Margaret Landon was born Margaret Dorothea Mortenson in Somers, Wisconsin, on September 7, 1903. She was one of three daughters of A.D. and Adelle Mortenson, devout Methodists who soon moved to Evanston, Illinois. She graduated from Evanston Township High School in 1921 and from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois in 1925. After a year of teaching, she married Kenneth Landon, who she had met at Wheaton. In 1927 the young couple set out for service as Presbyterian missionaries in Siam, now Thailand. In her ten years there, Mrs. Landon gave birth to three children, all in Bangkok. She served as principal of a mission school in Trang, reading widely about the country and its history. In the process, she learned of Anna Leonowens. In 1937 she returned to America with her family and soon began writing, first articles, then a book about Leonowens. In 1942 she moved to Washington, D.C., where her husband had joined the government as an expert on Southeast Asia.
Anna And The King of Siam was published in 1944 and soon became a best seller. It eventually sold over a million copies and subsequently was published in more than twenty languages around the world. In 1950 Mrs. Landon sold the musical play rights to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who created the musical THE KING AND I from her book.
Margaret Landon was married sixty-seven years. Her husband, Kenneth, worked for many years in the State Department and on President Eisenhower's White House staff. He finished his career in the School of International Service at American University. The couple had four children, Margaret Schoenherr, William, Carol Pearson, and Kenneth, Jr.; thirteen grandchildren, and twenty-five great-grandchildren. The author died in Alexandria, Virginia, December 4, 1993, and is buried in Wheaton Cemetery in Illinois. A vast collection of information about the many aspects of Margaret Landon's life, including how she came to write her book, may be found in the Kenneth and Margaret Landon Collection at Wheaton College (1-630-752-5705).