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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 whose materials did not fit neatly into any of the themes determined for this guide, but nonetheless have unique and interesting stories to tell.

Archival Collections

The Bamford Family fonds contains a series of records related to Esther Adelina Lasell Bamford. It consists of a scrapbook she created between 1933-1942, reflecting her early schooling and personal interests, as well as correspondence to her aunt, Adelina Ord Lasell. The scrapbook contains newspaper clippings covering local and national news and events, songs, poems, pictures, knitting and needlecraft patterns, and recipes. The letters to Adelina Lasell are written between 1938-1940, concerning family updates and history.


Beatrice Sprague was born in 1871 and traveled from Edinburgh to Hope, BC in 1906. In Canada, she traveled on the Canadian Pacific Railway and stayed in Hope and its vicinity, including Harrison Lake and the Nicola Valley. In 1908, she married John Thacker (after whom Thacker Mountain was named) and they lived in Hope until the end of their lives. The fonds consists of two diaries which chronicle Sprague's 1906 trip from Edinburgh to Hope.


Members of the Belcher family moved to New England from England in the seventeenth century and then to Nova Scotia. The fonds consists of materials created between 1736 and 1874, such as correspondence, journals, legal and financial documents, printed drawings, watercolours, an order book, and personal papers created and/or accumulated by members of the Belcher family. Female members of the family with their own series include Marianne, Lady Diana, and Eleanor Belcher.


Betty Clarke Pearson was the daughter of John St. Clair Clarke, the chief officer of the Empress of Canada when it was attacked and sunk by an Italian submarine on March 14th, 1943. Betty’s collection consists of documents she gathered about the ship’s last voyage, such as newspaper clippings, photographs, correspondence, and a memorandum speech.


This collection was donated by Alice C. MacKenzie, one of the commissioners of the government-mandated inquiry. The commissioners were appointed under Order-in-Council, Number 1489, dated April 24, 1975, to inquire into all ramifications of an assessment system based on actual value, and to review all aspects of real property taxation procedures. The Commission submitted its preliminary report on July 30, 1976 and was terminated later in the year. The collection consists of exhibits, briefs, proposals, correspondence, recommendations and printed material relating to the Commission of Inquiry on Property Assessment and Taxation.


The Farris family was considered a prominent family in the Vancouver area, producing distinguished lawyers and scholars over several generations. Evlyn Fenwick Farris (1878-1971), the family matriarch, was a scholar and advocate for continuing education and women's rights. She was the founder of the first University Women's Club of Vancouver and was elected to the Senate of the University of British Columbia. Such eminent positions afforded the Farris family an elevated station in their community, and the opportunity to associate with families not only in the Vancouver elite, but with other prominent Canadians. The collection consists chiefly of correspondence, photographs, matters of estate, family history, notebooks, manuscripts, legal memorabilia, and family memorabilia.


The Haweis Family fonds contains materials related to various members of the Haweis family. Of particular relevance to women’s history is Mary Elizabeth Joy Haweis, who was an author of women's and children's books and whose book on Chaucer became a standard text for English schools. Her daughter Hugolin was a photographer, humourist, and writer and her granddaughter Renee Haweis Chipman was a writer, served in the Canadian Army Women's Corps, established the Lillooet Museum, and acted as its curator until her death in 1986. The fonds consists of photographs of the Haweis family, covering topics like family, friends, travel, and Renee’s military service.


The Icelandic Archives of British Columbia (IABC) was a community archives established in 1975 whose mission was to collect and maintain documentation and artifacts concerning the history of Icelanders and their descendants in British Columbia. The fonds consists of a series and subfonds relevant to women's history: the Original Collections series, which consists of the original collections acquired and preserved by the IABC; and the Sólskin Society subfonds, which contains materials of the Sólskin Society, an Icelandic women’s society established in 1917 as an organization to help people of Icelandic descent who were in need.


Isabella Starr was raised in Vancouver, B.C. and attended King Edward High School. Her fonds consists of two scrapbooks she created that feature photos of American movie stars of the silent movie era, such as Ramon Novarro, Richard Dix, Lillian Gish, and Gloria Swanson.


Miss J.E. Denison was secretary to former B.C. Premier Simon Fraser Tolmie. The fonds consists of a photo album entitled, "Caravaning to the Land of the Golden Twilight, June 13 - July 1, 1930," assembled by Denison. It includes a description of a motoring trip from Blaine, Washington to Hazelton, B.C., then to Vancouver, B.C. The caravan trip involved groups from the United States, Alaska, and British Columbia. The purpose of the caravan was to investigate the proposal for an Alaskan highway which would join up with the B.C. highway network.


Lilian Emily Bland was born in September 1878 in Kent, England. Today, she is widely recognized as the first woman to design, construct, and fly her own aircraft. She was also an avid photographer, journalist, markswoman, equestrian, and motorist as well as an early settler of Northern Vancouver Island. As a young adult, Lilian journeyed around Europe, studying musical and visual arts along the way. In September 1909, she began modeling an idea for a biplane called the Mayfly, which she began to build in November. The plane flew successfully for approximately 10 metres and she thus became the first woman to design and fly her own aircraft. In 1912, she moved to Quatsino in Northern Vancouver Island, B.C., where she spent the next several years making a life for her daughter and husband, raising livestock, farming, making wine, and selling goods. After separating from her husband, she returned to England in 1934.

The fonds consists of 1,398 glass plate negatives, glass lantern slides, celluloid prints, and Lilian’s unpublished memoir. The photographs reflect the varied and unique life of Lilian and her family. Photographic subjects include: the Mayfly bi-plane; horseback riding and racing; family photographs; bird watching; her travels in Europe, California, and British Columbia; and her years spent as a settler living on the Quatsino Sound in Vancouver Island.


The collection consists of material created by Malcolm Lowry and others between 1910-1962, including his second wife Margerie Bonner Lowry as well as Dorothy Templeton and Carol Betty Atwater. It includes correspondence, signed autograph letters and postcards, multiple drafts of manuscripts, poems, phonograph records, clippings, reviews, articles, essays, typescripts, unpublished material, and photographs. Photographs include snapshots and professional photographs of Malcolm and Marjorie Lowry, their friends, their houses, and their travels in B.C., the United States, Mexico, and Europe (primarily between 1939 and 1957).


Marion Wootton was born in 1870 and immigrated to Vancouver with her husband Allen in 1910, where he would go on to serve as Vancouver Parks Board Superintendent from 1913-1943. The fonds consists of a scrapbook related to his work on the Parks Board as well as personal photographs and cards. The scrapbook appears to have been maintained by Marion Wootton, as it contains a number of letters of condolence to her after her husband's death.


The fonds consists of postcards acquired by Mary Millicent McManus Woodward in her travels. Locations featured are mainly in Europe, including Vienna, Paris, and various locations in Italy as well as Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Japan, and Barbados. There is also a small amount of correspondence.


The Mavis Hall collection comprises of a variety of printed and photographic materials collected by Margery McCuaig, Hall’s mother, during a trip to Japan that was sponsored by the Japanese Tourism Ministry and the Japanese Government Railways, from July-August of 1939. The collection contains commercially-produced slides, postcards and souvenir photographs, as well as Board of Tourism publications, prints, and a few personal items and memorabilia of McCuaig, such as a passport, scrapbook, and autograph book. McCuaig also collected ephemera from the time she spent on the cruise ship, including daily ship menus, news bulletins, travel brochures, and entertainment programmes that exhibit her experiences onboard.