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Rowell Jackman, Mary Coyne
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Mary Rowell Jackman was born in 1904, the daughter of Nellie Langford Rowell and Newton Rowell, a prominent Ontario politician and lawyer. She grew up in the Rosedale area of Toronto, spending summers at a cottage on Lake Simcoe, and travelling abroad extensively with her parents. After schooling at King’s Hall in Compton, Quebec, Mary attended Victoria College in the University of Toronto, graduating with a BA in 1925; further study was then done at the London School of Economics. While in England she also took a YWCA leadership course, and developed a strong interest in psychology.
Throughout her academic years Mary had been a keen member of the Student Christian Movement, an organization that employed her as a full-time women’s secretary at the University of Toronto, 1928–1929. The following year she married Henry Rutherford Jackman (1900–1979), a Toronto financier and lawyer with strong ties to the Conservative Party. The wedding took place at the Metropolitan United Church in Toronto, where in ensuing years Mary would organize a nursery school, work in a World War II service unit, help administer a donation for the church’s upkeep, serve as president of the Afternoon Women's Association and Afternoon Women's Missionary Society, and co-author a history of the church.
Mary was also busy at home, raising four children: Henry Rowell, 1932; Eric, 1934; Edward, 1940; and Nancy, 1942. In addition, she volunteered her time at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, and on the Art Gallery of Ontario’s women’s committee, as well as working with the Ontario Society of Artists. Her commitment to Victoria University – following a Rowell family tradition – was embodied in her serving on the Senate, Board of Regents, Board of Management, and Art Committee. She also continued to travel abroad frequently, including a round–the–world trip in 1954 and 1964.
After being given A Room of One’s Own as a wedding present by her mother, Mary maintained an interest in the writings of Virginia Woolf. She began collecting first editions of Woolf's books on the advice of a Victoria University English professor, and her acquisitions then expanded to include works by other Bloomsbury Group members and the Hogarth Press. Mary donated these valuable books to the Women's Residence Library at Victoria University in honour of her mother and aunt; the entire collection was subsequently moved to the E.J. Pratt Library.
Mary Rowell Jackman continued an active life to the end of the 1980s, supporting women’s causes and keeping in touch with political issues. Her contributions were recognized by honorary degrees from Victoria University and the University of Toronto, and in 1993 – the year before her death – she was nominated for the Order of Canada.
In 2005, “Mary Rowell Jackman: A Person in Her Own Right”, a documentary chronicling her life, comissioned by Nancy Ruth, was produced by Sky Works.
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Victoria University Library - Special Collections