Fonds PS 8523 I95 Z46 - Dorothy Livesay archives

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Dorothy Livesay archives

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  • Textual record

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PS 8523 I95 Z46

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90 cm of textual records

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Biographical history

Dorothy Livesay (1909-1996) was one of the leading Canadian poets of the twentieth century. She was born in Winnipeg to the poet and journalist Florence (née Randal) Livesay (1874-1953) and the journalist John Frederick Bligh Livesay (1874-1944). Dorothy Livesay attended the University of Toronto, where she graduated in 1931 with a Bachelor of Arts in modern languages. During her second year of studies—at the age of nineteen—she published her first collection of poetry, entitled Green Pitcher. She traveled to France in her third year of studies, and after finishing her B.A. at the University of Toronto, she returned to France to complete a Master's thesis at Sorbonne University in Paris. She returned to Canada in 1932 with an increasing sense of social concern that motivated her to complete a social work course at the University of Toronto. She then did welfare work in Montreal and New Jersey before moving to Vancouver in 1936. While working as a social worker in Vancouver, she met Duncan Macnair and they were married in August of 1937. They went on to raise two children: Peter and Marcia. During this time Livesay was active in the Young Communist League, the Progressive Arts Club, and the League Against War and Fascism.
Livesay's poetry was honoured with two Governor General's Awards—in 1940 for Day and Night and in 1947 for Poems for People. In 1947 she was awarded the Lorne Pierce Gold Medal for her outstanding work in Canadian literature over the years. After Duncan Macnair died in 1959, Livesay worked as a programme assistant for UNESCO in Paris and then in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) until 1963, at which time she returned to Canada. From 1965 to 1984 she enjoyed a demanding spate of teaching and writer-in-residence positions in universities across Canada. In 1975 she founded, subsidized, and edited the journal Contemporary Verse 2 (CV/II) in remembrance of Alan Crawley's Contemporary Verse. After serving on such committees as the Committee for an Independent Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, the Association of Canadian University Teachers of English, World Federalists, Amnesty International, and the Unitarian Church, Livesay retired to Victoria, where she died in 1996.

Custodial history

Scope and content

The archives reflect Dorothy Livesay's earlier work as a poet and consist of poetry manuscripts and typescripts, business correspondence, and typescript drafts of several publications. These records span from 1919 to 1974 and are arranged into four series: Poems: Typescripts and Manuscripts; Poems: Notebooks; Correspondence with Ryerson Press; and Publication Drafts and Author's Prints.

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Physical condition

Textual records are in good condition. Some records have minor damage, including discolouration, tears, and folds.

Immediate source of acquisition

The Dorothy Livesay Archive was purchased in 1971 by the University of Alberta Library Special Collections, predecessor to Bruce Peel Special Collections. It is unclear from whom these records were purchased, as there is no record of purchase or accession. However, Queen's University purchased their collection of Livesay's correspondence from Dorothy Livesay at the same time as the University of Alberta Libraries purchased this collection; thus, it is probable that it was also purchased from Livesay. Upon purchase, Douglas Library at Queen's University and the University of Alberta Library Special Collections exchanged photocopies of their respective Livesay materials.


Language of material

  • English
  • French

Script of material

  • Latin

Location of originals

The collection is housed in Bruce Peel Special Collections, located in the Rutherford South building on the University of Alberta North Campus in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Bruce Peel Special Collections is part of the University of Alberta.

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

The Dorothy Livesay Archive is available to students, staff, and the general public for use within the library’s supervised reading room upon presentation of valid photo identification (e.g., ONEcard, driver’s license, passport, or citizenship card with photo).
All researchers (including students, faculty, visiting scholars, and members of the general public) must submit a Retrieval Request Form at least 24 hours before their visit to Bruce Peel Special Collections in order to be sure that library materials have been retrieved from storage and are available for their use.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Materials may be under copyright. Contact staff for guidance on reproduction.

Finding aids

Associated materials

  • Queen's University Archives holds personal and business correspondence of Dorothy Livesay, of which Bruce Peel Special Collections holds photocopies. Please refer to the Queen's University Archives' Dorothy Livesay fonds finding aid for more information.
  • University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections holds an extensive archive of Dorothy Livesay, including her manuscripts, family and business correspondence, photographs, and sounds recordings. Please refer to their Dorothy Livesay fonds finding aids for more information.

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No further accruals are expected

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Finding aid created by Michaela Stang (2018) and edited by Samantha Nugent (2018).

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  • English

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  • Latin


Information based upon contents of the material and documentation created by former University of Alberta Library Special Collections staff.

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