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Women's History at RBSC

A guide to women's archival materials at UBC's Rare Books and Special Collections

About These Collections

The fonds and collections included here contain the records of women involved in the creation, promotion, criticism, and curation of the arts. The creative endeavors of these women include visual, musical, photographic, choreographic, and performance art as well as many styles of writing. In addition to published and unpublished women writers, there are also fonds of multiple press houses and literary storefronts who were run by women or featured women’s writing. Types of writing include fiction, nonfiction, biography, poetry, journalism, radio, plays, and more.

Ellen Harris, Eleanor Roosevelt and Norman MacKenzie at the opening of International House

CBC broadcaster and writer Ellen Harris (left), whose fonds is housed at RBSC, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, whom she brought to UBC for the opening of the International House on May 4th, 1959.

Image source: UBC Archives Photograph Collection, UBC Open Collections

[Unknown]. (1959, May 4). Ellen Harris, Eleanor Roosevelt and Norman MacKenzie at the opening of International House [P]. doi:


Alan Crawley was born in Manitoba and went on to become a barrister as well as a supporter of the arts. In 1934, he and his wife Jean moved to Victoria, B.C., where he founded and edited a highly regarded quarterly publication of poetry, Contemporary Verse, from 1941-52. The fonds consists of sixty-six letters from noted Vancouver author Ethel Wilson to Alan and Jean Crawley relating to her literary career and social activities.

The Andrews were a married couple of academics who were close friends with Vancouver author Ethel Wilson. Geoffrey was Dean and Deputy President of the University of British Columbia from 1947 until leaving to become Executive Director of the A.U.C.C. in Ottawa and Margaret was a graduate of economics, social work, and librarianship. The fonds consists mainly of letters sent between Ethel Wilson and Margaret Andrews, ca. 1950-1970.

Author and illustrator Ann Blades was born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1947. Although she was encouraged to pursue her interest in watercolour painting as a student in England, she received no formal art training. Instead, she obtained a teaching certificate from the University of British Columbia in 1970 and a nursing degree from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in 1974. Following her degrees, Blades moved to north-eastern B.C. to teach in a two-room school in the small community of Mile 18. It was during this time that she wrote and illustrated her first book, Mary of Mile 18 (1971). In this and her other early works, she drew inspiration from the lives of her students, capturing the experience of growing up in rural isolation. Her books met with immediate success and critical acclaim. Blades has worked as an illustrator of children’s books and an artist full-time since 1980, winning the Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award in 1986 for By the Sea: An Alphabet Book (1985). Today, she is considered an iconic figure in children’s literature and illustration. 

The fonds consists of textual records and artwork created by Blades during the course of her career as an author and illustrator of Canadian children’s literature. The records date from ca. 1967 to 2013, with particular concentration during the years immediately prior to the publication of Blades’ works. The fonds is especially strong in areas related to book production and sales.

Ann Farrell was born and educated in England, where she was apprenticed to the London office of a Calcutta newspaper during WWII. Following the war, she moved to Canada, raised a family, and eventually resumed her career as a reporter, feature writer, and editor prior to writing a biography entitled Grace MacInnis: A Story of Love and Integrity. The research collection consists of interviews conducted for the biography as well as speeches made by Grace MacInnis in the House of Commons as printed by Hansard, 1966-1974.

Anna Scantland was born in Saskatchewan in 1931. In 1955, she received her B.A. at the University of British Columbia before marrying Erik Lund. Her experience working at the Hastings Community Centre in Vancouver, B.C. sparked her interest in the issues facing minority and immigrant peoples. She later returned to UBC to obtain her teaching certificate and began her teaching career in 1959. The fonds consists of textual records, such as a scrapbook, the manuscript of her novel Resignation, correspondence, guidelines for writing, and clippings on the subject of women and Japanese-Canadians, among others.

Barbara Hodgson was born in 1955 in Edmonton, Alberta and presently resides in Vancouver, B.C. Her career began at the Vancouver-based independent publisher Douglas & McIntyre, where she worked as a book designer and art director. Today, she is best known for writing her own fiction and non-fiction books. In her non-fiction work, she was particularly interested in representations of opium production, transportation, sale, and ingestion, as well as similar representations of laudanum and patent medications containing morphine. This collection contains materials collected and used while working on her novels, Opium: A Portrait of the Heavenly Demon (1999) and In the Arms of Morpheus: The Tragic History of Laudanum, Morphine, and Patent Medicines (2001).

Beverley Simons (née Rosen) was born in March 1938 in Flin Flon, Manitoba. In 1958, she accepted a scholarship to study creative writing at the Banff School of Fine Arts, where she produced her first full-length play, My Torah, My Tree, an exploration of her Jewish heritage. The following year, she graduated from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in English and Theatre. In 1967, Simons was awarded a Canada Council ‘B’ grant, which enabled her to commence work on Crabdance, the play she is best known for. She continued to write and create throughout her life, generating plays, books, manuscripts, children’s stories, essays, and screenplays, most of which were never produced or published. The fonds consists of records related to her writing career, travels, and personal life, such as recordings, outlines, drafts, correspondence, photographs, and more.

Blanche Howard was born Alice Blanche Machon in 1923 in Daysland, Alberta. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alberta in 1944, majoring in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Beginning in 1958, Howard began to write articles and to earn a degree as a chartered accountant. After her husband Bruce was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament in 1968, the family moved to Ottawa and Blanche began to write her first novel The Manipulator, which was published in 1972 and received the Canadian Booksellers’ Award for outstanding first novel. Since then, Howard has written more novels, including Pretty Lady (1976), The Immortal Soul of Edwin Carlysle (1977), Penelope’s Way (2000) and Dreaming in a Digital World (2010), and has had more than fourteen short stories and several essays published. In addition to her career as a writer, Howard worked as a part-time, self-employed accountant, maintained an active interest in Liberal politics, and volunteered for a number of arts and other non-profit organizations. The fonds consists of records spanning the period 1955-2013 that reflect Blanche Howard’s literary career, political interests, and professional and volunteer work, as well as her personal and family life.

Carol Swayze was a lawyer and writer in British Columbia. After receiving a law degree from the University of Victoria, she went on to write a biography of B.C. Supreme Court judge Tom Berger. The fonds consists of correspondence, research papers, printed material, sound recordings, and drafts of manuscripts collected or created by her during her writing of Tom Berger: Hard Choices.

E.M. Delafield was the pseudonym of Edmée Elizabeth Monica Dashwood, a British author born in 1890. Throughout her life, she published about forty novels and three plays. Beginning with her first novel in 1917, Zella Sees Herself, her books were consistently best sellers. Delafield was also a popular lecturer, travelled extensively in the United States and Russia, was a contributor to Punch for eleven years, and was known for her satire and wit. In addition, she participated in and wrote a number of radio talks and plays. The fonds reflects her career and interests as a writer and lecturer in the early decades of the twentieth century. Textual records in the fonds consist of letters related to Delafield's research, unpublished manuscripts, plays, short articles, book reviews, and lectures written by Delafield pertaining to her interests in Charlotte Yonge, women, religion, the lives of the British upper class, and other subjects.

Ethel Wilson was born in South Africa and lived part of her life in England before moving to Vancouver, B.C. to live with her grandmother. She received her teacher's certificate in 1907 and then taught in Vancouver public schools until 1920. In 1937, she embarked on a writing career, but did not produce much work until 1947, when her first novel Hetty Dorval was published. Her most productive period was from 1947 to 1957 when she wrote her four other novels. The fonds consists of correspondence (both personal and business), manuscripts of novels, short stories (some untitled), and poetry, as well as reviews of Ethel Wilson's work, contracts, photographs, awards, diaries (1938-1942), and subject files.

Records related to Ethel Wilson can also be found within this guide among the fonds of Alan Crawley, the Andrew Family, Ronald Hambleton, Mary McAlpine, and Nan Cheney.

Helen Potrebenko was born in 1940 on a farm in Woking, Alberta. She moved to Vancouver to attend university and become a teacher, but eventually became a published author. Her early writing appeared in Pedestal, Canada's first women's liberation newspaper, and she has published numerous books, short stories, poems, plays, and novels. Considered "one of Vancouver's most uncompromising feminist writers," and a self-described "working-class feminist," Potrebenko deals primarily with the realities and challenges faced by working-class women in the 1970s and 80s. Additionally, she was very involved with labour activism and unions, particularly with the Service, Office, and Retail Workers' Union of Canada. The fonds consists primarily of correspondence, published materials, and other documentation related to Potrebenko's writing career, publications, and, to a lesser extent, labour activism.

Hubert Evans was a writer, poet, newspaper reporter, and salmon hatchery superintendent. He was born in Galt, Ontario in 1892 and served in WWI before moving to British Columbia. He married Ann Emily Winter in 1920 and decided to take up freelance writing as a full-time occupation in 1926. From the 1930s-50s, Evans published many adventure and wilderness stories for young readers. The fonds consists of a variety of Evans’ writings, both personal and professional, as well as the stories and articles of his wife Ann Winter Evans.

Irene Howard was a freelance writer, researcher, broadcaster, literary agent, and English literature teacher who was born in Prince Rupert, B.C. in 1922. She obtained a permanent teaching certificate from the University of Victoria in 1943, graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1948, and then went back to UBC in 1964 to obtain her MA in English with a specialization in medieval literature. She taught at the elementary school, college and university levels from 1941-1983. Her interest in her Swedish heritage led her to write her first book, Vancouver's Svenskar: A History of the Swedish Community in Vancouver, in 1970. In 1992, she wrote a biography of social reformer Helena Gutteridge, the first woman elected to Vancouver City Council in 1912. She went on to publish other books, such as one on Bowen Island in 1973 and one based on her family history called Gold Dust on His Shirt. In her free time, Howard was also a member of the Vancouver International Folkdancers and was a candidate agent for the B.C. New Democratic Party in 1996. Her interests included issues relating to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, nuclear disarmament, the peace movement, and the Vancouver West End Tenant Association. The fonds consists of general correspondence and materials related to Howard's personal interests and associations as well as materials relating to her work as researcher, literary agent, and writer.

Jean Burton was born in Saskatchewan in 1905. At the age of nineteen, she graduated from the University of British Columbia, majoring in history. In 1928, she earned her M.A. in economics at the University of Alberta. From an early age, she expressed an interest in writing that began with short stories in magazines and eventually lead to two plays, Left Turn and Prelude, as well as later nonfiction works. The fonds consists of business correspondence (1927-1943), legal documents, a playbill and the script for Left Turn, assorted clippings, and five scrapbooks.

Joy Nozomi Kogawa (nee Nakayama) is a renowned writer who was born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1935 to Japanese Canadian parents. In addition to the honorary degrees she received from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute and the University of Lethbridge in 1991, Kogawa has been granted degrees from Simon Fraser University, Laurentian University, and the University of British Columbia. She has won many awards for her 1981 novel, Obasan, which chronicles the internment and persecution of citizens of Japanese descent by the Canadian government during WWII, all from the perspective of a child. For her work, she was awarded the Order of Canada in 1986. The fonds consists of material related to Kogawa's writing projects, her personal life, her involvement in community organizations, and her participation in literary, cultural, and human rights conferences and events.

Kathleen Weeks was born in England, but spent most of her life in B.C. She wrote articles on the histories of the English and Pacific Northwest areas. The fonds consists of Weeks' writings, which primarily relate to B.C. history and historical figures. These include “Heroes of Victoria's Streets,” “Outposts of Empire: Victoria B.C.,” and several about Captain Vancouver. The fonds also includes pictures of historical figures and of British Columbia scenery.

Muriel Clara Bradbrook was an author who also served as Mistress of Girton College and a Professor of English in the University of Cambridge. She wrote the book, Malcolm Lowry: His Art and Early Life, which was published in 1974. The fonds consists of sixty-six letters (1962-1975) between Bradbrook and several individuals pertaining to the life of Malcolm Lowry.

Maureen Moore was born in Montreal, Quebec in 1943 and is a writer of short stories and novels. Her first novel, Field Work, was published in 1987 by the Women's Press. In 1991, while living in Vancouver, B.C, her novel The Illumination of Alice Mallory was published. The fonds consists of general correspondence, research material, clippings, ephemera, a contract, and multiple drafts of her novel, The Illumination of Alice Mallory.

Norman Colbeck was an English bookshop owner and bookdealer whose books and manuscript collection was acquired by the University of British Columbia Library in 1967. He catalogued the collection, which culminated in the publication of A bookmans catalogue: the Norman Colbeck collection of nineteenth-century and Edwardian poetry and belles-lettres in the Special Collections of the University of British Columbia in 1987. The fonds contains correspondence, notebooks, and other literary manuscripts of many of the authors represented in the Colbeck Book Collection. Some notable women represented in the fonds include Mary Coleridge, Felicia Hemans, Mary Howitt, Anne Thackeray-Ritchie, Margaret Sackville, and more.

Patricia Blondal (née Jenkins) was born in Souris, Manitoba in 1926. At the age of seven, she moved to Winnipeg with her family, where she would later study literature and poetry at the University of Manitoba in the mid 1940s. Following the completion of her degree, she worked as a broadcaster for the CBC in Winnipeg. In the 1950s, she settled in Montreal with her husband and their two children while writing short stories, two posthumously published novels, and the manuscript for an unpublished mystery novel. In 1959, she succumbed to cancer at the age of thirty-two. The fonds reflects Blondal's personal life and work as a writer, radio broadcaster, university student, and researcher whose interests included religion, philosophy, psychology, and criminology.

Betty Keller was an author who wrote Pauline: The Life of Pauline Johnson (1981). Johnson, the daughter of a hereditary Mohawk chief father and English immigrant mother, was a Canadian poet, author, and performer who was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was also known by her Mohawk stage name Tekahionwake. The collection consists of research material for Keller's book on Johnson and includes photocopies of letters to, from, and about Johnson as well as copies of printed material.

Ronald Hambleton was born in 1917 and was best known as an author of literary criticism and fiction. The fonds consists of eleven undated letters from noted author Ethel Wilson to Hambleton as well as two handwritten manuscripts by Wilson, "At what point do I grow old?" (12 p.) and "In defense of a little learning" (15 p.). Also included are three taped interviews with Wilson conducted by Hambleton for the CBC (1955, 1967).

Shizuye Takashima was born in B.C. in 1930. At age eleven, she was sent with her family to the Japanese internment camp of New Denver in British Columbia’s interior. Following the war, Shizuye studied art at the Ontario College of Fine Arts, where she continued on as an instructor after graduating. Her experience in internment camps was the subject of her award-winning autobiographical novel, A Child in Prison Camp. The fonds consists of an annotated draft manuscript of the novel.

Susan Mayse, daughter of writer and journalist Arthur Mayse, was born in 1948. Over the course of her own writing career, she has written several books, including: Merlin's Web (1987); Ginger: the life and death of Albert Goodwin (1990); Earthquake: surviving the big one (1992); and Awen (1997). The fonds consists of her photocopies of archival and printed material that she gathered in writing her book about Ginger Goodwin, B.C.’s legendary labour leader who was shot on Vancouver Island during WWI while evading the draft.

Susan Elizabeth McCaslin was born June 3, 1947. McCaslin held several teaching roles at various institutions and taught workshops and programs independently. She has authored numerous poems, essays, book chapters, reviews, non-fiction works, children’s books, and edited several poetry anthologies and collections. She has received several literary awards and recognition, within competitions and for her published works, including the Alberta Book Publishing Award (2012), and finalist for the BC Book Prize.

The fonds reflects Susan McCaslin’s professional career as a writer, poet and teacher as well as her personal interests and involvement in societies, community initiatives, and organizations between 1960 and 2023.

Valerie Haig-Brown is the eldest child of the noted B.C. author and conservationist Roderick Haig-Brown. She worked as an editor for several popular magazines in Toronto before returning to British Columbia in 1978 to act as her father's literary executor. The collection spans from 1946-2000 and consists of several of Roderick Haig-Brown's manuscripts, editors' working papers, and printers' proofs of a number of his articles and other publications. The collection also includes correspondence, manuscripts, financial records, and subject and clippings files related to Valerie Haig-Brown's work as literary executor of the estate of her father and as author of Deep Currents, a biography of her parents.


Born in Suffolk, England in 1908, Mabel Ellen Jordon immigrated to Canada in 1922 and arrived in the East Kootenay area ca. 1937. A great deal of her adult life was spent investigating, researching, and reporting on topics of historical interest in the East Kootenay area and, more generally, B.C. She was President of the British Columbia Historical Association for three years and she published articles in the British Columbia Historical Quarterly, the Cranbrook Courier, and the Nelson Daily News. The collection consists of typescripts, handwritten notes, clippings, correspondence, maps, and photographs created or accumulated by Jordon between 1955 and 1972. In addition, the fonds contains information relating to Canal Flats, her presidential addresses to the British Columbia Historical Association, and several other articles pertaining to the Kootenay area.

Mary McAlpine was born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1926. Known as a writer and journalist, she authored fiction, various articles published in journals and newspapers, short stories that occasionally became radio plays, and documentaries for the National Film Board. McAlpine graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts degree, began a career as a copy and radio writer for an advertising agency, and, in 1954, joined the staff of The Sun. She also wrote a biography of Ethel Wilson that was published in 1988. The fonds consists of correspondence, photographs, sound recordings, and notes produced by McAlpine (formerly known as Mary McAlpine Dodds) and related authors, friends, and family. Correspondents include Ethel Wilson, Wallace Wilson, Margaret Laurence, Beverly Mitchell, Nan Cheney, Dorothy Livesay, and others.

Peggy Imredy was a Canadian researcher and writer. Her publications include “Cityscape: A Tour of Vancouver's Sculptured Art,” “Cityscape: A Tour of Vancouver's Stanley Park,” and “A Guide to Sculpture in Vancouver.” The fonds consists of correspondence and newsletters she gathered in the course of conducting research on municipal employees between the 1960s and 1981.


The Angeli-Dennis papers came to the University through two separate acquisitions from the former home of Helen Rossetti Angeli in Woodstock, England. The collection consists of the diaries (1855-1913), manuscripts, financial records, and correspondence of William Michael Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1842-1882), Christina Georgina Rossetti (1853-1894), and Maria Francesca Rossetti, in addition to other members and non-members of the family.

Anne Marriott was born in Victoria, B.C. in 1913. She began her writing career at an early age and, since the 1930s, has produced several poems, short stories, and radio scripts. Her poetry, in particular, has been widely anthologised throughout Canada and the United States. Marriott also worked as a script writer for the National Film Board in Ottawa in the 1940s, and later, for the CBC in connection with the British Columbia Ministry of Education. Her poem “The Wind Our Enemy” (1939) was widely acclaimed and she won the Governor General's award for her chapbook, “Calling Adventures” (1941). The fonds consists of business and personal correspondence, manuscripts of poems, short stories, essays, radio plays, scrapbooks, printed material, and some financial records.

Annie Dalton was born in Yorkshire, England in 1865 and displayed an early interest in painting and poetry. In 1891, she married Willie Dalton and together they moved to Vancouver, B.C. in 1904. Although she became well-known in literary circles, Dalton did not gain a lasting popularity. The fonds consists of biographical material that includes poems, speeches, photographs, correspondence dating from 1905 to 1938, subject files containing clippings, pamphlets, handwritten notes, published works, and reviews.

Audrey Alexandra Brown was a Canadian poet born in Nanaimo, B.C. in 1904. In 1948, she won the Lorne Pierce Medal for her contribution to Canadian literature. The fonds consists primarily of information about Audrey Brown's grandfather, James Miller Brown (1830-1926). Included is a thirteen-page typed reminiscence about James Miller Brown, as well as an envelope with poetry written on it.

Jankola is a poet and graphic artist whose work has appeared in magazines and books and, in 1975, she won the Bliss Carman Award at the Banff School of Arts. She has performed readings of her work on CBC radio as well as in high schools, art galleries, libraries, and on television. The fonds consists of publications (1972-1981), readings (1975-1979), draft manuscripts, correspondence (1973-1992), journals (1972-1990), a scrapbook (1978), subject files, photographs, and cassettes.

Blanche Murison was a prominent Vancouver clubwoman, social service worker, poet, and writer in the 20th century. She composed poetry during WWII in support of the European Allies, had her poems published in local newspapers, and wrote the lyrics to Vancouver's Golden Jubilee Song. She was also concerned about the effects of humans on the environment, especially the damage caused by pesticides. The fonds consists of five scrapbooks which include correspondence, poetry, and clippings. Incoming letters (1921-64) thank Murison for her gifts of poetry. Some of the clippings pertain to her poetry while others relate to pesticide control (ca. 1965).

Carol Coates was a writer and poet born in Tokyo, Japan. Her experiences in Japan are reflected in such works as Fancy Free and The Jade Heart. Her wartime poetry was printed in 1941 and her last published work was Invitation to Mood in 1949. The fonds consists of records pertaining to her life and literary career between 1927 and 1984. It includes correspondence, designs, printed material, and clippings. A later accrual added draft poems, both typed and handwritten, as well as handwritten school notes from a class Coates attended at the University of British Columbia.

Cedalia Alice Tarasoff was a poet whose writing spans the period from WWII through the 1980s. Her patriotic poems and anthems were printed in various newspapers during WWII and later appeared in anthologies. Her prose works and articles concern Canada and Australia, as well as reminiscences of her childhood in Western Canada in the early 1900s. Tarasoff also wrote under the pseudonym Rosina Moores. The fonds includes poetry, prose, song lyrics, musical notations, copyright certificates, correspondence, and audio cassettes related to her writing.

Gilean Douglas was born in 1900 to a wealthy and socially prominent Toronto family. Orphaned at the age of 16, she began to turn away from her inherited lifestyle and the expectations of the class she was born into. She married in 1922, her husband assumed her last name, and then they set off on an adventurous automobile trip through the United States, which she recorded in a journal and photographs. The rest of the 1920s and the 1930s held two more marriages, much travel, and continued work as a photojournalist. During this time, Douglas also began to build a reputation as a poet. All in all, her writing career spanned much of the twentieth century. Her first poem was published when she was seven and, as a child, she was a regular contributor to the children's page of the Toronto News. In her late teens, she worked as a newspaper reporter, editor of the children's page, and a publicity writer. From 1961 to 1992, she wrote a regular column called “Nature Rambles” for the Victoria Colonist.

The fonds consists of materials that were produced and received during her personal and literary activities. It includes: manuscripts of poems, articles, short fiction, and books; material generated and collected by Douglas during her involvement with various organizations; notes and drafts of various writings; research materials; extensive professional and personal correspondence; financial and legal records; lists and inventories; records of publications; and various clippings.

Heather Spears was born in Vancouver, B.C. and was educated at the University of British Columbia, the Vancouver School of Art, and the University of Copenhagen. Her career as an artist and author has included over seventy-five solo exhibitions, eleven volumes of poetry, four works of fiction, and several art books. Her artistic subjects include authors, poets, children and infants, refugees, professions, hobbies, and criminal trial proceedings, among others. Materials in the fonds consist of artworks as well as textual materials, such as correspondence, clippings, contracts, posters and programs from appearances, and research notes.

Isabel Ecclestone Mackay was a writer and poet who lived from 1875 to 1928. The fonds consists of handwritten notes, typescripts of her poetry, a notebook with clippings, and correspondence.

Katherine Eastman was born in Ontario and became an elementary school teacher in 1907. After an interlude where she managed the career and directed the transcontinental tour (1923-4) of famed poet Bliss Carman, she returned to teaching and settled in Vancouver. Through Carman, she was able to meet Ernest Fewster, the founder of the Vancouver Poetry Society, and became an active member of the society. The fonds consists of correspondence, autographed poems, photographs, programmes, manuscripts, newspaper clippings, and other memorabilia of Eastman and of her friends, many of whom were connected with the Vancouver Poetry Society.

Mary Williams was born in Westville, Nova Scotia in 1877. As a child, she loved music and reading and went on to write her first two published poems in her late teens. In 1906, she got married moved to Winnipeg where she taught music and wrote poetry. The fonds consists of the unpublished manuscripts of It Seems to Me, Faith and Fancy, and Broken Crystals. The fonds also includes printed and published poems (1936-1945).

Susan Elizabeth McCaslin was born June 3, 1947. McCaslin held several teaching roles at various institutions and taught workshops and programs independently. She has authored numerous poems, essays, book chapters, reviews, non-fiction works, children’s books, and edited several poetry anthologies and collections. In 1969, McCaslin was introduced to Mary Olga Park, a contemporary Christian mystic living along the Burrard Inlet in Port Moody, BC. Park served as McCaslin’s spiritual mentor and friend until Park’s death in 1985. Mary Olga Park’s poetry, writing and focus on mystical and esoteric streams of Christianity encouraged McCaslin on her poetry path. McCaslin’s poetry has evolved to a more inter-spiritual and global perspective of the sacred, influenced by her studies in Tibetan Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sufism, Indigenous traditions and Chinese and Japanese literature. She has received several literary awards and recognition, within competitions and for her published works, including the Alberta Book Publishing Award (2012), and finalist for the BC Book Prize.

The fonds reflects Susan McCaslin’s professional career as a writer, poet and teacher as well as her personal interests and involvement in societies, community initiatives, and organizations between 1960 and 2023.


Dorothy Burnett was born in 1907 and went on to graduate from the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts in 1930. She then undertook post graduate studies at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and later studied with Herbert and Peter Fahey, renowned artists and bookbinders, in their private studio in San Francisco. Returning from California, she set up her own studio with a friend and fellow artist, Frances Gatewood. She also worked out of her family home, accepting special orders for the fine binding of family bibles, commemorative books, albums, old volumes, and first editions. The fonds consists correspondence, clippings, framed calligraphic pieces and a hand-drawn map, a leather-bound guestbook, scrapbooks, metal stamps, and more relating to Burnett’s life and work.

There is a separate collection, the Dorothy Burnett Bookbinding Tools collection, that consists of 224 of Burnett's bookbinding tools and presses that range in age from 60 to 100 years old. Images of the tools in that collection can be found online at UBC Open Collections.

Klanak Press was established in 1958 by writer William McConnell and his wife Alice McConnell, who was also a writer. The aim of the press was to publish quality limited editions of works by Canadian writers, emphasizing the design and typography of its books as much as the writing itself. The fonds consists primarily of letters, both business and personal. Many of the letters regard manuscripts submitted to or published by Klanak Press and were written by well-known Canadian authors. Other materials include press releases, invoices, order forms, mailing lists, Social Service Tax forms, book reviews, and poetry manuscripts by Gwendolyn MacEwen and Florence McNeil.

Lazara Press is a small, progressive publishing house located in Vancouver, B.C. It was founded by its current owner, Penny Goldsmith, in 1982. Lazara publishes poetry, literature, broadsides, and chapbooks as well as a "Discussions" series which serves as a forum for provocative and challenging essays and speeches on current issues. The fonds consists of the business records created and/or collected by Lazara Press and its founder Penny Goldsmith, predominately from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. The records are loosely divided into two main categories: administrative and publication records. 

The Literary Storefront was established in Vancouver in 1978 as a drop-in centre for West Coast and Canadian literati. Under the direction of its founder, Mona Fertig, the non-profit society conducted readings, held workshops, lent books, offered courses and manuscript assessment services, and published the work of local writers in several publications: The Literary Storefront Newsletter; the Birthday Book, and the Vancouver Literary News and Arts Guide. The fonds consists of financial records, correspondence, sound recordings, photographs, subject files, and related printed material pertaining to their activities such as workshops, readings, fundraising, and publishing.

Macmillan Company of Canada was a Canadian publishing house founded in 1905 as the Canadian arm of English publisher Macmillan. The fonds consists mainly of correspondence and subject files between 1944-1972 that relate to Vancouver author Ethel Wilson (whose fonds is also housed at RBSC). The records were donated by company staff member John Gray, who served as Wilson's literary executor. 


Art Critics and Curators

Born in Preston, Ontario, Doris Shadbolt pursued and enjoyed a life-long interest in the arts, having studied Fine Arts at the University of Toronto before beginning her career as a research assistant at the Gallery of Ontario (1942-1943), the National Gallery of Canada (1943-1945) and the Metropolitan Museum in New York (1948-1949). In 1950, Shadbolt was employed by the Vancouver Art Gallery, where she was an educator, curator, and Associate Director for over twenty-five years. Through her activities and exhibitions, she had a major impact on the formation of a West Coast identity founded on Emily Carr and First Nations artwork. The fonds consists of journals, worksheets, photographs, correspondence, sound recordings, printed material, exhibition catalogues, and more reflecting Doris Shadbolt's life and career in the artistic community.

Elizabeth Lane was educated at the University of British Columbia and has long been active in community arts organizations. She is a former president of the Canadian Conference of the Arts (1976-1978), Community Arts Council of Vancouver, and the Vancouver Museums Association. She also served as the first chair of the B.C. Arts Board. Among other distinctions, Lane also became Chairman of the Commission's Advisory Committee on Culture and Communications. The fonds consists of materials spanning from 1979-1982 and pertain to the activities of the Advisory Committee on Cultural Policy and the Federal Cultural Policy Review Committee. Included are briefs, files, press clippings and committee publications. They were transferred to UBC by Lane in 2006.

Joanne and George MacDonald were art and anthropology scholars who worked in a myriad of museums throughout the world. Joanne held an M.A. and worked as curator for the National Museum of Man, the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution, and the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C. The collection contains three binders of 198 cards from a variety of First Nations Northwest Coast artists. They were collected by the MacDonalds starting in the 1960s, with many of them intended by the artists for use in local potlatches, weddings, housewarmings, graduations, births, funerals, and other major life events. Some include inscriptions and/or notes from the artists to the MacDonalds.

Joan Lowndes was born in England in 1915 and immigrated to Canada with her parents in 1919. She was educated at the University of British Columbia and the Sorbonne, which helped her gain employment in multiple industries. For instance, she worked as a translator for the American Office of War Information as well as a freelance broadcaster for the CBC in the 1940s and 1950s. Shortly afterwards, she began her career as an art critic and, over the next thirty years, became widely involved in art criticism while working for the Vancouver Sun and the Vancouver Province. The fonds consists of five volumes of newspaper clippings regarding art in Vancouver.

Art historian, curator, and author Patricia Ainslie was born in England and raised in South Africa. From 1979 to 2006, she worked at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta as a curator, where she was instrumental in building the Glenbow's art collection and organized many of its exhibitions. Over the years, she has been published in scholarly journals and presented lectures on these topics in North America, England, and Europe. Since leaving Glenbow and relocating to the Okanagan in B.C. in 2006, Ainslie has worked as an independent curator and writer. Her fonds consists of research materials she compiled in the course of her curatorial work and writing, such as: notes; articles; correspondence with artists, other curators, and archival institutions; photographs of artists and artwork; interviews on audio cassette, DVD, and as transcripts; manuscripts; and exhibition pamphlets.

Bernard George Webber and Jean Patricia Browne met while studying for their respective teaching certifications at Provincial Normal School in Victoria, British Columbia. After graduating in 1938, they took positions in rural schools, maintaining contact by correspondence. The couple married in 1941 and made Osoyoos their first home. Jean and Bernard were active volunteering in local arts councils and historical societies, particularly after moving to the Okanagan in 1965. Jean made significant contributions to federal and provincial arts policy as a representative of the region. They wrote extensively on the local history of the Okanagan and Kootenays, including over many years as members of the Okanagan Historical Society where Jean served as editor of Okanagan History: Report of the Okanagan Historical Society from 1982-1988 and Bernard as its President from 1989-1991. The couple’s careers in politics and education brought them to many rural regions of British Columbia and particularly the Okanagan where they became involved also in local arts and history. Together, they contributed to the development of political thought, the education system, arts and culture policy, history writing, and the Indigenous heritage of the province.

The fonds reflects Bernard and Jean Webber’s functions as leading members of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, teachers and education administrators, and advocates for local arts, history and Indigenous cultural regeneration. The fonds is comprised of 4 series; Political Papers series, Correspondence and Biographies series, Education and Employment Records series, and Community Activities series. Materials related to Indigenous arts, education and reconciliation are found throughout the fonds.

Film and Media Artists

In the 1920s and 1930s, Ellen Harris was active in organizing the Children's Theatre Group. She then became a prominent radio broadcaster during the 1940s and the 1950s, when her program "Morning Visit" ran from 1944 to 1952. Harris appeared in many other radio shows and, in the early 1950s, was involved in CBC school broadcasts. The fonds consists of broadcast scripts and speeches; manuscripts of plays, poetry, and prose; notebooks; diaries; scrapbooks; and correspondence. The fonds also includes subject files, printed materials, fan mail, financial records and many subgroups relating to other family members and photographs.

Irene Simmons Phelan was born in Ottawa in 1897 and grew up in Vancouver, B.C. Writing under the name Pamela Stephen, her work appeared in various magazines and newspapers over the course of her career, but her greatest professional focus was as a radio reporter and producer. Her show Indian Trails was aired across the country and her show Story Time was sponsored by the British Columbia Parent Teachers' Federation. Her book of short stories, Winged Canoes at Nootka and Other Stories of the Evergreen Coast, was published in 1955. First Nations and B.C. history were two of her primary interests as a writer and educator. The fonds consists of drafts, research notes, galley proofs, and other materials related to Stephen's books, radio shows, and plays.

The Vancouver Women in Focus Society, commonly known as Women in Focus, was established as a non-profit society in 1974 when two members of the University of British Columbia’s Women's Office Collective taught a workshop in video skills and produced a special series of half hour programmes entitled “Women in Focus.” The original function of the group was to “support the production of feminist video and film, and to encourage women artists in the making of images which reflected their lives and experiences.” The group officially disbanded in 1993. The materials in the fonds reflect their activities in video production and distribution, gallery exhibitions, activism and lobbying, community engagement, and research.

Graphic Artists

Alica Davies (nee Somerscales) was a British artist who lived in B.C. for some years in the 1930s. Her attempt to establish a private school in central B.C. failed, but she and her husband successful lumbered and picked crops to sustain their lives while in Canada. In the 1940s, she returned to England to pursue her career. The fonds consists of three certificates of graduation from the University of London Slade School of Fine Arts, a photograph (1905) of Davies from her childhood, and a manuscript notebook written in the 1930s that is filled with observations about B.C. wildlife.

According to Alice Carr’s correspondence, Smith was one of famed artist Emily Carr’s favorite summer guests. The collection consists of six incoming letters, four handwritten by Emily Carr to Ann Smith and the other two from Alice M. Carr.

Elisabeth Margaret Hopkins was born in Hampshire, England in 1894 and trained as a nurse at Middlesex Hospital in 1916. Arriving in Victoria, B.C. in 1954, she became known for her artwork late in her life. In the 1970s and 1980s, her paintings were exhibited at the Bau Xi Galleries in Vancouver and Toronto and her children's book, The Painted Cougar, was published by Talon Books in 1977. She lived on Salt Spring and Galiano Islands and was the subject of a film entitled Hoppy: A Portrait of Elisabeth Hopkins. The fonds consists of a subject file series of her personal and working papers; a chronological series of articles by and about her; sketchbooks; drawings; photographs and slides of her family, friends, and artwork; and cassette tapes of interviews with her.

Kathryn Shoemaker was born in January 1943 in Vancouver, B.C. She is the illustrator of over forty books for children, including Seeking Refuge by Irene N. Watts (2016), Floyd Flamingo and His Flock of Friends by Tiffany Stone (2004), Jenny’s Neighbours by Richard Thompson (1987), and Los Ninos Alfabeticos by Lourdes Ayala (1995). She earned a PhD in Language and Literacy Education at the University of British Columbia in 2014, where she has taught a variety of classes on children’s literature and illustration. The fonds consists of records related to Shoemaker's illustrative works, and includes final artwork and sketches as well as draft texts, dummy copies, resource materials, published reviews, and correspondence.

Nan Cheney was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1897, spent part of her childhood in Havana, Cuba, and eventually studied art at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She completed the ‘Art as Applied to Medicine’ program at Johns Hopkins University (1921-3), where she worked under medical artist Max Brodel. She became a well-known B.C. portrait painter as well as a medical artist for the University of British Columbia and McGill University. Cheney met and corresponded with many Canadian artists and she enjoyed a close friendship with Emily Carr in the period before Carr's work had gained general acceptance. The fonds consists of holograph letters from Ethel Wilson to Cheney, as well as correspondence from Mary [Dodds], Dorothy McNair, and Emily Carr between the years 1938 and 1984. Cheney's subject files on Canadian artists are included in the fonds, along with newspaper and periodical clippings, memorabilia, photographs, and manuscripts.

Olea Davis was born in Buffalo, New York in 1899. She studied at McGill University and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Montreal, the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, and the Vancouver School of Art. She founded the British Columbia Potters' Guild, taught ceramics at the University of British Columbia, and, during WWII, established the Allied Officers Guild in B.C. She also designed and promoted the dogwood lapel ornament as a fund raiser for a wartime women's auxiliary, which was eventually adopted as the official floral emblem of B.C. in 1956. The fonds consists of records pertaining to her life and pottery in the form of correspondence (1931-1977), clippings, printed material, photographs, and diaries.

Olive Allen Biller was born in 1879 in Ormskirk, England. Scrapbooks from her childhood family vacations show her artistic and creative beginnings through illustrations, photographs, plays, and poems that she contributed. She pursued similar endeavours at home, producing plays within her community and in the school that her parents ran. Before immigrating to Canada, Allen’s illustrations were published in at least ten books and she wrote and illustrated stories for children’s annuals and magazines such as Blackie’s and Girl’s Realm. In 1912, Allen immigrated to Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan to marry her long-time sweetheart Jack Biller. After her husband was killed in WWII, she and her two children moved to James Island, near Victoria, B.C. While on James Island, she was a correspondent for the Sidney Review, where she sometimes published poems and described plays that she wrote for the children to perform. A lack of opportunities for illustrating turned her toward landscape painting, and while in Victoria she showed with the Vancouver Island Arts and Crafts Society.

The collection reflects Allen’s early life in England, including artistic pursuits and hobbies such as photography, poetry, and writing, as well as her later artistic works from her time in Canada. The records also document her day-to-day and family life, in both England and Canada. Textual records include journals and clippings, and graphic material includes drawings, paintings, and photographs.

Penkill Castle is a 16th century castle in Ayrshire, Scotland that housed records of individuals involved in the Pre-Raphaelite movement of English painters, poets, and art critics that objected to the influence of Raphael in the mid-1800s. The collection consists of records relating to William Bell Scott, Alice Boyd, and Margaret Courtenay. Alice Boyd, born in 1825, was a British Pre-Raphaelite painter and the 14th Laird of Penkill Castle who was a close companion of Scott. Margaret Courtenay was her niece and a fellow resident of Penkill Castle. Materials in the collection span the years of 1852-1895 and include five hundred letters from Scott to Boyd, a large number of letters to Scott and Boyd from other artists and writers, and the diaries of all three creators.

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1923, Ulli Steltzer emigrated to the United States in 1953 with her two children. After teaching music and developing photographs in Massachusetts and New York, Steltzer moved to Princeton in 1957 to accept a job as a professional photographer for the Princeton Packet, whose Tulane Street studio she worked from for much of the next two decades. In addition to taking portraits of many prominent Princeton intellectuals and visitors from the late 1950s through the early 1970s, she also made frequent trips across the United States in her red Volkswagen to photograph and interview African American families in the South, as well as Hopi, Navajo, and Pueblo peoples in New Mexico and Arizona. In 1972, Steltzer permanently relocated her studio and home to Vancouver, British Columbia, where she befriended several prominent Haida artists, including carvers Robert Davidson and Bill Reid, who would become her frequent collaborators. Steltzer documented the art, culture, and traditions of the Haida and other coastal communities, as well as the Inuit, with whom she lived for several months. She used an unobtrusive hand-held Rollei camera to seek out Indigenous artists and peoples in their traditional territories, meet them informally and record their lives and work. Traveling widely throughout the Americas and Asia during her long career, Steltzer also documented life in Southern California, Guatemala, Cuba, China, and India, with a recurrent focus on immigrant communities and Indigenous peoples. Her photographs have been exhibited widely in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and have appeared in many photographic books and collaborations.

The collection consists of 67 black and white photographs of various sizes taken by Ulli Steltzer in the 1960s and 1970s. Subjects include Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples and artists, Black, LatinX and Indigenous peoples in the USA and Guatemala, and a small number of portraits and still-life.

Performance Artists

Ada Luise Richardson was a researcher of music history and theory. Although little is known about her, she was presumably a Vancouver-based musician with an interest in piano music and folklore songs from Russia and Finland. She was possibly associated with the Vancouver Women's Musical Club because Richardson wanted to donate her music collection and library to the Club in 1930. The fonds contains research notes, Russian and Finnish folklore songs, newspaper clippings, literary excerpts, music sheets, and correspondence relating to her work in music.

Anna Banana was born on 24 February 1940 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She is an artist known for her participation in the Mail Art network, performance art, writing, and work as a small press publisher, producing the almost 50 year running Banana Rag, VILE magazine from 1974-1984, International Art Post, and various artistamp editions. She has lived in and operated out of Victoria, San Fransisco, Vancouver and the Sunshine coast. She has also toured internationally on a number of occasions, predominantly through Europe and North America. She herself considered her work to be “a costume and the creation of a character,” and called herself an “incurable collector.”

The Canadian Women Composers collection contains materials generated and used by Canadian women composers active at home and abroad. The collection includes primary resources like handwritten compositions and edits, original scores, photographs, art prints, manuscripts, correspondence, and published articles. At this time, the featured artists are Deborah Carruthers, Dorothy Chang, Zosha Di Castri, Barbara Monk Feldman, and Ana Sokolović. Throughout each of these women’s records, one can see and follow the process they go through while creating a new composition.

The Fuller family – made up of Dorothy, Rosalind, Cynthia and Walter – was from Dorset, England. The three sisters of the family garnered acclaim for performing traditional English, Scottish, and Irish folk songs in Victorian costume, with their brother Walter acting as their manager. From 1913 to 1917, the sisters toured American towns and cities, especially in the Eastern and Midwestern United States. Fonds consists of textual and graphic material related to the activities of the Fuller siblings as traveling musicians, particularly during their American tour from 1913 to 1917, such as correspondence, financial documents, and photographs and drawings from their tours.

Rose Amann, known by the stage name “Misty Rose,” was born on April 3, 1957 in Montreal, Quebec. From 1974 to 1979, Amann danced as a go-go dancer while also working full time in various factories. She and her husband decided to relocate to British Columbia in 1979, the job market was down at the time and Rose sought out go-go dancing jobs in Vancouver. Between 1980 and 1990, Misty Rose performed at various venues around Vancouver, the Lower Mainland and elsewhere in British Columbia. In 1990 Rose transitioned from dancing and began exploring other career and educational paths. She completed her Grade 12, earned a Diploma in Small Business Management and completed some esthetician, dental hygienist, and flight attendant courses. Amann took a job at Brussels Chocolates in Kitsilano (1990-1993), and later work as a Medical Office Assistant at various locations from 1993 to 2022. Outside of her career, Amann competed in body building competitions (1997-2000), Age 58-62 figure and bikini contest (2016-2019) and a Burlesque show at age 62 (2019). She retired in April 2022, and remains active in a local guitar group, attending tap dance classes, working out five times a week, and volunteering at St. James Music Academy.

Collection documents Misty Rose’s career as an exotic dancer from 1979 to 1990 primarily in the Lower Mainland and other locations in British Columbia.

Pauline Donalda – an operatic soprano, teacher, and administrator – was born Pauline Lightstone in Montreal in 1882. As a child, she studied singing on scholarship at the Royal Victoria College of McGill University. In 1902, she moved Paris on a grant from Donald A. Smith, where she continued her voice studies. In his honour, she subsequently adopted the stage name Donalda. She made her singing debut on stage in Nice, France, in 1904, from which she would go on to sing in the United States, Canada, and across Europe. Her collection consists of photographs of well-known 20th century opera singers, composers, musicians, and directors, as well as various ephemera. The majority of the photographs are signed and dedicated to Pauline Donalda by their subjects, often with personal comments.

Jeanne Robinson was born in 1948 in Boston, Massachusetts. She began dancing and choreographing in her youth, particularly in the realm of modern dance. She studied dance at many institutions, including the Boston Conservatory, Nikolais/Louis Dance Theatre Lab, Toronto Dance Theatre, and the Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, and Erick Hawkins schools. She was also the founder, director, and resident choreographer of the Nova Dance Theatre in Halifax, Nova Scotia from 1980 to 1987. Along with her husband, writer Spider Robinson, she moved to Vancouver, B.C. in 1987, where they continued to produce work together until she passed away in 2010. The fonds contains textual records relating to the written works of Spider and Jeanne Robinson as well as a sub-fonds of material relating to Jeanne’s dance career and her involvement in the Nova Dance Theatre in Halifax.

Books by Aforementioned Writers/Artists