(Sarah) Margaret MacLean was born in 1871 in Cornwall, Ontario. She was the daughter of Alexander MacLean (1834-1908) and Sarah Smith (1838-1897). She grew up in Ontario, Canada but moved to Japan in 1904 at the age of 33 to accompany her father who had been appointed Canada’s commercial agent to Japan. She spent time travelling in China which became the inspiration for her publication “Chinese Ladies at Home”. She remained in Japan with her father until he was posted to China in 1908. Margaret returned to Ottawa Canada in 1909 following her father’s death in Shanghai.
Margaret MacLean became a fixture at the Royal Ontario Museum in 1915 visiting the museum often. She proposed the creation of an employed position for an official Museum Guide but was told that no such position existed. Margaret MacLean continued to visit the museum and engaged in a course of personal study. In 1918 she was authorized to give private tours and lectures of the Museum. In 1919 the position of Official Guide was created and Margaret MacLean began working for the Royal Ontario Museum as a paid employee. Her lectures and school tours were enormously popular and her workload increased.
Margaret MacLean resigned from the Royal Ontario Museum as of February 15, 1924 citing ill health. She continued to travel after her resignation from the Museum. Margaret MacLean died on May 30, 1931 having laid the foundation for the development of the Education Department and programs such as the Saturday Morning Club.