Constance Julia van Gorder was born on January 20, 1923 in Regina. Her grandmother, Agnes Jackson, who had emigrated from England, ran a boarding house in Regina, and raised five children, the youngest being Julia's mother, Jesse. Jesse married Leon John van Gorder, who had served as a physical education trainer for the troops in World War One. After the war he joined the Saskatchewan Provincial Police as a detective. He died at 31 after collapsing while on the trail of a suspect.
Julia moved to Vancouver with her mother and sister in about 1940, where she studied social work and education at University of British Columbia (UBC) and Simon Fraser University (SFU). She lived in London for about a year, and married a philosophy professor in Oxford, England. Their first child, Stephen, was born there in 1953, and their daughter, Claire, was born after returning to Vancouver in 1958. Julia van Gorder returned to Simon Fraser University to pursue a Masters in Education, after which she worked as a high school counsellor and social worker, while also pursuing her writing career.
Julia van Gorder's novels include characters that represent the people of her past, including the Jackson and Duckworth families, and their lives from the turn of the century through World War Two. Her first novel Cyclone, was set in Regina in the first two decades of the 1900s. Her subsequent novels, all set in western Canada, cover homesteading in the twenties, the Great Depression in the thirties, Dieppe in the forties, family life in the fifties, peace movements in the sixties, Greenpeace, Hare Krishna, and the women's movement in the seventies and eighties, and mental illness in the nineties. Julia is widely published in literary journals.
Julia van Gorder died in Vancouver on October 6, 2017.