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Jane B. Wisdom fonds
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- Wisdom, Jane B.
Physical description area
26 cm of textual records.
53 photographs: b&w, col., hand-tinted postcards; 10 x 15 cm or smaller.
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Name of creator
Jane Barnes Wisdom was a pioneer in the social welfare movement in Canada. She was born March 1, 1884 to Freeman W. and Mary Bell (McQueen) Wisdom in Saint John, New Brunswick, the third of four children. After graduating from McGill University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1907, she worked as ‘visitor on staff’ at the Charity Organization Society of Montreal while living in their University Settlement residence. In June 1910, she attended one of the first diploma courses in social work at the New York School of Philanthropy, an experimental training program affiliated with Columbia University. She returned to Montreal for a brief time, then took employment with the Brooklyn Bureau of Charities 1912-1916 as executive director of 2 districts. In July of 1916 she was recruited by the new Bureau of Social Services of Halifax (also known as the Halifax Welfare Bureau), to be their first permanent “General Secretary” (today’s equivalent of executive director) and served there until 1921. She survived the Halifax Explosion of Dec 6, 1917, and played an active role in the recovery efforts, being seconded to the Halifax Relief Commission as Supervisor of the Rehabilitation Department. In that role, she organized the building of Community Houses for survivors. In 1920 she worked on the Nova Scotia Provincial Commission researching and reporting on Mother’s Allowances, wages and working conditions of women in Nova Scotia factories. In the summer of that year she traveled around the British Isles (United Kingdom). In 1921 she returned to Montreal to earn a graduate degree from the Department of Economics at McGill University. While there, she was part time instructor of social case work in their Department of Social Science and School of Social Work, until 1924. From 1925 to 1939 she worked as executive director for the Women’s Directory of Montreal, a social services agency specializing in the care of single parent families. In 1941 she conducted a study of the social conditions in the coal mining town of Glace Bay, NS for the Canada Welfare Council, working with fellow social worker Charlotte Whitton (later mayor of Ottawa). She stayed in Glace Bay as the town’s first welfare officer and developed their program of social services, from 1941 until retirement in 1952. She retired to Sutherlands River, Pictou County and died June 9, 1975 at the age of 91.
Jane B. Wisdom’s records were in the custody of researcher Jean MacFadgen from the 1970s until 2006, when Ms. MacFadgen sent them to Suzanne Morton, Professor and Acting Director of The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada. It is presumed the records remained in Dr. Morton’s custody until 2014, when they were donated to Nova Scotia Archives by Jock MacKay, grand-nephew of Jane B. Wisdom, upon the recommendation of Dr. Morton.
Scope and content
Fonds partially documents Jane B. Wisdom’s career as a social worker in Montreal, New York, Halifax and Glace Bay, NS. It contains personal and business correspondence; newspaper clippings of articles about her career appointments and friends, news clippings about the Halifax Explosion of 1917 and the subsequent Relief Commission work, the Cape Breton Miner’s Strike of 1922 (her thesis topic) and news clippings of articles about the Women’s Directory of Montreal; her research notes on the working conditions of women in Nova Scotia in 1920; manuscripts of the Canadian Welfare Council study “Problems in Social Welfare in Glace Bay, NS” 1940; a speech published in the journal Social Welfare for 1929; some annual reports for the Women’s Directory of Montreal; and a diary describing her studies at McGill University in 1906, career milestones, activities, events and people 1909-1960. Also includes photographs of clients and street scenes in New York, Montreal and Glace Bay; photographs and a newsletter of the Community Houses built for Halifax Explosion survivors; and a few photographs of Jane Wisdom and Halifax Relief Commission staff.
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Copyright owned by Nova Scotia Archives.
See also Jane and her two sisters’ correspondence & photos while at Royal Victoria College 1900-1908 in Wisdom family papers (MG 2015) at McGill University Archives.
See also Montreal Council of Social Agencies (formerly Women’s Directory of Montreal) MG 2076 at McGill University Archives.
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Women of Nova Scotia