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Archival description
Clara Cynthia Benson fonds
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Clara Cynthia Benson fonds

  • UTA 1052
  • Fonds
  • [186-] - 1964

These personal records consist mainly of records documenting Clara Benson’s non-professional activities such as work with the Women’s Athletic Association of the University of Toronto, the YWCA and her relationship with family members and friends. The personal correspondence in Series 2 provides the most detailed information about her relationship with family, friends and activities. Letters from her parents and siblings provide an insight into her activities and progress at the University of Toronto during her undergraduate years. A few letters, however, will be found from colleagues at the university such as Prof. A.B. Macallum, Prof. Annie Laird and others.

Unfortunately documentation relating to her academic activities is limited to some correspondence and notes found in Series 5 relating to her efforts from 1920s onwards to have the Women’s Athletic Building built. Her early education in Port Hope is documented in the school books, essays and other records in Series 4. Series 4 also contains her framed diplomas for B.A. and Ph.D. No manuscripts of her publications, including her Ph D. thesis appear to have survived. The lecture notes in Series 7 do provide some indication of the content of her courses in food chemistry, and were probably used repeatedly, year after year.

Dr. Benson also recorded her travel and sightseeing activities both abroad and in Canada on film. Series 10 contains 50 rolls of 16mm film documenting her trips to Egypt (1926), England (1937 and late 1940’s and early 1950’s), South America (1939) and the United States (1939, 1948). Some of her leisure time, both while at the University of Toronto and after her retirement, was spent filming events and scenery in Toronto in general, and the University in particular, as well as her family at home in Port Hope.

Benson, Clara Cynthia

Photographs

This series contains a small number of loose photos, some of which would have been collected, others taken by Dr. Benson. Early snapshots relate to Benson’s summer at Muskoka, the Blake summer residence, La Maison Rouge and La Caprice and her trip(s) to Europe. This series also contain 2 photo albums documenting the Benson/Blake families including trips, summer homes, Terralta, Port Hope.

Other activities

In 1921, Dr. Benson was elected the first president of the Women’s Athletic Association of University of Toronto and was involved from the beginning in the campaign to build an athletic building for women. Among the records relating to this activity are correspondence, notes, financial statements and blueprints of proposed buildings. Also included in this series are correspondence, minutes and reports relating to her work as Chair of the Foreign Committee of the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association) focusing primarily on an international survey on leadership (1930-1932). Other documents include two undated and unsigned manuscripts of stories, a collection of cards acquired during a trip to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and a scrapbook of pressed flowers with identification collected by Clara Benson ca 1890’s.

University of Toronto

This series contains predominantly records documenting her academic activities at the University of Toronto. There is correspondence, reports, notes and plans documenting Benson's efforts, along with others, to have a women's athletic building built. The documentation dates from the 1920s through to the 1940s. There is also correspondence and notes relating to other aspects of physical education for women including a proposed affiliation with the Margaret Eaton School as well as a plan for an Ontario College of Physical Education for Women. Finally there is correspondence with colleagues and publication houses relating to the acquisition of off prints of articles as well as a few brochures on events she attended at the University.
Three items were added to this series from B2018-0019: a scrapbook mainly documenting Benson’s career, a Macleans issue from April 1915 describing the graduates of the School of Household Science and a 6oth Anniversary Program for the Faculty of House Hold Science, 1960.

Personal correspondence

This series contains mainly correspondence received by Clara Benson from family and friends. Two files contain correspondence that is undated, but seems to be predominantly created prior to her retirement in 1945. Correspondents include, among others, letters from her parents, her brother Bingley, her sisters Constance, Jessie, and Ethel, cousins, school friends, professors such as A. B. Macallum, and colleagues such as Professor Annie Laird. Subjects discussed include studies at University of Toronto, congratulations on her doctorate in 1903, postcards home to family about her trip to Europe in 1904, and 1910-1913, matters relating to her involvement on the Executive Committee of the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (1912), and other professional and academic activities. Also includes file of correspondence about and from French children sponsored by Dr. Benson such as Maryse Deslandes and Madeleine Killian (1958-1964).

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