Fonds F0101 - Edith Fowke fonds

Identity area

Reference code



Edith Fowke fonds


  • 1882-1996 (predominant 1949-1996) (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

5.88 m of textual records and other material.
ca. 200 photographs, b&w and colour
287 audio reels
567 audio cassettes
2 tape recorders

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Canadian folklorist, collector, author, civil libertarian and educator Edith Fulton Fowke was born in Lumsden, Saskatchewan, on April 30, 1913. Her parents, Margaret and William Fulton, were immigrants from Northern Ireland. She studied at the University of Saskatchewan, receiving her BA in 1933. That same year, she joined the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and remained active with them for many years. After graduating from university, Edith taught school for a brief time. She returned to the University of Saskatchewan where she earned an M.A. in English in 1937.

While at the University of Saskatchewan, she met Frank Fowke, an engineering student. They married in 1938 and Edith joined him in Toronto. She worked as the editor for the Western Teacher from 1937-1944 and later as an associate editor of Magazine Digest from 1945-1949. From 1950-1963, Edith wrote, produced and co-hosted the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio program, Folk Song Time, a weekly program featuring her folk music collection. The program made her a household name in Canada. Edith was captivated by Canadian folk songs but frustrated by the lack of available material. Her interest in collecting folk music was influenced by eminent Canadian folklorist, Helen Creighton and by American folk music collector, Kenneth Goldstein. She purchased her first tape recorder in 1956 and began making field recordings of folk songs in the county of Peterborough, Ontario. Over the years, Edith would record ca. 2,000 folk songs.

One of her prolific as well as her personal favourite informants was O.J. Abbott. Many of her recordings were released by Folkway Records of New York. In addition to collecting folk music, she also wrote and edited books about folksongs and folktales. In 1952, Edith collaborated with folklorist and composer, Richard Johnston, on the book Folk Songs of Canada. She and Dr. Johnston also worked on Chansons Canadiennes Françaises and More Folk Songs of Canada. Edith authored a number of books including Folklore of Canada, Ring Around the Moon, and Family Heritage: The Story and Songs of LaRena Clark. One of her most successful and best known publications was the children's book, Sally go round the sun.

Edith turned her attention from folk songs to folklore in the 1970s. She continued to write and began teaching, joining the English Department at York University in 1971. During the 1980s, she lectured at the University of Calgary in conjunction with the Kodály summer diploma program. She retired from York University in 1984 and was made professor emeritus. She was made a Fellow of American Folklore Society in 1975 and a member of the Order of Canada in 1977. She received honorary degrees from Brock, Trent and Regina universities. Edith Fowke died on March 28, 1996 in Toronto, ON.

Archival history

Donated by Edith Fowke and Estate of Edith Fowke (1987-1999), and by the Canadian Society for Traditional Music (1998).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of the personal and professional records of Edith Fowke, and reveals the many aspects of her career as a folklorist, writer, collector and educator. Includes manuscripts, radio scripts, correspondence, and articles related to her publishing and research (1938-1996, predominant 1962-1994); sound recordings of folk songs, notes, and correspondence related to her teaching career ([197-], 1982-1986); personal correspondence, scrapbooks, and diary (1882-1943, 1955-1996, predominant 1955-1996); manuscripts, sound recordings of folk music, and interviews from her CBC radio programs (1949-1983, predominant 1954-1966); interviews with Edith Fowke or by her (1960-1969, 1983); a series of personal and professional correspondence (1936, 1946-1996); field recordings of folk songs she collected, indexes to these recordings, and other recordings she collected or recorded (1943, 1947?, 1954-1977).

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


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Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

No restrictions on access.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

    Script of material

      Language and script notes

      Most of the text is in English with some in French.

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      Finding aids

      Allied materials area

      Existence and location of originals

      Existence and location of copies

      Digital content is available

      Copes of the field recordings numbered FO 1 to FO 95 in the Edith Fowke fonds are held in cassette tape format at York University Library, Toronto, Ontario.

      Related units of description

      Edith Fowke donated field recordings to the Canadian Museum of History, Hull, Quebec; these recordings are the same as those numbered NMFO 1 to NMFO 26 in the Edith Fowke fonds held at the University of Calgary.

      Related descriptions

      Notes area


      Title based on contents of the fonds.


      No further accruals expected.


      The reel to reel recordings were assigned as FO (Fowke Order) or NM FO (National Museum Fowke Order). FO 1 to FO 26 was later renumbered by Fowke as NMFO 1 to NMFO 26; these NMFO numbers are equivalent to FO 1 to FO 12 noted on the recordings in this series.


      All accessions amalgamated into 664/99.21 in 2014

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          Accession area