Fonds RBSC-ARC-1256 - Blanche Howard fonds

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Blanche Howard fonds

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the provenance of the fonds.

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4.65 m of textual records and other material

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Biographical history

Blanche Howard was born Alice Blanche Machon on November 7, 1923 in Daysland, Alberta. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Alberta in 1944, majoring in chemistry, physics, and mathematics. In 1945 she married Bruce Howard (1922-2002). After living in Toronto for three years, during which time Blanche Howard worked as an assistant chemistry lecturer at the University of Toronto, the Howards moved to Penticton, B.C. and had three children, Allison, Stephen, and Leslie. Beginning in 1958, Howard began to article and to earn a degree as a chartered accountant. While in Penticton, Howard also wrote a column for a community newspaper edited by her husband and had a short story published by Maclean’s magazine in 1957.

In 1968, Bruce Howard was elected as a Liberal Member of Parliament. The couple moved to Ottawa, and Blanche Howard began to write her first novel “The Manipulator,” which was published in 1972 and received the Canadian Booksellers’ Award for outstanding first novel. Howard’s next two novels, “Pretty Lady” and “The Immortal Soul of Edwin Carlysle,” were published in 1976 and 1977, respectively. From 1969-1972, Howard also wrote the newspaper column "Report from Ottawa" for Bruce Howard’s constituents in the Okanagan. Howard is also the author of the novels “Penelope’s Way” (2000) and “Dreaming in a Digital World” (2010), and has had more than fourteen short stories and several essays published.

In 1971, Howard met author Carol Shields in Ottawa when a mutual friend invited Howard to a book club that Shields was hosting. After Bruce Howard lost his seat in Parliament and the Howards moved to North Vancouver in 1973, Howard and Shields maintained an active correspondence. Shields and Howard co-authored the epistolary novel, “A Celibate Season,” which was published in 1991. A stage version of “A Celibate Season,” adapted by Howard, was performed by North Vancouver’s Moodyville Theatre Company in 1990. Following Shields’s death, Howard and her daughter Allison edited a collection of letters between the two women, which was published in 2007 under the title “A Memoir of Friendship.”

In addition to her career as a writer, Howard worked as a part-time, self-employed accountant and was an instructor with the Business Administration Faculty of Capilano College from 1980-1981. Howard maintained an active interest in Liberal politics throughout her life, serving as the speech writer for the Minister of Health and Welfare, Marc Lalonde, from 1972-1973 and acting as co-chair for Iona Campagnolo’s failed 1984 election campaign. Howard also volunteered for a number of arts and other non-profit organizations, including the Vanier Institute of the Family, where she served as director for two terms, the Keep Well Society of the North Shore, the North Shore Unitarian Church, the North Shore Arts Commission, the North Vancouver Women’s Liberal Commission, and the North Vancouver District Library board, among other organizations. Howard was a member of The Writers' Union of Canada from 1977 on.

Blanche Howard passed away on June 12, 2014.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The fonds consists of records spanning the period 1955-2013 that reflect Blanche Howard’s literary career, political interests, professional and volunteer work, as well as her personal and family life. Records related to Howard’s literary career include incoming and outgoing correspondence with publishers, agents, friends and family, colleagues and fellow writers, among others; literary works, including novels, short stories, essays, articles, book reviews, speeches, and plays in various editorial and publication stages; notes, outlines, and proposals; research materials; grant applications; contracts and royalty or revenue statements; biographical, publicity, and promotional materials; photographs, newspaper clippings, and ephemera; and other materials. Records related to Howard’s political interests and professional and volunteer work include correspondence with Iona Campangola, Capilano College, and members of The Writers' Union of Canada, among others; Vanier Institute of the Family correspondence and board meeting minutes; Moodyville Theatre correspondence, meeting minutes, and financial records; and other materials. Records related Howard’s personal and family life include photographs of Howard’s family, as well as photographs of Bruce Howard during his political career; personal ephemera; correspondence, including with writer and friend Carol Shields; and other materials.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

The original accession was donated to Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC Library by the creator in 1997. A subsequent accrual was donated by the creator in June 2013. A third accession was donated by Allison Howard, Blanche Howard's daughter, in 2016.


The Blanche Howard fonds spans three accessions, each of which was arranged and described separately.

The first accession of records was donated in July of 1997 by Blanche Howard. This accession encompassed roughly eight boxes and contained documents dating from 1955-1997. Records therein included correspondence between Howard and Carol Shields, manuscripts of Howard’s literary works, copies of Shields’ novels that Howard had edited, and materials relating to Howard’s civic activities. This accession was arranged by the archivist into seven series and one subfonds which reflected Howard’s activities or types of materials. The following original series were created: “Vanier Institute,” “Outfile Register,” “Moodyville Theatre,” “Reviews and Publicity,” “Contracts,” “Correspondence,” and “Grant Applications.” A subfonds entitled “Literary Works” was developed by the archivist in order to represent the distinct nature of Howard’s writerly activities. The archivist interpreted Howard’s role as author as unique when compared to the other roles she occupied in her life—for example, that of accountant, speech writer, and lecturer. The archivist maintained the original physical order of Howard’s files. At this time, access restrictions were imposed by Howard on her correspondence with Carol Shields.

The second accession of materials was donated by Blanche Howard in 2013. This accession contained roughly four meters of textual records, including correspondence, manuscripts, and administrative files. It also contained one box of photographs and negatives. Only nine files from this accession were added to series that had been developed for the 1997 accession: the “General Correspondence” and “Correspondence with Carol Shields” subseries, nested under the “Correspondence” series. The processing archivist developed a single new series to represent Howard’s literary works: “Literary Work and Related Materials.” Howard partially organized some of the records for this accession, and this order was maintained by the archivist when it was evident. For example, the sub-series “After 1990—Published Short Stories and Essays” and “Unpublished Short Stories and Essays” were created by Howard. When Howard’s original order was not evident, the processing archivist assigned files to pre-existing series. The original physical order of Howard’s files was maintained; many files were arranged chronologically. The archivist weeded some materials from this accession, including duplicate documents, newspaper clippings, personal documents, and family photos. Access restrictions were imposed on select materials in this accession, particularly correspondence, in order to protect the privacy of Carol Shields. Restrictions were inspired by those applied to the Carol Shields fonds at Library and Archives Canada.

The third and final accession of records was donated after Blanche Howard’s death. Allison Howard, Blanche Howard’s daughter, donated this accession in 2016. This accession included 67 cm of textual records and 52 colour photographs. Records primarily related to the publication of A Memoir of Friendship, a collection of Blanche Howard’s and Carol Shields’ correspondence. The processing archivist assigned files from this accession to pre-existing series that had been developed for the 1997 and 2013 accessions. Files were assigned to the following series: “A Memoir of Friendship Materials,” “Literary Works and Related Materials,” “Correspondence,” and “Photos and Personal Ephemera.” The original physical order of Howard’s files was maintained. Access restrictions were added to certain files in order to protect the privacy of Carol Shields, in keeping with the rationale determined for the 2013 accession.

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Restrictions on access

The following files are restricted until December 31, 2038: Many files in the series "A Memoir of Friendship materials," all files in the subseries "Correspondence with Carol Shields," and various files in the series "Literary work and related materials" and the subseries "General correspondence," as noted in the finding aid.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

The finding aid for the 1997 accession is available in physical form upon request.

Generated finding aid

Associated materials

Signed copies of Blanche Howard’s novels “The Manipulator,” “Pretty Lady” and “The Immortal Soul of Edwin Carlysle,” which were received with the original accession, have been added to the book collection at Rare Books and Special Collections. The Carol Shields fonds, which includes correspondence between Shields and Blanche Howard, is housed at Library and Archives Canada.

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Further accruals are not anticipated.

General note

Photographs in the series are numbered BC2164-1 to BC2164-206.

General note

Photograph Identifier: BC-2164

Physical description

Includes: 233 b&w and col. photographs, 7 col. slides, ca. 190 b&w and col. negatives, and 1 optical disc (DVD)

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Last revised by Gillian Dunks in March 2017.

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