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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 who worked as teachers, instructors, and/or tutors throughout assorted times and places.

Archival Collections

Amy Coles Kirby spent four years in Russia (1879-1883), where she taught English to the children of the Alexieff family. The fonds consists of typescript memoirs of her experience as an English tutor in Russia, chronicling her life from 1879 to 1883 as well as the subsequent experiences of one of the Alexieff children, Princess Vera Urusov, who suffered tremendous personal hardships during the Russian Revolution.

Elsie Heaps was a kindergarten and music teacher in Prince Rupert, B.C. who also taught at an Anglican Sunday School and was involved in a youth group. In 1942, she moved to Slocan City, B.C., where she was involved in many activities. She taught at the local kindergarten, was an organist and choir leader in the local church, and also taught at Glenmere High School from its opening (1942?) to its closing in 1946. The fonds consists of a photograph album received from graduating students of Glenmere High School in Slocan City (1946).

Doris Fuller was born in Stockton, California in 1922. She married Frank Fuller in 1945 and they both went on to receive degrees in Geography and become teachers in the early 1960s. In 1967, they moved to Sechelt, B.C., where Doris became president of the Sechelt Teachers' Association. In 1980, Frank developed a curriculum on the Sechelt Indian cultural heritage. The fonds consists of correspondence, subject files, and photograph albums that pertain to the Fullers' professional careers, labour activities, and personal lives. The fonds also contains materials which reflect the activities of the Labour History Provincial Specialist Association of the BCTF, the Sechelt Indian Curriculum Project, and a film entitled For Twenty Cents a Day.

Janet Jenkins (nee Brown) was born in Worcester, England in 1935. She was married in 1956 and graduated from Whitelands College in London the following year. She and her husband Trevor came to Canada in 1957 and settled in B.C., where Janet taught at schools in Prince George, Vancouver, and Vancouver Island. The fonds consists of diaries, photographs, and correspondence that document her life.

John Langley married Edith Kidner in England in 1879, where he was working as a grocer and she as a butcher. In 1888, they moved to Port Arthur, Ontario where they lived for a few years with their two daughters, Celia and Winnie. In 1891, the family moved to B.C., where Langley worked as a farmer in the Abbotsford area until his death in 1919. The fonds consists of personal and family records including letters (1891-1907), postcards (1905-1951), photographs, household accounts (1920-1924), diaries (1915-1916), and documents relating to various activities of the Langley family. Edith’s diaries, in particular, present a detailed picture of Vancouver life during WWI, specifically as it related to her own life and role of a schoolteacher at that time.

Born in 1886 in Simcoe County, Ontario, Margaret C. Cowie began teaching in Aberdeen Public School in Vancouver, B.C. in 1914. During her career as a Grade 5-6 teacher, she was instrumental in developing a Canadian Literature library within her school. The fonds consists of 141 letters written by 83 Canadian authors who received letters from the school requesting materials like books and letters from them. The books were placed in the school library, but the letters, which were mostly written between 1925-1928, were mostly addressed to and retained by Cowie.

Margaret Sibyl Hardwick taught school in Maple Bay, Princeton and Vancouver from 1916 to 1954. The fonds consists of records pertaining to Hardwick's teaching career, such as documents, letters, entrance exams, and photographs.

The Ralston Family fonds contains the materials of H. Keith Ralston as well as his wife, Edith Mary “Mollie” Ralston. Mollie was born in 1922 and went on to be a teacher in the Vancouver school system. The couple lived in Vancouver and raised their children there. The fonds predominantly consists of the Household Accounts series, which includes documents supporting the daily activities of the Ralston family from 1956-2003, including bank statements, life insurance documents, receipts, correspondence, and three photographs of Mollie. The Educational Notes series includes notes written by Keith, Mollie, Bruce, and Delia during their grade school and university educations.

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. Bernard enjoyed a distinguished career in education administration at the school, district and ministry levels, retiring in 1979 as a celebrated educator and administrator. Conversely, Jean’s teaching career reflected the prevailing attitudes about the role of women in society, and her obligations as wife and mother of five children. Bernard’s career advanced as Jean struggled to have her qualifications recognized. Jean retired in 1975 having specialized in teaching in multi-graded rural schools. 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. Materials related to Indigenous arts, education and reconciliation are found throughout the fonds.