New Resources for Women's Studies: Papers of Luella Bruce Creighton

Friday, May 1, 1998

Library Newsletter, Vol. 29, No. 1, May 1998

New Resources for Women's Studies
Papers of Luella Bruce Creighton

Author, biographer, teacher, student, wife, hostess, mother -- all these facets of the very full and long life of Canadian writer Luella Bruce Creighton are reflected in the five linear feet of papers and archives which were donated to the Library by her daughter, Ms. Cynthia Flood. These papers will join the numerous collections of original resources which form the Library's substantial holdings documenting the life and experiences of Canadian women.

Born in 1901 in Stouffville, Ontario, Luella Bruce Creighton taught in a rural school in 1920-21 and subsequently attended Victoria College at the University of Toronto. There is a small amount of material in the collection documenting Creighton's student days. One volume, which she used as a scrapbook, notebook, and diary, contains much ephemeral material illustrative of university life of the time. Included are dance cards, invitations, clippings, and programmes including the "1926 Graduating Class Dinner" programme which was autographed by her professor, E. J. Pratt.

The largest portion of the collection is made up of manuscripts of Creighton's several books including what is probably her best-known, High Bright Buggy Wheels. Published in 1951, this historical novel focuses on the life of a young Ontario Mennonite woman. Other works of fiction followed and included Turn East, Turn West (1954) and Miss Multipenny and Miss Crumb (1966). Works for juvenile audiences included Tecumseh: The Story of a Shawnee Chief (1965) and The Hitching Post (1969). Best known of her non-fiction books is probably The Elegant Canadians (1967), a book about manners in the Confederation era. Included with the manuscripts are series of correspondence with her publishers, including numerous letters from Jack McClelland, her editors, from appreciative readers, and from friends.

Elegant Canadians dust jacketHigh Bright Buggy Wheels dust jacket

Shown here are the dust jackets of two of Creighton's works.

An avid diary keeper, Creighton kept a daily journal which not only documents her social and family life, including her marriage to Canadian historian and author Donald Creighton, but also her writing career. The diaries detail the preparation, creation, and publication of her books from the research stage:

Donald and I to Toronto by early train . . . had coffee to put in the time until Sigmund Samuel [Library] opened -- too early after all -- examined S[igmund] S[amuel's] exhibition "In a Canadian Attic" but unable to see Paul Kane pictures -- to U of T Library -- they have both the Paul Kane book and a clear copy of Russell -- Donald will pick them up for me. (February 8, 1966)

to the long days of creating -

Shopped and worked at typing. Finished typing! (December 14, 1964)

to their final publication and review. She describes the reception of one of her books as follows:

Gordon Sinclair did review of Elegant Canadians on radio -- a ham-fisted affair but I think he meant well -- the "Elegant Canadian's are a 'spin-off' from Donald's Macdonald!" (November 3, 1967)

and in another entry in which she quotes and comments on a letter from a friend who has told her that her husband

...took High Bright Buggy Wheels to the jail and the guards are reading it! My public!

She also describes her meetings and social gatherings with her publishers, with her own friends, including Edna Staebler and Marjorie Campbell, as well her husband's circle which included Harold Innis and Ramsay Cook, in a manner that is both witty and engaging and which provides first-hand descriptions of the inner circle of an important part of Canadian intellectual and literary history.

In commenting on the partnership of Luella and Donald Creighton, John Moir in his biographical essay on Donald Creighton described Luella Crieghton as

...an attractive and lively student from Stouffville whose gay spirit and quick mind so admirably matched Donald's own intellectual drive.

Her wry and sometimes acerbic sense of humour enlivens her observations on her husband's reactions to world events, such as this note at the end of her entry on the funeral of John F. Kennedy

...all the world mourns but Red China and Donald Creighton. (Diary, November 25, 1963).

Her first-hand accounts of Donald Creighton's career and every-day activities provide new insights into this remarkable Canadian literary family.

For more information contact Special Collections & Archives.

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