Fonds F6 - Sheila Watson fonds

Personal photographs

Identity area

Reference code

CA ON00389 F6


Sheila Watson fonds


  • 1880-1998, predominant 1933-1998 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1138 photographs, negatives and scanned images
4 microfilm
4 sound recordings : 2 audio cassettes; 1 1.5 mm sound reel; 1 flexi disc

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Sheila Martin Watson (nee Doherty) was an author, teacher and professor of English, living between 1909 and 1998. Born in New Westminster, British Columbia on October 25 1909, Sheila was the second child of Dr. Charles Edward Doherty and Mary Ida Elwena Martin. Sheila attended St. Ann's Academy in Victoria, B.C. for her elementary and secondary schooling and attended the University of British Columbia, earning a B.A. Honours in English in 1931 and her Academic Teaching Certificate in 1932. In 1933 she received her M.A. in English, her thesis concerning Addison and Steele, editors of the eighteenth-century periodical "The Spectator." Watson would go on to teach in Dog Creek (1934-1935) in Cariboo Country and Langley Prairie High School (1936-1940) in the Fraser Valley and in Duncan on Vancouver Island from 1940-1941, where she met and married the poet and dramatist Wilfred Watson.Marrying December 29, 1941, Sheila remained in Mission City, in the Fraser Valley, where she taught from September 1941 to the spring of 1945. Wilfred remained in Vancouver, completing his undergraduate degree in 1943. Following World War II, the couple settled in Toronto, where Wilfred pursued his M.A. in English at the University of Toronto, while Sheila taught at Moulton Ladies College (1946-1949). The Watsons remained in Toronto from 1945-1948/49. From 1949-1951, Sheila taught at the University of British Columbia, and for the academic year of 1951/52 she taught at a public high school in Powell River, BC. Watson lived with her husband in Calgary from 1952-54, after which they briefly separated but then spent a year in Paris on a Royal Society of Canada fellowship between 1955-1956.Sheila returned to Toronto from September 1956 to August 1961 to pursue her Doctorate of Philosophy at the University of Toronto, supervised by Marshall McLuhan. Her thesis was titled "Wyndham Lewis and Expressionism." Sheila went on to teach at the University of Alberta as a Professor of English, teaching from 1961 to her retirement in August, 1975. From the early 1970s, Watson was a member of several juries of The Canada Council for arts grants and the Governor General's Awards for poetry and fiction. She and her husband moved to Nanaimo, B.C. in 1980, where she continued to advise former students and aspiring writers, and occasionally giving public readings of her work. She died Sunday, February 1, 1998. Watson is best known for her novel "The Double Hook", published in 1959, her series of short stories based around the character of Oedipus and her novel "Deep Hollow Creek", which was written in the 1930s but was not published until 1992, when it was nominated for a Governor General's Award for best new fiction. Watson was also co-founder of the literary journal "White Pelican."

Archival history

Sheila Watson identified her friend Dr. Fred T. Flahiff as her literary executor and sent her archives to him between 1994 and 1998. Following her death in 1998, Flahiff donated the bulk of the Watsons' library to the John M. Kelly Library in 1998. The whole of the archival fonds was donated to the John M. Kelly Library Special Collection in 2006.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of journals, literary manuscripts, correspondence, teaching and student materials, reference materials, business and financial records; and personal photographs and objects of the author and professor of English, Sheila Watson. Also consists of collections of correspondence purchased and preserved by Watson for the purpose of her doctoral thesis and personal interest in the painter and author Wyndham Lewis.
The Sheila Watson fonds series consist of:
1.0. Diaries, reading journals and day planners
2.0. Manuscripts and drafts
3.0. General correspondence
4.0. Publishing records and business correspondence
5.0. Professional activities materials
6.0. Student material
7.0. Teaching material
8.0. Research and reference materials
9.0. Financial and legal records
10.0. Personal photographs
11.0. Personal records, artwork and artifacts
The White Pelican editorial material sous-fonds (the records of Watson's role as editor of her literary journal) series consists of :
1.0. Editorial Records
2.0. Financial Records
3.0. Design and printing records
4.0. Correspondence

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Some files have been restricted indefinitely to protect the privacy of third parties. These materials have been flagged on the file level.
Some archival materials are under publishing restrictions. In order to publish material from some files, researchers are required to fill out a detailed request form to obtain permission from the Literary Executor of Sheila Watson, Dr. Fred. T. Flahiff. As well, the Sheila Watson fonds contains photocopies of correspondence held by other research institutions. To reproduce and publish such material, researchers will be required to solicit permissions from the institutional body holding the original documents.
There are no restrictions to the material, save for some files containing personal information or third party information. However, in order to publish content from correspondence, researchers must obtain permission from the author (or their estate) or the primary institutional authority.
As well, a number of professional photographs fall under copyright restrictions.

Conditions governing reproduction

Researchers are required to sign a Researcher Agreement form acknowledging their responsibilities in terms of Canadian copyright legislation. To publish some material, researchers are required to seek permission from the literary executor of the Watson estate.

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Finding aids

Print finding aid available on site.

Uploaded finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Additional materials related to Sheila Watson can be found in the Wilfred Watson fonds held at the University of Alberta Archives. An encoded finding aid is available at Additional material and correspondence from Sheila Watson can be found in the Fred T. Flahiff fonds, the Shirley Neuman fonds and material from the Wilfred Watson fonds held by the Special
Collections at the John M. Kelly Library.

Related descriptions

Notes area


The organization of the Watson fonds is an artificial creation by the contract archivist, as Watson did not seem to have any sort of logical or consistent system of organizing or preserving her archives.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Revised by S Rogers, 25 September 2019.
Revised by E Robinson, 30 March 2022.



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