Fonds 12 - Helen Kemp Frye fonds

Identity area

Reference code

CA ON00399 12


Helen Kemp Frye fonds


  • predominant 1923-1984 (Creation)
  • 1858-1984 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1.14 m of textual records
38 photographs: b&w
2 photographs: col.
3 photographs: 35 mm b&w negatives
16 photographs: 3x4.5 inch b&w negatives
1 photograph: 4x5 inch b&w negative
12 sketches (4 pencil and 8 watercolour)
6 sketchbooks
250 postcards

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Helen Kemp Frye was an educator, editor and artist. She was born in Toronto, Ontario, the daughter of Stanley and Gertrude Kemp. In 1937 she married Northrop Frye. She died in Australia while accompanying her husband on a lecture tour. Helen Kemp Frye was educated at Riverdale Collegiate, Toronto and studied piano and musical theory at the Hambourg Conservatory of Music, Toronto. In 1929 she enrolled in the Pass Course at Victoria College, Toronto. Upon graduating in 1933 she was offered a position in the education department at the Art Gallery of Toronto by Arthur Lismer, who was a personal friend of her father, a commercial artist. She spent one year at the National Gallery in Ottawa and a year studying at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, England. Upon her return to Toronto she continued to work at the Gallery, conducting study groups, sending out loan exhibitions, and organizing lectures and concerts. In the late Thirties she worked as a contributing editor and then as art editor for Canadian Forum. From 1943 until 1946 the Toronto Star Weekly employed her as a reprint editor. She devoted much of her spare time to committee work at Victoria College and later, when Northrop Frye became College Principal, took charge of various women’s organizations at the College.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Files from the Helen Kemp Frye Estate were acquired by Victoria University from members of the Frye family in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The fonds consists of Helen Kemp Frye’s records pertaining to her activities as an educator, editor and artist, and to her personal life. Fonds is comprised of the following series: 1) Correspondence files 2) Literature/Art/Activities files 3) Personal files 4) Publications and art work by Helen Frye and 5) Miscellaneous printed files.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


No further accruals are expected.

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Conditions governing access

No restrictions on access.

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Notes area


A description of the Helen Kemp Frye fonds can also be found in the Guide to the Northrop Frye Papers / Victoria University Library – Toronto : Victoria University Library, 1993. However, the present finding aid has been updated as a result of further research and additional accruals.

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