Margaret Anchoretta Ormsby

Bio

Margaret Ormsby was born in 1909 in Quesnel but spent most of her childhood in the Okanagan Valley, where her father, a returned veteran, had taken out an orchard acreage on the banks of Kalamalka Lake in the suburb of Coldstream near Vernon, which subsequently became Margaret’s much beloved home base. Thanks to her parents’ strong encouragement to pursue higher education, in 1925, she enrolled at UBC earning a B.A. (1929) and M.A. (1931) in History. Her Master’s theses was entitled: “A Study of the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia”, marking her first contribution to what became her principal interest. She then began her Ph.D. at Bryn Mawr in 1931, interrupting her studies between 1934 and 1936 to work as a teaching assistant in the Department on History at UBC. After completing her Ph.D. in 1936, with a thesis on “Relationships between the Province of British Columbia and The Dominion of Canada”, she taught at a girls high school in the United States for three years. These Depression years made it extremely difficult for young scholars, particularly women. Nevertheless In 1940, (partly because the men were in the armed forces, and partly because she could not demand a high salary), she became a lecturer in the History Department of McMaster University in Hamilton Ontario, and then returned to UBC to teach in 1943. With the return of the veterans after 1945, the History Department’s enrolment rose rapidly. Margaret found herself not only teaching her preferred subject of Canadian and British Columbia history, but even mediaeval courses. In those days junior lecturers were expected to teach whatever was required. But she persevered, and was soon recognized as a scholar of note. It was therefore no surprise when she was invited to write the magisterial volume British Columbia: a History, which appeared in 1958 to mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Crown Colony, and was subsequently republished four times. This substantial volume of over 560 pages was a great success, and was widely adopted by schools and universities. Her scholarship was straightforward with its chief emphasis on the political developments which had led to the colony’s union with the rest of Canada, its rapid expansion at the end of the nineteenth century, and its tribulations in the first half of the twentieth. She championed a non-Toronto and non-Vancouver view of the history of B.C. All this was based on a judicious if conservative assessment of the archival records, and a desire to see the province’s history from a wide perspective in all its multicoloured and multi-ethnic hues. She also contributed a large number of shorter articles and encyclopedia entries.

This scholarship involved her spending a great deal of time in the Victoria archives, from which she was summoned back in 1963 to take over as Head of the History Department after Dean Soward’s precipitous resignation. She brought to this position a remarkable strength of determination (perhaps because of her Irish ancestry) which occasionally led to some acerbic relations with a few male colleagues, still rather resentful of having a woman in charge. She could not help but feel a certain loneliness in being the only woman head in the Faculty of Arts, or indeed, apart from some Nursing Professors, in the whole university. But her period of service until 1974 saw a remarkable increase in the number of appointments in the History Department (long overdue), which expanded the department’s size three-fold; and brought the UBC History Department into a national, North American and international context. She also oversaw the launching of an unprecedented PhD programme, designed to build on the successful MA programme of earlier years. At the same time Margaret Ormsby chaired the Historical Sites and Monuments Board of Canada between 1960 and 1967, as well as becoming President of both the B.C. Historical Society and the Canadian Historical Association. In addition she was richly honoured for her work and her academic and social contributions as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She was also a member of the Champlain Society, the Humanities Research Council of Canada and the American Historical Society. Professor Ormsby also served as Secretary to the UBC Faculty Association in 1956-57. She received Honorary Degrees from all four B.C. universities as well as from the University of Manitoba and the University of Notre Dame in Nelson, B.C. In 1966 she was awarded the Order of Canada, and in 1974 the UBC Senate awarded her an Honorary D.Litt. Subsequently she was awarded the Order of British Columbia.

After her retirement, she taught for a year at the University of Western Ontario as the Smallman Visiting Professor. She also completed the editing of an interesting diary written by an early settler, A Pioneer Gentle Woman in British Columbia: the Recollections of Susan Allison (1976), and later wrote a short and flattering account of her home community Coldstream – Nulli Secundus/ (1990).

She died in Vernon in 1996.

Websites

  • British Columbia
  • Agricultural History
  • Political History

Books

M.A. Ormsby; C.( B.C.). Coldstream– nulli secundus. Vernon, B.C: District of Coldstream, 1990.

H. Bowsfield; M.A. Ormsby; H.'sBay Record Society. Fort Victoria letters, 1846-1851. Winnipeg: Hudson's Bay Record Society, 1979.

M.A. Ormsby. A Pioneer Gentlewoman in British Columbia: The Recollections of Susan Allison. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1976.

M.A. Ormsby. British Columbia, a history. Toronto: Macmillan Canada, 1971.

M.A. Ormsby. United farmers of British Columbia - an abortive third-party movement : British Columbia Historical Quarterly, Vol.17, Nos. 1 and 2. Victoria: Archives of British Columbia, in cooperation with the British Columbia Historical Association, 1953.

M.A. Ormsby. Prime Minister Mackenzie, the liberal party, and the bargain with British Columbia : reprinted from the Canadian Historical Review, June, 1945. : , 1945.

M.A. Ormsby. Agricultural development in British Columbia, reprinted from Agricultural History, 19: 11-20 (January, 1945). : , 1945.

; W.B. Chung; M.H.Chung Collection. The History of Agriculture in British Columbia. Canada: Scientific Agriculture?, 1939.

M.A. Ormsby. Relations between British Columbia and the dominion of Canada, 1871-1885. Bryn Mawr, Pa: , 1937.

M.A. Ormsby; B.Columbia L. Committee. Bibliography on the Okanagan District. Vancouver: Bcla, 1935.

M.A. Ormsby. Fruit marketing in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 1935.

; W.B. Chung; M.H.Chung Collection. Fruit marketing in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, reprinted from Agricultural History, v.9, n.2, April, 1935, pp. 80-97 / by Margaret A. Ormsby. : , 1935.

Articles/Book Chapters

M. A. Ormsby, “An appreciation (Okanagan Historical Society founder)”, B.C.Historical News, vol. 23, p. 8, 1990.

M. A. Ormsby, “Frederick Seymour, The Forgotten Governor”, BC Studies, vol. 22, p. 3, 1974.

M. A. Ormsby, “Presidential Address”, Historical Papers, vol. 1, pp. 1-13, 1966.

M. A. Ormsby, “T. Dufferin Pattullo and the Little New Deal”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 43, pp. 277-297, 1962.

M. A. Ormsby, “The Struggle for Survival: Indian Cultures and the Protestant Ethic in British Columbia Forrest E. LaViolette”, Pacific Historical Review, vol. 30, pp. 305-306, 1961.

M. A. Ormsby, “Report of the Local History Section, 1960-1961”, Report of the Annual Meeting, vol. 40, pp. 147-148, 1961.

M. A. Ormsby, “The American Economic Impact on Canada. By Hugh G. J. Aitken, John J. Deutsch, W. A. Mackintosh, Charles L. Barber, Maurice Lamontagne, Irving Brecher, Eugene Forsey. (Duke University Commonwealth-Studies Center, Publication Number 12.) Durham: Duke Unive”, The Journal of Economic History, vol. 20, pp. 318-320, 1960.

M. A. Ormsby, “Report of the Local History Section, 1959-1960”, Report of the Annual Meeting, vol. 39, pp. 120-122, 1960.

M. A. Ormsby, “Canadians in the Making: a Social History of Canada. By Arthur R. M. Lower: Toronto: Longmans, Green and Company, 1958. Pp. xxiv, 475. Illus. Diagrams. $7.50”, The Journal of Economic History, vol. 19, pp. 460-461, 1959.

M. A. Ormsby, “Report of Local History Section”, Report of the Annual Meeting, vol. 38, pp. 74-75, 1959.

M. A. Ormsby, “The Fur Trade in Canada. An Introduction to Canadian Economic History. By Harold A. Innis. Revised edition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1956. Pp. xi, 463. $8.50”, The Journal of Economic History, vol. 17, pp. 267-267, 1957.

M. A. Ormsby, “The United Farmers of British Columbia: An Abortive Third-party Movement”, British Columbia Historical Quarterly, vol. 17, p. 53, 1953.

M. A. Ormsby, “The Fraser Bruce Hutchison Hervey Allen Carl Carmer”, Pacific Historical Review, vol. 20, pp. 288-289, 1951.

M. A. Ormsby, “Some Irish Figures in Colonial Days”, British Columbia Historical Quarterly, vol. 14, p. 61, 1950.

M. A. Ormsby, “Canada and the New British Columbia”, Report of the Annual Meeting, vol. 27, pp. 74-85, 1948.

M. A. Ormsby, “Prime Minister Mackenzie, the Liberal Party, and the Bargain With British Columbia”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 26, pp. 148-173, 1945.

M. A. Ormsby, “Agricultural Development in British Columbia”, Agricultural History, vol. 19, pp. 11-20, 1945.

Additional

M. A. Ormsby and Thomas, L. G. (., “Ormsby, Margaret A. A History Of The Corporation Of The District Of Coldstream // Review”, BC Studies. p. 204, 1991.

M. A. Ormsby, “Letters from Windermere, 1912-1914”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 67. p. 464, 1986.

M. A. Ormsby, “HARRIS, COLE and ELIZABETH PHILLIPS, eds. "Letters from Windermere, 1912-1914" (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 67. p. 464, 1986.

M. A. Ormsby, “Lady Franklin Visits the Pacific Northwest: Being Extracts from the Letters of Miss Sophia Cracroft, Sir John Franklin's Niece, February to April 1861 and April to July 1870”, The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, vol. 69. pp. 34-35, 1978.

M. A. Ormsby, “Smith, ed., "Lady Franklin Visits the Pacific Northwest" (Book Review)”, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, vol. 69. p. 34, 1978.

M. A. Ormsby, “CLINE, GLORIA GRIFFEN. "Peter Skene Ogden and the Hudson's Bay Company" (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 58. p. 314, 1977.

M. A. Ormsby, “SAMPSON, WILLIAM R., ed. "John McLoughlin's Business Correspondence, 1847-48" (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 57. p. 88, 1976.

M. A. Ormsby, “MORTON, W. L. "The Critical Years: The Union of British North America, 1857-1873" (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 47. p. 364, 1966.

M. A. Ormsby, “The Struggle for Survival: Indian Cultures and the Protestant Ethic in British Columbia”, Pacific Historical Review, vol. 30. pp. 305-306, 1961.

M. A. Ormsby, “BENSON, LEE. "Turner and Beard: American Historical Writing Reconsidered" (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 42. p. 156, 1961.

M. A. Ormsby, “Background for Protest”, The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, vol. 52. pp. 34-35, 1961.

M. A. Ormsby, “Clark, "Movements of Political Protest in Canada, 1640-1840" (Book Review)”, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, vol. 52. p. 34, 1961.

M. A. Ormsby, “VAN TASSEL, DAVID D. "Recording America's Past: An Interpretation of the Development of Historical Studies in America, 1607-1884" (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 42. p. 156, 1961.

M. A. Ormsby, “REID, MCNAUGHT, and CROWE, comps., A Source-book of Canadian History: Selected Documents and Personal Papers (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 41. p. 170, 1960.

M. A. Ormsby, “The American Economic Impact on Canada”, The Journal of Economic History, vol. 20. pp. 318-320, 1960.

M. A. Ormsby, “ANDERSON, Surveyor of the Sea: The Life and Voyages of Captain George Vancouver (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 41. p. 333, 1960.

M. A. Ormsby, “MASTERS, DONALD C. A Short History of Canada. (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 40. p. 346, 1959.

M. A. Ormsby, “Canadians in the Making: A Social History of Canada”, The Journal of Economic History, vol. 19. pp. 460-461, 1959.

M. A. Ormsby, “The Fur Trade in Canada. An Introduction to Canadian Economic History”, The Journal of Economic History, vol. 17. pp. 267-267, 1957.

M. A. Ormsby, “MARSHALL, JAMES STIRRAT, and MARSHALL, CARRIE. Adventure in Two Hemispheres (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 36. p. 353, 1955.

M. A. Ormsby, “RICH, and JOHNSON, eds., Cumberland House Journals and Inland Journals, 1775-82: Second Series, 1779-82: (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 34. p. 296, 1953.

M. A. Ormsby, “RICH and JOHNSON, eds., Cumberland House Journals and Inland Journal, First Series: (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 34. p. 62, 1953.

M. A. Ormsby, “BULEY, The Old Northwest, I, II: (Book Review)”, Canadian Historical Review, vol. 33. p. 183, 1952.

M. A. Ormsby, “Hutchison, The Fraser (Book Review)”, Pacific Historical Review, vol. 20. p. 288, 1951.

M. A. Ormsby, “The Fraser”, Pacific Historical Review, vol. 20. pp. 288-289, 1951.

M. A. Ormsby, “Peter Skene Ogden's Snake Country Journals (Book Review)”, British Columbia Historical Quarterly, vol. 15. p. 229, 1951.

M. A. Ormsby, “The Valley of Youth (Book Review)”, British Columbia Historical Quarterly, vol. 13. p. 122, 1949.

M. A. Ormsby, “The relations between British Columbia and the Dominion of Canada, 1871-1885”. 1937.

M. A. Ormsby, “A study of the Okanagan valley of British Columbia”. 1931.

M. A. Ormsby, “The history of the Okanagan Valley”. 1929.

M. A. Ormsby, “Margaret Ormsby fonds”. 1839.20, 1945.