Manuscript Collection MS COLL 00051 - Flora MacDonald Denison Papers

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Reference code



Flora MacDonald Denison Papers


  • 1898-1921 (Creation)

Level of description

Manuscript Collection

Extent and medium

11 boxes and items (1.5 metres)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Flora MacDonald Denison (née Merrill) was a journalist and leader in Canadian social reform and the suffrage movement. She was born in 1867 in a mining community in northern Ontario and educated in Belleville and Picton schools until the age of 15. She moved to Detroit in the late 1880s and began her careers as a journalist, writing for The Detroit Free Press. She married Howard Denison in 1892 and her son Merrill, a well-known Canadian writer, was born in 1893. The family relocated to Toronto in 1893 and Denison began a career as a dressmaker and became the manager of the custom-dress department at Simpson’s in 1898. During this time she began to write for Saturday Night, where the exploitation of women working in the clothing industry was one of her main topics. Denison met Emily Howard Stowe shortly before her death in 1903 and joined the suffragist movement, serving as secretary of the Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association in 1906 and was appointed the Canadian delegate to the Third Conference of the International Women Suffrage Alliance (1906). She became a contributor to the Toronto Sunday World in 1906, and was a weekly contributor beginning in 1909; regularly writing on women’s suffrage, religion, marriage, birth control and social class. She served as President of the Canadian Suffrage Association from 1910-1914 and was instrumental in bringing noted suffragists, Anna Howard Shaw and Emmeline Pankhurst, to Toronto. She was forced to resign as President of the CSA in 1914 due to her support of divorce and birth control and defending the militant tactics of British suffragists and the Women’s Social and Political Union. In 1916, she worked as a speaker and organized for the New York State Women’s Suffrage campaign before returning to Canada. The outbreak of World War I led her to support social and spiritual reform through the Canadian Whitmanite movement. She converted her country property, Bon Echo at Mazinaw, into a summer hotel and a spiritual community dedicated to principals of Walt Whitman. She helped organize the Social Reconstruction Group of the Toronto Theosophical Society and was honorary President and official speaker of the Ontario section of the Canadian Labour Party. Denison died in 1921 of complications of pneumonia.

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

Correspondence, draft manuscripts of writings and speeches, scrapbooks; address presented to Denison by Canadian Suffrage Association and designed by A.H. Howard

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Material may be requested in person at the Fisher Library Reference Desk, or in advance using our online stack retrieval request form:

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Language of material

  • English

Script of material

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Institution identifier

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

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