Accession MSS 77 - Heather Robertson fonds

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Heather Robertson fonds

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1.56 m of textual records and other material

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Biographical history

Heather Robertson was born in Winnipeg in 1942. She received a B.A. (Honours) in English from the University of Manitoba in 1962. During her term as Editor of the University's student newspaper, The Manitoban, Robertson sometimes invoked controversy, for example, a column criticizing Bison football resulted in her being hung in effigy. She was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and studied Victorian Literature at Columbia University in New York, where she received an M.A. in English.

Returning to Winnipeg, Robertson began a journalism career at the Winnipeg Free Press. She was quickly hired away by the Winnipeg Tribune, where she worked for two years. Robertson received $3000 to pursue her research on Aboriginal Peoples. The resulting voluminous study became the foundation for her first book Reservations are for Indians, published in 1970. Three years later, she wrote Grass Roots, with Salt of the Earth appearing the following year. In 1975, Robertson profiled Barbara Frum and Judy Lamarsh in the book, Her Own Women. Two years later, she wrote A Terrible Beauty : The Art of Canada at War. In 1981, she chronicled the life of the infamous Winnipeg bank robber, Ken Leishman, in the screenplay, The Flying Bandit.

Robertson's literary career took a new direction in 1983 with the publishing of Willie, A Romance. The book marked the author's initial attempt at fiction, and she garnered a best first novel award, Books in Canada. The intimate look at the life of Prime Minister Mackenzie King was further developed in Lily, A Rhapsody in Red, published in 1986, and Igor, published in 1989. Robertson has published a number of other works of non-fiction. A Gentleman Adventurer: The Arctic Diaries of R.H.G. Bonnycastle (19850. The bestseller More Than a Rose was published in 1991, followed by On The Hill (1992). Robertson also wrote Meeting Death (2000), The Road Well Kept: Branksome Hall Celebrates 100 Years (2001) and Driving Force: The McLaughlin Family and the Age of the Car (2003). In 2003, Robertson edited the autobiography of Angus Shortt, entitled My Life With Birds and co-wrote with Melinda McCracken the book titled Magical, Mysterious Lake of the Woods (2003). This bookreceived the Fred Landon award for the best work on Ontario regional history in 2004.

Robertson also worked for the CBC and wrote columns for Maclean's, Chatelaine, Saturday Night, Canadian Forum, and Equinox. Robertson passed away on her 72nd birthday, on March 19, 2014.

Custodial history

The material in this fonds was donated to Archives & Special Collections in several accessions between 1979 and 1993.

Scope and content

The fonds documents Heather Robertson's life, including her literary and academic career, from 1942 to 1992. There are drafts of many of her books, reviews of her books and in some instances reviews or articles of interest to her. There is correspondence between the author and her publishers and editors, and subjects she interviewed and wrote about. As well, there is personal correspondence with her parents between the years 1969 and 1991. These letters document both her private life and her literary career. There are also dozens of articles that Robertson published between the years 1965 and 1992. Pertaining to her academic career, there is a large scrapbook that contains pictures, awards, and other information that spans her entire public school career, as well as some postgraduate academic work. There are also two drafts of Robertson's M.A. thesis for English Literature at Columbia University. Besides copies of books that Robertson wrote, there are also several publications that she used in her research.

There is a photograph collection (PC 7) containing over 1000 photographs, and a tape collection (TC 67) that contains 11 audio tapes.

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This collection is arranged into eighteen series: Willie, A Romance ; A Gentleman Adventurer ; Lily, A Rhapsody in Red ; Igor ; More Than a Rose ; Grass Roots ; Salt of the Earth ; A Terrible Beauty ; Reservations are for Indians ; Her Own Women ; Restricted Correspondence; Books; Computer Discs; Personal Correspondence; Literary Career; Academic Career; Photograph Collection (PC 7); and Tape Collection (TC 67)

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Several of the files in fond have been designated confidential and are not open to the public. Many of the photographs that appeared in Robertson's books are from other archival repositories and can not be reproduced without the permission of those institutions.

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A finding aid can be downloaded from the fonds-level description by clicking on the “Download’ link under “Finding Aid” on the right hand side of the screen.

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Finding aid created by Karyn Riedel Taylor (1992, 2000). Encoded by Brett Lougheed (June 2006). Revised by N. Courrier (April 2020).

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