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Robinson, Judith

  • RC0918
  • Persona
  • 1899-1961

Judith Robinson was born in Toronto, Ont. on Victoria Street on April 6, 1899. She was the daughter of Jessie and John Robinson Robinson (nicknamed “Black Jack Robinson”), who was the editor of the Toronto Telegram until his death in 1929. She attended Toronto Model School until age 12, when she contracted a childhood illness which stopped her schooling. Self-taught in journalism and literature, she also developed an interest in architecture.

Known as ‘Brad’ to her friends, Robinson became a reporter at the Toronto Globe in 1929. Under Globe President George McCullagh, she wrote a Page One feature column daily beginning in 1936. She resigned in 1940 over a political disagreement with the Globe’s coverage of World War II. With her brother John and Oakley Dalgleish, she clandestinely printed advertisements under the name “Canada Calling,” criticizing Mackenzie King government’s slow response to the war effort. In May 1941, she and Dalgleish founded NEWS, a national weekly newspaper whose editorial office was her home at 63 Wellesley St. NEWS closed in 1946. During the war she was also was active in the Women’s Emergency Committee which petitioned the Canadian government to close the Christie Street Veteran’s Hospital in Toronto. Those efforts helped result in the opening of Sunnybrook Military Hospital in 1946. Beginning in 1953, she wrote a daily column for the Toronto Telegram until her death on December 17, 1961.

Robinson authored three non-fiction books: Tom Cullen of Baltimore (1949), As We Came By (1951), and This Is On the House (1957). She edited John Farthing’s political treatise, Freedom Wears a Crown, and helped publish the medical memoir Days of Living: The Journal of Martin Roher, for which she wrote the introduction.

Armstrong, Neil

  • RC0934
  • Persona
  • 1234-

Neil Armstrong is a journalist who has worked in radio, newspaper and television. He was the news director, program director, and host of the literary show, Covered and Bound, at CHRY Radio (105.5 FM) at York University in Toronto from 1995 to 2004. In his capacity as host and a bibliophile, he met and interviewed hundreds of Canadian and international authors — many from the Black, Caribbean and African communities — on the radio show or at events he covered. Neil was also the editor at the Jamaican Weekly Gleaner (North American edition) and the annual Black Pages directory. He was a member of the editorial team of the book, Jamaicans in Canada: When Ackee Meets Codfish, published in 2012.

A strong supporter of initiatives that celebrate Black communities in Canada, Neil is the literary coordinator of the annual Black and Caribbean Book Affair and the monthly Literary Salons organized by Blackhurst Cultural Centre in Toronto, formerly A Different Booklist Cultural Centre.

Vellacott, Patience Josephine Ruth (Jo)

  • RC0935
  • Persona
  • 1922-2019

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.