An illuminating set of letters from the wife of a prominent Methodist missionary in B.C. is now freely available online.

The letters from Emma Crosby (1849-1926) provide a fascinating glimpse into the missionary experience. Due to her gender, Emma was not able to become a missionary, although her husband Thomas served as one on the north coast of B.C. The letters describe how women such as Emma sustained their husbands and served as missionaries in all but name.

UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections division (RBSC) holds 87 letters written by Emma Crosby as part of the Thomas and Emma Crosby fonds. The majority of these letters were written from Fort Simpson, B.C., to her family in Ontario between 1874 and 1892.

Jan Hare, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education, and Jean Barman, Professor Emerita in the Department of Educational Studies, provided the inspiration for developing this digital collection. Barman offered to provide RBSC with transcriptions of Crosby’s letters, created for Hare and Barman’s recent publication, Good Intentions Gone Awry. This book discusses Emma Crosby’s missionary life and the legacy of her work at Fort Simpson.

The digitization of the Crosby letters was a collaboration between RBSC and University Archives. Bronwen Sprout, Digital Initiatives Librarian at Archives, and Katherine Kalsbeek, Reference Librarian at RBSC, led the project.

Special thanks to: April Ens, a former professional experience student from the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, who digitized the letters and created the metadata for the collection; and Leslie Field, Archives Assistant, who provided expert assistance and guidance with the digitization work. Thanks also to Jan Hare and Jean Barman for the transcripts of Crosby’s letters and for their introduction that accompanies the digital collection.

You can view the collection at http://angel.library.ubc.ca/crosby.html. Please send comments to Bronwen Sprout (bronwen.sprout@ubc.ca) or Katherine Kalsbeek (katherine.kalsbeek@ubc.ca).

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