Fonds UBCA-ARC-1420 - Helen Sonthoff fonds

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Helen Sonthoff fonds

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20 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

Helen Hubbard Wolfe Sonthoff was born in Rochester, New York, on September 11, 1916. She was educated at Smith College (AB 1937) and Radcliffe College. She taught for some years in Massachusetts and Washington, DC before coming to the University of British Columbia in 1958 as a Teaching Assistant. Sonthoff, a teacher and scholar of Canadian Literature back when Canadian literature was still struggling to establish itself as a field worthy of study, gained a tenured appointment as an Assistant Professor of English at UBC in 1968. Her writing was on the fiction and poetry of such contemporary figures as Phyllis Webb, Milton Acorn, Eli Mandel and Leonard Cohen. She promoted their work on the CBC as a reader and critic from time to time. Sonthoff served on numerous departmental and faculty committees, and in 1972 she was elected to a three-year term on the University Senate as a representative of the Faculty of Arts. As a fledgling Women's Action Group member, she contributed to the first Report on the Status of Women at UBC in 1973. Sonthoff was also an early supporter of education for Indigenous peoples at the post-secondary level and worked with colleagues in Arts and Education to give exceptional help to Indigenous students. In 1976, Sonthoff and her long-time partner, writer Jane Rule, moved permanently to Galiano Island after retiring from the English Department. Sonthoff passed away in Victoria, B.C., on January 3, 2000.

Custodial history

The fonds was donated to the University Archives by Jane Rule in 2000, but access remained restricted until Ruleʹs death in 2007.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of personal correspondence, newspaper clippings and manuscripts; as well as, memorial tributes, cards and letters of sympathy pertaining to the passing of Sonthoff. The fonds is arranged in the following series: Correspondence, Essays and Criticisms and Memorial Tributes.

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Related records may be found in the Jane Rule fonds.


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