Fonds RC0935 - Patience Josephine Ruth (Jo) Vellacott fonds

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Patience Josephine Ruth (Jo) Vellacott fonds

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  • Ca. 1923-2019; predominant 1950-2010. (Creation)
    Vellacott, Patience Josephine Ruth (Jo)

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Physical description

3.5 metres of textual records
Approx. 463 photographs
49 items of audio-visual material

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Name of creator


Biographical history

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.

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Scope and content

The Jo Vellacott fonds contains extensive documentation regarding Vellacott’s work as a historian of women, feminism, pacifism, and Bertrand Russell, both as an academic at several Canadian universities, as well as her work as an independent scholar. The fonds contains a significant amount of correspondence, both personal and professional, which spans almost the entirety of Vellacott’s life. Fonds also contains materials relating to Vellacott’s education, particularly her PhD work at McMaster University, and much of her personal and scholarly writings. It also contains materials relating to Vellacott’s Quakerism and involvement with the Thousand Island Monthly Meetings, as well as photographs of Vellacott and paintings and sketches she made.

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Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by Mary Newberry, Vellacott’s daughter, in 2022.


Fonds is organized into 6 series, which was roughly the order in which the materials were received. Duplicates were removed, and duplicate files were merged.

Series 1: Correspondence, 1935 – 2017. 1 metre of textual records.
Series 2: Personal, 1946 – 2017. 6cm of textual records.
Series 3: Education and Professional Career, 1939 – 1989. 24cm of textual records.
Series 4: Writing, Publications, and Scholarly Activities, 1942 – 2017. 36cm of textual records.
Series 5: Activism and Quakerism, 1966 – 2012. 16 cm of textual records.
Series 6: Photographs, Postcards, and Art. 30 cm.

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Correspondence with Susan “Soo” Newberry is embargoed until 31 December 2073 (Box 4, file 1).

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Further accruals are not expected.

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K. Pugh, 1st accrual, 2023.

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