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Harold Gordon Skilling fonds
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Sara [Sally] Bright Skilling sous-fonds

This sous-fonds documents various aspects of Sally Bright’s life, especially the period before she met and married Gordon Skilling and then her travels with him to Eastern Europe in the 1960s.

It begins with biographical information about Sally, the Bright family tree, and individual members of the family. There follows files documenting her education at George School (1927-1931) and Barnard College (1931-1935), and her immediate
activities, thereafter, including her marriage to Gordon Skilling. Also present are her passports; identity cards, ration books, stamps, tokens, and correspondence from World War II; later correspondence with Gordon and members of her family; files relating to social and political activities at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and Dartmouth College, and at the University of Toronto.

Sally’s love of entertaining is documented in her ‘entertaining’ books, which document guests and the meals served them from August of 1962 to September of 1988 when she suffered a stroke. Photocopies of these books have been retained (the originals reside with the family).

The last portion of this sous-fonds contains Sally’s diaries and correspondence relating to her and Gordon’s trips to eastern Europe between 1962 and 1969, other correspondence with family and friends, letters and a selection of cards received on her 70th birthday in 1983, a diary from 1987, and four entertainment books Sally compiled between 1962 to 1989. In these she recorded the guests and menus for the many events that took place at their residence. She and Gordon loved entertaining, and the care and skill with which she prepared for groups of varying sizes is reflected in these volumes.

Skilling, Sara (Sally) Bright

Education

This series covers the Gordon Skilling’s formal education from his attendance at Grace Street Public School through Harbord Collegiate, the University of Toronto (BA 1934), taking his Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford, and the writing of his doctoral thesis at the University of London. The files are arranged chronologically by degree.

For Grace Street Public School, the files include letters from his classmates at Grace Street Public School and certificates. At Harbord Collegiate, in addition to his studies and piano lessons from the Toronto Conservatory of Music, Skilling was very active in extra-curricular activities: he was president of the Literary Society, editor of the Harbord Review, battalion commander of the cadet corps, and played defence on the basketball team which won the city high school championship in 1928-1929. These activities are documented in the form of term papers, examinations, speeches, scholarship essays, and a scrapbook [box 011] that covers his activities at Harbord Collegiate and the University of Toronto, and documents his trip across North America in the summer of 1933 (see also Series I in this sous-fonds). The scrapbook contains correspondence, dance cards, maps, press clippings, programmes, announcements of student activities, pamphlets, and photographs.

At the University of Toronto, Skilling studied British and colonial history and some modern Canadian and American history, standing first in his class in all but his final year. He was very active in campus politics, including the University College Literary and Athletic Society (of which he was elected president), the Students’ Administrative Council. He helped reorganize the Fabius Club in the autumn of 1932 and a year later, following his momentous trip across North America, was a founder of the CCF Club. Other activities included serving as associate editor of the Varsity and as a member of the Hart House Debates Committee.

His academic activities are well documented in the form of term papers for each of his undergraduate years and in his BA thesis. These files and those on the CCF Club and the Hart House debates are of particular interest. They document his movement from an apolitical period in high school to an activist in the social and political ferment of the time and, soon, to accepting the socialist philosophies promoted by many of his professors at the U of T and, later, at Oxford.

In December 1933 Gordon was informed that he had been awarded a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University. He left for Christ Church, Oxford, in September of 1934, where he remained until 1936. While there, he studied under what he described as “outstanding dons, including Michael Foster and A. J. Ayers, in philosophy; Roy Harrod, in economics; Keith Feiling, in British history; and the Hon. Frank Pakenham in politics and international relations. He also, in the summer of 1935, visited Central Europe for the first time and in the autumn met Sally Bright, then a student at the London School of Economics. In the fall of 1936, having received a high second at Oxford, and having had his scholarship extended, Gordon went to London to complete his doctorate under R. W. Seton-Watson, under whom his growing interest in Czech culture and politics flourished, as did his relationship with Sally. At Easter in 1936 he and Sally spent five weeks in Chepstow in Monmouthshire, a time that is preserved in an album that he compiled (see Series XII, Appendix III). In 1940 Gordon successfully defended his thesis, ‘The German-Czech national conflict in Bohemia, 1879-1893’.

The files on his graduate work contain detailed notes on readings and tutorials, especially on political theory, social philosophy and social psychology. There are also exam questions for his courses at Oxford, correspondence relating to the degrees of BA and MA (Oxon.), and a copy of his doctoral dissertation. Accompanying these files is
a scrapbook, containing press clippings, programmes, photographs and memorabilia covering his years at Oxford and the University of London, with additional material for his visit to London in 1948 [see /012].

Skilling’s diploma from Harbord Collegiate is filed in /003(03).

Photographs relating to his basketball team at Harbord Collegiate have been removed from box 008 (08) to box 009P (01) – (03). Loose photographs relating to his activities at the University of Toronto have been removed from the Harbord Collegiate/ University of Toronto scrapbook [box 011] to box 009P(04) – (07).

Skilling’s University College ‘letter’ [badge] is filed as B2001-0017/008(26).

Skilling 1988 accession

Records documenting Skilling's expertise relating to East European studies with particular emphasis on Czechoslovakia and his role in the the Centre for Russian and East European Studies. Contains addresses and speeches; manuscripts and publications including related correspondence and reviews (books included are "Czechoslovakia's Interruped Revolution", "Charter 77 and Human Rights in Czechoslovakia", and "The Czech Renaissance in the Nineteenth Century"); lecture notes; subject files, mainly of associations; sound recording, video and photographs; University of Toronto administrative files including the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, the Department of Polical Economy, Committee on International Studies as well as the Centre for International Studies.

Skilling 1st 1989 accession

Addresses, articles, correspondence, minutes of meetings and financial files documenting Gordon Skilling's activities as a specialist in East European studies, with particular emphasis on Czechoslovakia.

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