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The Lady Aberdeen Collection

Doris Lewis with books from the Lady Aberdeen Collection.In 1954, Beatrice Brigden, chairman of the NCWC’s Arts and Letters Committee, inspired by the Fawcett Library on the History of Women in London, England, started a library in Canada to be filled with books by and about women. Later on, Elizabeth Long, who was from the local council of women in Winnipeg, succeeded Beatrice as chairman and continued the collection that had only 100 books thus far. The goal was to create a centralized place in Canada for these important works, so that people wouldn’t have to travel all over the country to do research. In 1958, the library was named Lady Aberdeen Memorial Library to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lady Aberdeen’s birth and to honour Lady Aberdeen for all the great contributions she had made to society as the first president of the National Council of Women. The Council reached out to women all over the world to help grow their collection. They didn’t limit donations to English and happily accepted works written in French, German, and Slavic languages. The Council received books, diaries, letters, scrapbooks, documents, and much more from women in Canada, as well as southeast Asia, Africa, and the UK to name a few. Doris Lewis with materials from the Lady Aberdeen Collection.Doris Lewis, University of Waterloo’s first University Librarian and after whom the Rare Book Room was named, began correspondence with Miss Long in 1964 concerning the housing of the collection. She suggested that UWaterloo become the collection’s new home to add to the already growing women’s collection in the Waterloo arts library. During the NCWC’s annual convention in 1965, they decided that the library would be housed at the University of Waterloo. In 1966, the NCWC began donating the library to the University, but it wasn’t officially presented until June 1967 as the Council’s 75th anniversary project and a marker of the 100th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation. What began as stacks of books in Winnipeg ended up as one of the stepping stones to Waterloo’s very own archives. The images above are of Doris Lewis as she opened the donation boxes from the NCWC (KWR: 66-2492, 72-1499).

Doris Lewis posing with NCWC members.

Left to right, Library staff members Adelheid Bender, Carolynne Presser, and Doris Lewis holding suffragette materials from the Lady Aberdeen collection.

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Special Collections & Archives now has limited access to the rare book and archival collections. Please continue to contact us with your research requests but note that there will be a delay in resolving your inquiry. Note that the department remains closed and our materials are not available in person and the Reading Room is closed until further notice.

A selection of items is browsable via the Waterloo Digital Library. We also have over 140,000 items digitized—one might be what you’re looking for.

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