Fonds RBSC-ARC-1843 - Webber family fonds

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Webber family fonds

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  • Textual record

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1.9 m of textual records
48 photographs

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Biographical history

Bernard George Webber and Jean Patricia Browne met while studying for their respective teaching certifications at Provincial Normal School in Victoria, British Columbia. After graduating in 1938, they took positions in rural schools, maintaining contact by correspondence. The couple married in 1941 and made Osoyoos their first home. Bernard had been active in politics with the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) since a teenager in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He was nominated and elected as CCF candidate for Member of Legislative Assembly in 1941 representing Similkameen, serving as education critic until 1945. Throughout this time, Jean ran his constituency office and was a valued speaker on CCF issues while she maintained the couple’s home and growing family in Penticton.

After Bernard’s unsuccessful run in the next two general elections in B.C. in 1945 and 1949, the couple returned to their teaching careers. Bernard and Jean fought hard to obtain and upgrade their education. For many years while working and raising their family, they took additional courses at UBC to earn their respective Bachelors and Masters degrees, usually through summer courses.

Bernard enjoyed a distinguished career in education administration at the school, district and ministry levels, retiring in 1979 as a celebrated educator and administrator. Conversely, Jean’s teaching career reflected the prevailing attitudes about the role of women in society, and her obligations as wife and mother of five children. Bernard’s career advanced as Jean struggled to have her qualifications recognized. Jean retired in 1975 having specialized in teaching in multi-graded rural schools.

Bernard and Jean contributed to the advancement of Indigenous rights and education across their political, professional and volunteer lives. They maintained a lifelong commitment to the issue through their close friendship with Anthony Walsh, whom they met in 1940 while Walsh was teacher at the Inkameep Day School on the Nk’mip reserve. Walsh was renowned for his teaching within the day school system that integrated Indigenous knowledge and culture into classroom learning and instilled pride in his students’ native heritage at a time when the government’s residential school system sought to erase Indigenous culture. His methods contributed directly to the resurgence of Indigenous cultural production in the region, which Bernard and Jean actively supported in the 1940s and 50s through amateur theatre and drama festivals, including as members of the Society for the Revival of Indian Arts and Crafts. As an education administrator, Bernard advocated for courses in Indigenous languages, history and culture, specifically of the Haisla people while as District Superintendent of Schools in Kitimat. Jean advocated for Indigenous issues through her various writing; notably, in her authorship of the CCF’s Indigenous policy in 1945, and in her writing and editing in the 1980s on the Indigenous history of the Okanagan.

Jean and Bernard were active volunteering in local arts councils and historical societies, particularly after moving to the Okanagan in 1965. Jean made significant contributions to federal and provincial arts policy as a representative of the region. They wrote extensively on the local history of the Okanagan and Kootenays, including over many years as members of the Okanagan Historical Society where Jean served as editor of Okanagan History: Report of the Okanagan Historical Society from 1982-1988 and Bernard as its President from 1989-1991.

The couple’s careers in politics and education brought them to many rural regions of British Columbia and particularly the Okanagan where they became involved also in local arts and history. Together, they contributed to the development of political thought, the education system, arts and culture policy, history writing, and the Indigenous heritage of the province.

Custodial history

Records were in the custody of Bernard and Jean’s children prior to their transfer to Rare Books and Special Collections by son, Jeremy Webber.

Scope and content

The fonds reflects Bernard and Jean Webber’s functions as leading members of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, teachers and education administrators, and advocates for local arts, history and Indigenous cultural regeneration. The fonds is comprised of 4 series; Political Papers series, Correspondence and Biographies series, Education and Employment Records series, and Community Activities series. Materials related to Indigenous arts, education and reconciliation are found throughout the fonds. Correspondence is its own series and is also found throughout, including copies of outgoing business correspondence.

Record types include newspaper clippings, correspondence, articles, scrapbooks, speeches, notes, drafts, reports, teaching materials, subject files and other material.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

All records were donated by Jeremy Webber.


The records arrived with selection and arrangement performed by Bernard and Jean’s children. Their original order has been maintained, including annotations. Where present, file names have been preserved. Some files include a supplied title element in order to accurately describe contents.

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  • English

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No further accruals expected.

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Description created by June Chow in January 2023.

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