A photo of the Co-operative Commonwealth Party (later the New Democratic Party) from 1936. J.S. Woodsworth sits in the centre.

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Never-before-seen collection of CCF-NDP founder J.S. Woodsworth donated to SFU Library

December 12, 2016
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By Ian Bryce

Canadian historians, socialists, labour enthusiasts, and students can now learn more about J.S. Woodsworth, a central figure in labour politics and founder the CCF-NDP party, in a new collection at the Simon Fraser University Library.

SFU Library’s Special Collections and Rare Books has acquired a rare collection of 1,300 letters, approximately 200 photos, and 50 manuscripts detailing the lives of Woodsworth and his family—including prominent B.C. politicians Angus and Grace MacInnis.

“We’re honoured that the Woodsworth family has entrusted their rare and intimate collection of photographs and correspondence to us,” says Melanie Hardbattle, acting head, SFU Library Special Collections and Rare Books.

“J.S. Woodsworth had a significant role in shaping the Canada we know today and this collection provides insight into his personal life and the foundations of his political beliefs.”

Glenn Woodsworth, J.S. Woodsworth’s grandson, and his wife, Joy, donated the private collection, valued at $65,000, to ensure the preservation of the delicate correspondence, and to make the records more easily accessible to researchers.

The couple spent many hours over the past several years transcribing, describing, and making digital copies of the material. The unpublished letters, written between 1890-1990, discuss topics ranging from Woodworth’s political, socialist and humanitarian beliefs, current events, to domestic affairs in the Woodsworth house.

The core of the family archive was passed down from Lucy Woodsworth to her daughter Grace MacInnis. She meticulously organized and cross-indexed the correspondence and referred to the archive while writing the biography J.S. Woodsworth: A Man to Remember. MacInnis later added around 400 of her own letters to the collection and passed them down to Glenn and Joy. MacInnis stipulated the letters not be examined until after her death.

Other collections of J.S. Woodsworth and Grace MacInnis material are held at the National Library, the University of British Columbia Special Collections and Rare Books, and the University of Toronto Thomas Fisher Library.