She studied English and music and later became a music teacher.
She was famous for capturing and retelling many of the myths and Legends of the Torres Strait Islander people. Margaret married Alexander Lawrie who was a senator for Queensland. She was invited by the Queensland Government to travel with Oodgeroo Noonuccal and a Queensland Health worker to Cape York and Torres Strait Island communities to report on children's health and other issues in these communities.
As a result of her work, Margaret developed an interest and association with the Torres Strait Islands and its people.
She first visited the area in the early 1960s and spent significant periods of time with each of the different island communities, gathering information and material about the myths, legends, languages, history, art and culture of the regions up until 1973. During her various visits to the area she formed many friendships with the Torres Strait community.
Because of her connections to the people she was approached to record some of the local myths and legends before they became lost. At this time she had a close relationship with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and she undertook extensive recording of various oral histories under the sponsorship of the Institute.
She also undertook detailed research into the history and culture of the Torres Strait Islands and people.
The State Library of Queensland now holds this collection of information. Contained within the collection are the manuscripts of the two works she published, Myths and legends of the Torres Strait and Tales from Torres Strait. The former work was published in both Australia and the United States and although out of print, is still widely considered an iconic work.
The Margaret Lawrie Collection complements the earlier work done by Alfred Haddon.
His expedition team from Cambridge University visited the Torres Strait in 1898 publishing the results of their regional ethnography in six volumes between 1901 and 1935. The Margaret Lawrie Collection has been included on United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization"s Australian Memory of the World Register.