Jo Vellacott was a British-Canadian historian, professor, feminist, Quaker, and peace activist. She was born in Plymouth, England on 20 April 1922 to Harold F. Vellacott, a surgeon, and Josephine Sempill. She attended the University of Oxford and, after pausing her studies to work as an aircraft mechanic during the Second World War, graduated with a Master of Arts in 1947. She would then move to South Africa, where she met and married Peter Newberry in 1950. In South Africa she had two children, Mary and Douglas, before returning to the United Kingdom, where they had their daughter Susan. The family emigrated to Canada in 1955, where Peter would join the Air Force and Jo worked as a schoolteacher. She then attended the University of Toronto, where she received a Master of Arts in History in 1965, and McMaster University, where she received her PhD in 1975.
Vellacott and Peter would separate in 1976, and divorce in 1979. She took Fellowships in the United Kingdom for several years, before becoming the Scholar-in-Residence at Queen’s University in Kingston, where she then became Assistant to the Dean of Women. Following her departure from Queen’s, she worked for several years at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University in Montreal, retiring in 1987, and becoming an independent scholar.
Vellacott focused much of her career on women’s history, feminism, pacifism, and Quakerism. A Quaker since her 40s, she was active in the Thousand Islands Monthly Meeting near Kingston, and was a longtime peace activist. She wrote several books and dozens of articles on topics including pacifism, Bertrand Russell, women and politics, and more. She moved to Toronto, where she died in 2019.