Fonds RBSC-ARC-1835 - Peggy Lee fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

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Peggy Lee fonds

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  • Textual record
  • Photographic material

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Physical description

73.5 cm of textual records
90 cm of photographs and albums
5 plaques
3 medals
1 pin
1 audio reel
3 VHS tapes

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Biographical history

Peggy Lee (nee Wong) was born in 1923 in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. She was one of fourteen children of Chew and Lee Sze Wong. The family moved from Guangdong to Canada and Chew Wong was initially a railway worker before opening a grocery store in Prince George.

At fifteen, Lee moved to Vancouver to attend the Moler Hairdressing School. Two years later in 1941, she opened the Paris Beauty Salon in the Holden Building on East Hastings Street. This would be the first of a number of salons that Lee would own and operate.

In 1942, Lee joined the St. John’s Women’s Ambulance Corps, with whom she served until the end of World War II. Her platoon was comprised completely of Chinese Canadian women, of whom Lee was the youngest. Activities that Lee engaged in as part of her service included acting as a stretcher-bearer and assisting with planned precautionary blackouts of all city lights in Vancouver.

In 1951, Lee married William Henry Rees Lee. The couple raised four children, including a set of triplets.

In the 1960s, Lee went into a partnership with a couple with whom she co-owned the Prince Eugene Salon, which eventually relocated to the Hotel Vancouver. Following her partners’ departure from the area, Lee retained the location and opened the Peggy Lee Beauty Centre, which operated between 1972 and 1985. As part of her career, Lee was highly involved in the hairdressing community both locally and internationally. She served as an examiner and judge at various conventions and beauty pageants in the 70s and 80s and was a board member and Inspector for the Hairdressers Association of British Columbia (later the Cosmetologists' Association of British Columbia) in the 1990s. Lee officially retired in 2011.
Lee has been an avid investor in a variety of ventures throughout her life. Projects have included inventions such as a hovercraft boat and a glass-washing device, a hotel in Toronto and a nighclub in Las Vegas, a film, and several beauty product lines.

Lee has been an active member of the Chinese Canadian and veterans’ communities in Vancouver, in particular through involvement with the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society. She also was a founding member of the Vancouver Chinese Canadian Activity Centre (VCCAC). Lee also acted as a long-time board member for the VCCAC offshoot, the Chishaun Housing Society, which for many years operated the subsidized senior living facility Oakridge House in partnership with Shaughnessy Heights United Church. For her service to these communities, Lee has been the recipient of multiple awards and nominated for a British Columbia multicultural award in 2015.

In addition to community work, Lee was also actively involved in politics and served as a delegate for the Social Credit Party. She held a close relationship with Grace McCarthy and communicated with other. politicians including William Bennett and William Van Der Zalm and Brian Mulroney.

Peggy Lee passed away in Vancouver, April 13, 2023 at the age of 99.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds reflects Lee’s professional career, investment ventures, engagement with political and social communities, and life with friends and family. It offers particular insight into the social aspects of Lee’s life, as she kept many of the invitations, programs, and other ephemera relating to events that she attended because of her community involvement and philanthropy across all aspects of her life. In addition to a variety of textual records relating to her business ventures, volunteering, and military service, the fonds contains a significant number of photographs that were taken or otherwise collected by Lee and reflect the full range of her life’s facets.

The fonds is divided into five series: Entrepreneurship, investing, and business; Military service; Community and political activity; Personal records; and Photographs.

The entrepreneurship, investing, and business records series relates to Lee’s activities as a businesswoman and investor. Records in this series include financial and legal records, marketing materials, and certificates of recognition.

The military service records series relates to Lee’s time in the ambulance corps and subsequent involvement with initiatives in support of veterans. Records include a limited number of original materials from Lee’s period of service; correspondence and other records including meeting minutes and ephemera documenting Lee’s involvement veterans’ advocacy and recognition efforts.
The community and political activity records series relate to Lee’s involvement in Chinese Canadian community projects and the Social Credit and Conservative parties of Canada. Records in this series include ephemera, correspondence, and meeting minutes that document her involvement with these groups.

The personal records series relates to Lee’s travels as well as her life outside of her work and volunteer efforts. Records include correspondence, ephemera, and certificates.

The photographs series relates to a large number of photo albums and loose photographs that reflect all aspects of Lee’s life.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Materials were donated by Lee's daughter, Deborah Rees Lee.


The records arrived in thematic groupings without original order, and have e been arranged and described to reflect the intellectual order reflected in the above series, which in part preserved the themes proposed at the time of arrival. Where present, file names—some provided by Lee’s daughter, Deborah—have been preserved. In order to retain original file titles, some files include a supplied title to accurately describe contents. Original order of the records within the files, if present, is retained.

Due to the extensive number of photos in the fonds, in order to make the materials accessible, photographic material has been minimally processed.

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An additional accrual is expected.

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Finding aid created by Mya Ballin, April 2022.

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