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Gladys Maria Hindmarch was born in Ladysmith, British Columbia, on January 1, 1940. She lived on Vancouver Island until 1957, when she moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia. There she was a student of Warren Tallman's and met fellow writers Fred Wah, Pauline Butling, Lionel Kearns, George Bowering, Frank Davey, Daphne Marlatt, and Jamie Reid, among others, and became involved with the “TISH” poetry newsletter. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a BA in 1962.
After graduating from UBC, she worked as a cook and messgirl for the Northland Navigation Company on the cargo ships “Tahsis Prince,” “Haida Prince,” “Northern Prince,” and “Skeena Prince.” Her experiences working aboard these ships inspired a book that she began writing in 1967, then called “The Boat Stories” or “The Boat Book,” eventually published in 1988 under the title “The Watery Part of the World.” The same year she began work on this book, she married Cliff Andstein, then a student of economics. In 1969, they moved to Madison, Wisconsin, while Andstein worked on his MA degree and Hindmarch worked on “The Boat Book” with the help of a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. The couple returned in Vancouver in 1970 and founded the York Street Commune, a communal house located at 3504 York Avenue in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, along with Lanny Beckman, Brian DeBeck, and Stan Persky. Her first book, "Sketches," was also published in 1970. That same year, Hindmarch miscarried a child, and the following year gave birth to a son, Lars Andstein; these two events formed the basis for her book “A Birth Account,” written primarily in 1971 and published in 1976. She separated from her husband Cliff in 1971, and served as Lars’ primary caregiver from then on.
Hindmarch published works of short prose throughout the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, in periodicals such as "The Capilano Review," "Writing" (later known as "The Georgia Straight Writing Supplement"), "Periodics," "Iron," and "NMFG" (No Money from the Government). From 1972 to 1974, she taught English at Vancouver Community College, and in 1974 began teaching at Capilano College (later named Capilano University). Her third book, “The Peter Stories,” was published by Coach House Press in 1976. Until the late 1990s she wrote under the name Gladys Hindmarch, but has since then preferred to use the name Maria Hindmarch.