Fascinated with the story and its potential, she contacted one of Anna's grandchildren, and in 1941 began to seriously research writing an updated (and vastly more entertaining) version of the book. Anna and the King, which was published in 1944 and became an instant bestseller, is the product of her efforts.
Mrs. Landon wrote another book about her own experiences called Never Dies the Dream. It was published in 1949, but did not do nearly so well. She died in Alexandria, Virginia, on December 4, 1993.
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