Glenbow Museum - Where the World Meets the West

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Willison family fonds


Physical Description:
3.38 m of textual records. -- 1412 photographs

Olaf Willison, 1860-1944, was born in Malmo Skove, Sweden and moved to Gravenhurst, Ontario in 1886. His wife, Augusta Peterson Willison, 1862-1944, was born in Lyjung, Sweden and moved to Muskoka, Ontario in 1885. They married in Ontario, and moved to Calgary, Alberta in 1900. Olaf took out a homestead just northeast of the city and farmed until his death. The Willisons had six daughters, Anne Mathilda (Stirling), 1889-1978, Ellen C. (Hall), 1891-1980, Mary Charlotte, 1894-1988, Hilda May, 1898-1984, Evelyn Augusta, 1902-1993, and Gladys Alberta, 1904-1991. In 1915, Augusta and the daughters moved into Calgary. Anne and Ellen trained as nurses at the Holy Cross Hospital, while Mary, Hilda, Evelyn and Gladys all became teachers. Anne worked as a nurse for the Calgary Board of Education until her 1938 marriage to Will Stirling. Ellen worked as a nurse until 1925 when she married Victor Hall and moved to Idaho, USA. The Halls had one daughter, Margaret (Herzog), 1932- . Mary and Hilda taught in Calgary schools for over 30 years, and both retired in 1959. They shared the family home for most of their adult lives. Evelyn and Gladys both attended the University of Alberta. Evelyn taught in the Crowsnest Pass, at Morley, and at the School for the Deaf in Edmonton. Gladys taught in both Calgary and Edmonton. Both were active in Moral Re-Armament (originally the Oxford Group). Both were also authors: Evelyn wrote a biography of Pauline Johnson, while Gladys wrote stories about pioneer life in Alberta, and a biography of Chief Walking Buffalo. Evelyn retired to Kelowna where she shared a home with Anne until Anne's death. After Mary and Hilda died, Evelyn and Gladys shared the family home in Calgary.

Custodial History:
On the death of Evelyn most of the family papers were held by family friends, Michael and Frances Jamison. They, along with Ellen's daughter, Margaret Herzog, arranged for the fonds to be given to Glenbow.

Scope and Content:
The fonds consists of diaries, correspondence and personal papers of Anne, Mary, Hilda, Evelyn and Gladys. Much of the correspondence is between the sisters, and includes letters they received from the sixth sister, Ellen. The diaries are rich in reflections on their spiritual lives as well as their day-to-day activities. The records relate primarily to their personal relationships, and are strong in documenting sisterhood, lives of unmarried women, and old age. Anne's papers in include her first "book of cases" as a nurse. The papers of Mary, Hilda, Evelyn and Gladys all include details of their teaching careers. The papers of Evelyn and Gladys include details of their Moral Re-Armament activities, and manuscripts of their short fiction and biographies. The fonds also includes photographs of all six sisters, their parents, homes, cats and friends. The notebooks of the nurses who cared for Evelyn and Gladys during the final years of their lives are also present.

Source of Acquisition:
Gift of Margaret Herzog, 2000.

The material is in English.

No restrictions on access.

Finding Aids:
Inventory available. Please consult before requesting material.

View finding aid / scanned documents:

Call Numbers:
(M=manuscript; N&P=photos; R=sound recordings; S=slides; F=films)

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