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Edith Fowke fonds

Submitted by dmcdonne on Fri, 10/03/2014 - 5:04pm
[text, graphic, sound recordings].
1882-1996; 1949-1996.
5.88 m of textual records and other material.

Canadian folklorist, collector, author, civil libertarian and educator Edith Fulton Fowke was born in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, on April 30, 1913.  Her parents, Margaret and William Fulton, were immigrants from Northern Ireland.  She studied at the University of Saskatchewan, receiving her BA in 1933.  That same year, she joined the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and remained active with them for many years.  After graduating from university, Edith taught school for a brief time.  She returned to the University of Saskatchewan where she earned an M.A. in English in 1937.  While at the University of Saskatchewan, she met Frank Fowke, an engineering student.  They married in 1938 and Edith joined him in Toronto.  She worked as the editor for the Western Teacher from 1937-1944 and later as an associate editor ofMagazine Digest from 1945-1949.  From 1950-1963, Edith wrote, produced and co-hosted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio program, Folk Song Time, a weekly program featuring her folk music collection.  The program made her a household name in Canada. 

Edith was captivated by Canadian folk songs but frustrated by the lack of available material.  Her interest in collecting folk music was influenced by eminent Canadian folklorist, Helen Creighton and by American folk music collector, Kenneth Goldstein.  She purchased her first tape recorder in 1956 and began making field recordings of folk songs in the county of Peterborough, Ontario.  Over the years, Edith would record ca. 2,000 folk songs.  One of her prolific as well as her personal favourite informants was O.J. Abbott.  Many of her recordings were released by Folkway Records of New York.  In addition to collecting folk music, she also wrote and edited books about folksongs and folktales.  In 1952, Edith collaborated with folklorist and composer, Richard Johnston, on the book Folk Songs of Canada.  She and Dr. Johnston also worked on Chansons Canadiennes Françaises and More Folk Songs of Canada.  Edith authored a number of books including Folklore of Canada, Ring Around the Moon, and Family Heritage: The Story and Songs of LaRena Clark.  One of her most successful and best known publications was the children’s book, Sally go round the sun.  

Edith turned her attention from folk songs to folklore in the 1970s.  She continued to write and began teaching, joining the English Department at York University in 1971.  During the 1980s, she lectured at the University of Calgary in conjunction with the Kodály summer diploma program.  She retired from York University in 1984 and was made professor emeritus.  She was made a Fellow of American Folklore Society in 1975 and a member of the Order of Canada in 1977.  She received honorary degrees from Brock, Trent and Regina universities.  Edith Fowke died on March 28, 1996 in Toronto, ON.

Fonds consists of the personal and professional records of Edith Fowke, and reveals the many aspects of her career as a folklorist, writer, collector and educator.  Includes manuscripts, radio scripts, correspondence, and articles related to her publishing and research (1938-1996, predominant 1962-1994); sound recordings of folk songs, notes, and correspondence related to her teaching career ([197-], 1982-1986); personal correspondence, scrapbooks, and diary (1882-1943, 1955-1996, predominant 1955-1996); manuscripts, sound recordings of folk music, and interviews from her CBC radio programs (1949-1983, predominant 1954-1966); interviews with Edith Fowke or by her (1960-1969, 1983); a series of personal and professional correspondence (1936, 1946-1996); field recordings of folk songs she collected, indexes to these recordings, and other recordings she collected or recorded (1943, 1947?, 1954-1977). 

Title taken from content of records. 

Includes 303 audio reels; 26 audio cassettes; 177 photographs.

Donated by Edith Fowke (1987-1999), and by the Canadian Society for Traditional Music (1998). 

Most of the text is in English with some in French. 

No restrictions on access.

Detailed finding aid available; file level control. 

Additional field recordings made by Edith Fowke of O.J. Abbott are held by the Canadian Museum of History (formerly the Canadian Museum of Civilization), Hull, Quebec, and at York University, Toronto, Ontario.

No further accruals expected.

Interviews with Richard Johnston and Frank Fowke about Edith Fowke are held by University of Calgary Special Collections, Accession 631/98.7.

Acc 664/99.21

The Richard Johnston Canadian Music Archives Collection
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Fowke fonds