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Dunham, Mabel

Main entryDunham, Mabel
Birth placeMinto Township, Wellington, Ontario
Birth date29 May 1881
Death placeKitchener, Ontario
Death date21 June 1957
BRS document number000000184
Identifier0272
Birth nameBertha Mabel Dunham
Alternate namesB. Mabel Dunham
Marital statussingle
Religious affiliationUnited Church of Canada
Degree and dateBA, University of Toronto (1908); DLitt (honorary), University of Western Ontario, 1947
Paid workteacher (school); librarian; instructor, library science
Other worklecturer
BiographyDescendant of United Empire Loyalists on her father's side, Bertha Mabel Dunham (1881-1957) was more interested in her mother's Mennonite lineage. Born on the farm where her father worked near Harriston, Ontario, as a child Mabel Dunham moved to Kitchener (then called Berlin) where she lived for most of her life. She attended the local schools and returned to teach after qualifying at the Toronto Normal School. She subsequently received a BA from the University of Toronto in 1908 and took the library science course offered by McGill. The first trained librarian in Ontario, she took over the Kitchener Public Library where she remained until her retirement in 1944. Her library career was highlighted by her innovation of children's divisions. She became the first lecturer on Library Science when Waterloo College began its program in 1929. Mabel Dunham wrote six books of local history (four of them novels) and won the Book of the Year Medal from the Canadian Association of Children's Librarians for her historical novel for children, KRISTLI'S TREES (1948). Her literary friends included Nellie McClung* and Marshall Saunders*. In 1947, she received an honorary D.Litt from the University of Western Ontario. Mabel died in 1957 and was buried in the First Mennonite Cemetery in Waterloo, Ontario.
TravelGlasgow (via Montreal), 1924; Quebec (via London), 1924;
Other notesDunhams were living in Minto township at time of Mabel's birth; Mabel often listed the nearby Harriston as her hometown.
Honours and awardsAward for KRISTLI'S TREES, Book of the Year Medal (Canadian Association of Children's Librarians, 1948)
ResidencesKitchener, Ontario
Geographic regionsSouthern Ontario
Primary genresfiction; non-fiction (history)
BooksTHE TRAIL OF THE CONESTOGA (1924); TOWARD SODOM (1927); THE TRAIL OF THE KING'S MEN (1931); SO GREAT A HERITAGE (1941); GRAND RIVER (1945); KRISTLI'S TREES (1948)
PeriodicalsTHE MAPLE LEAF; MENNONITE LIFE; ONTARIO HISTORICAL SOCIETY; WATERLOO HISTORICAL SOCIETY
OrganizationsWaterloo Historical Society; Ontario Library Association
Father's nameMartin Dunham
Life dates of father30 June 1855, East Gwillimbury, Ontario - 3 June 1920, Waterloo, Ontario; m. 1880
Father's notefarmer; United Empire Loyalist descendent
Mother's nameMagdalena Eby
Life dates of mother19 April 1851, Kitchener, Ontario - 7 February 1929, Waterloo, Ontario; m. 1880
Mother's noteGerman Mennonite ancestry
Biographical referencesTaylor, "Mabel Dunham's Centenary," WATERLOO HISTORICAL SOCIETY 69 (1981): 13-25; FEMINIST COMPANION TO LITERATURE IN ENGLISH (1990); 1891 Census of Canada; 1901 Census of Canada; 1911 Census of Canada; Canada, Ocean Arrivals (Form 30A), 1919-1924; Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1913; UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960
Bibliographic referencesWatters, CHECKLIST OF CANADIAN LITERATURE...1620-1960 (1970), pp. 281, 673, 780
Research referencescomplete
Archival referencescorrespondence with W.A. Deacon, Deacon Papers, University of Toronto; several letters to Lorne Pierce, Lorne and Edith Pierce collection, Queen's University Archives; ts. of TOWARD SODOM, Macmillan Papers, McMaster University.
Image creditsImage courtesy of Wilfrid Laurier University Archives, U57_71.3.
CopyrightThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/. Please cite Canada's Early Women Writers. SFU Library Digital Collections. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. 1980-2014.