Accession A1990-020, A1990-038, A1990-048 - Simma Holt fonds

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Simma Holt fonds

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CA UMASC MSS 103-A1990-020, A1990-038, A1990-048

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3.88 m of textual records and other materials [Note: Includes 516 photographs; 60 audio reels;1 microfilm reel]

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Biographical history

Simma Holt (née Milner) was born March 27, 1922 in Vegreville, Alberta. She attended the University of Manitoba from 1941-1944, graduating with majors in English and Psychology.
During her time at the University, she was the first female managing editor of the student newspaper The Manitoban and was also a university reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press. Upon graduation in 1944, she began working as a teletype operator and reporter for the Canadian Press in Calgary. In the autumn of 1944, at age twenty-two, she began her thirty-year journalism career with the Vancouver Sun.

She married Leon Holt, a freelance photographer and later high school teacher in 1949. They were married for thirty-seven years, until his death in 1985.

In 1974, Simma Holt left the Vancouver Sun to successfully run as the Liberal member of Parliament for Vancouver-Kingsway. Holt was the first Jewish woman in Canadian history to be elected to Parliament. She sat for one term losing her seat in 1979. During her time in Parliament, she was Vice-Chair of the Standing Committee on Justice and a member of its subcommittee on the Penitentiary System. She was also a member of several Standing Committees: Broadcasting, Films and Assistance to the Arts; Privileges and Elections; Labour, Manpower and Immigration; National Resources and Public Works; Procedure and Organization; Transport and Communications; Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs; and Health, Welfare and Social Affairs.

In 1976, while still an MP, she became an occasional columnist for the Toronto Sun. Holt became a columnist for Ottawa Sun and Vancouver Business. She also was a freelance writer for Reader's Digest, Maclean’s, Fairlady in South Africa, Chatelaine and other magazines. Holt wrote four books: Terror in the Name of God: The Story of the Sons of Freedom (1965), Sex and the Teen Age Revolution (1967), The Devil's Butler (1971), The Other Mrs. Diefenbaker (1983), and Memoirs of a Loose Cannon (2008).

From 1981 to 1985, Holt was a member of the National Parole Board. She also acted as a researcher and writer in the presidential campaign of George Bush from 1987 to 1988, although later quit as she did not agree with Republican politics.

Holt was the recipient of numerous awards. In 1964 she was named Women of the Year for Canada in Arts and Letters for her book Terror in the Name of God. She was awarded, in 1969, the Jubilee Award by the University of Manitoba Alumni Association in recognition of her “distinguished achievement” in the 25 years since her graduation. The following year she won the Bowater Award of Merit in the sociological division for her series of articles on changing morality and sociological upheaval of teenagers. In 1985, she was a nominee for the Vancouver YWCA Women of Distinction award. She was inducted into the Canadian Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1996 and that same year she also was appointed a member of the Order of Canada. Her Order of Canada citation included the recognition that “she has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to assisting those suffering from injustice, persecution and poverty. Her perceptive and impassioned writings have contributed to positive social change by raising public awareness of injustices in society.” In 2002, she received a Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal for her contribution to public life.

Simma Holt passed away in Burnaby, BC on January 23, 2015.

Custodial history

Simma Holt donated her collection to the University of Manitoba in different accessions during 1991 and 1992. Accessions were 90-20 (eight boxes and one large volume), 90-38 (four boxes), 90-48 (one box), and 91-54 (ten boxes). A1991-054 was de-accessioned. Some of Holt's material was transferred from the National Archives of Canada to the University of Manitoba Archives. Date of authorization for alienation of the Holt papers was April 19, 1991.

Scope and content

Simma Holt's collection is arranged under the main series of personal, publications, and politics. Under the series heading of publications, the papers are organized according to her four books: Terror in the Name of God , Sex and the Teen Age Revolution , The Devil's Butler , and The Other Mrs. Diefenbaker . In addition, there are sub-series for Holt's work as a journalist for the Sun and her work as a lecturer and free-lance columnist.

One of the most important holdings under the sub-series of journalism is a bound volume containing the complete series of The Vancouver Express , the newspaper that began with the lockout of Pacific Press employees on February 21, 1970 and ended when they returned to their jobs on May 15, 1970.

Of the four books published by Holt, Terror in the Name of God is the richest source of documents and photographs. The collection contains letters and records by early Freedomite leaders dating back to the 1920s. Holt went to Ottawa to research Freedomite origins; while there the police gave her access to secret files. Of the photographs, Holt wrote: "So fantastic and bizarre have been the antics of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors in Canada that photographers have come from across the country and around the world to capture on film the fragments of their strange way of life." The photograph collection contains an album of over five-hundred pictures pertaining to the history of the Doukhobors. In addition, there are approximately 1,000 photos in this collection. These photos were acquired from the RCMP in Nelson B.C., the Vancouver Sun's photographer George Diack, former Nelson freelancer for CBC and the Sun Alice Jane Sloan, and former Nelson News photographer Bob Blackmore. The manuscript collection contains records of Doukhobor trials regarding bombings and burnings in B.C. in 1953, 1958, and 1962.

Holt's tape collection includes many interviews that pertain to The Other Mrs. Diefenbaker . Holt interviewed Edna's relatives as well as many of Diefenbaker's colleagues in parliament such as T.C. Douglas, Paul Martin, and Senator David Walker. She also interviewed Judge Roy Hall about the Atherton case which Diefenbaker successfully defended. Also in the tape collection are telephone conversations of the Satan's Angels motorcycle gang, taped by the police and interviews with Donna, the main character in The Devil's Butler .

In addition to material pertaining to her four books, Holt's collection includes an unpublished manuscript called "Divorce Lawyer," a biography of Neil Fleischman. In the tape collection are eighteen interviews with Hugh Pickett, Canada's best known impresario who became the owner and head of Famous Artists in Vancouver. Holt and Pickett had plans to publish a book using the taped interviews.

Both Terror in the Name of God and The Other Mrs. Diefenbaker evolved through many drafts and revisions. These edited drafts are also in Holt's collection.

During Holt's five year stint in politics, she maintained a voluminous correspondence. Unedited copies of letters written as a member of parliament between July 1974 and June 1979 are also in the collection.

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This collection is organized into 6 series.

I. PERSONAL 1941-1986
V. POLITICS 1974-1987, predominant 1974-1979
Photograph Collection (PC 103)
Tape Collection (TC 66)
Microfilm Collection (Mf 24)

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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 Alvina Block (1994). Finding aid encoded by Julianna Trivers (August 2002). Revised July 26, 2005 - MSS 103, PC 103, TC 66, Mf 24 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15). Revised by N.Courrier (January 2019).

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