Women In Sport : Pre-Confederation Newfoundland
Project Team
The Rooms
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In the winter of 2004 archivists Linda Murphy and Frances Horwood conducted interviews with thirteen women who were active in sports in pre-Confederation Newfoundland. The tapes may be consulted at The Rooms Provincal Archives; however, please make an appointment. Complete transcripts are not yet available.

The materials highlighted in this virtual exhibit were selected predominantly from the holdings of The Rooms Provincial Archives. The Rooms Provincial Archives has an extensive collection of textual records, photographs, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings on the sports history of Newfoundland and Labrador. It also has some artifacts, including trophies.
Collections and fonds referenced for this exhibit are:
• Frank William Graham fonds. The records collected by sports historian and archivist, Frank Graham (1906-1991), include 3500 photographs dating from the late nineteenth century. They have been arranged by sport.

•John Victor Rabbitts fonds. The records of JVR ( Jack, Bunny) Rabbitts (1909-1964), athlete, sports historian and civil servant, include histories of Newfoundland tennis, football, and rowing, as well as scrapbooks and photographs, the latter dating from 1896.

• John Victor Rabbitts and Frank William Graham clippings collection. The collection consists of sports-related newspaper clippings predominantly selected from the St. John's Daily News and the Evening Telegram. The collection is arranged alphabetically by sport, with each sport being arranged chronologically.

• Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame fonds. The records include nomination papers for the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame. These include biographical information and summarize the accomplishments of the nominees.

• St John's Curling Association fonds. The fonds consists of minute books (1910-1927), visitors' book (1912-1935), constitution and by-laws, articles of association, rules and regulations, schedules, and other printed materials. Minute books include correspondence, clippings, and membership lists.

On-line access to the descriptions of the Archives complete holdings will be available through the database of the The Rooms Provincial Archives. Also consult Archives Canada http://www.archivescanada.ca/index2.html

The Rooms Provincial Archives

The Still and Moving Images Section, PANL, includes more than 400,000 photographic items (1860s-) and several hundred 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm films.

Several archives contributed photographs to the web site, representing only a sample of their photographic holdings. For additional information on collections, access and services, contact:

Bay Roberts Heritage Society

City of St. John's Archives

Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society

Prince of Wales Collegiate Archives

Trinity Historical Society Archives

There are many archives in Newfoundland and Labrador which also include records and photographs relating to the topic, Women in Sport in Newfoundland and Labrador. For a comprehensive directory of archival institutions, visit the Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archives at http://www.anla.nf.ca


This is a sampling of works on the sports history of women available in provincial public libraries.

Andrews, Clifford K. Through Curling Years: The 75th. Robinson-Blackmore Printing & Publishing Limited: St. John's, 1986.

Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador. Harry Cuff Publications Limited: St. John's, 1981- 1994. 5 volumes.

Graham, Frank W. Ready...Set...Go! A St. John's Sports Pictorial. Robinson-Blackmore Printing & Publication Limited: St. John's, 1988.

O'Neill, Paul. The Oldest City. Boulder Publications: Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, Nfld., 2003, Chapter 7.


Bishop Spencer College

Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador

Memorial University of Newfoundland Office of Alumni Affairs and Development

"Methodist College": Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site

Newfoundland & Labrador 5 Pin Bowlers' Association

Newfoundland & Labrador Golf Hall of Fame

Newfoundland and Labrador Registered Heritage Structures

The Royal St. John's Regatta

Sport Newfoundland and Labrador


Many of the women involved in sports in the early years were also part of the women's rights movement. Others were educators and professionals involved in social welfare causes. Some were members of a leisured elite.

The Untold Story of the Suffragists of Newfoundland, a docudrama by Marian Frances White, details the women's movement, 1890-1930 within the context of class and region. The film and a curriculum guide has been distributed by the Department of Education to junior and senior schools in the province. An excellent history by Margot Duley, Where Once Our Mothers Stood We Stand: Women's Suffrage in Newfoundland, 1890-1925 (Gynergy: Charlottetown, 1993) is also relevant.

Linda Kealey's compilation of essays, Pursuing Equality: Historical Perspectives on Women in Newfoundland and Labrador (ISER: St. John's, 1993) includes an overview of women's history, as well as a seminal essay on women and the law (Linda Cullum and Maeve Baird, with Cynthia Penney).

Women's History Walking Tour

The Women's History Group (MUN) partnered with the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site to present an online walking tour which highlights the homes, lives, and places of work for women in downtown St. John's. For additional information on the lives of the city's working women, consult Jessie Chisholm and Nancy Forestall, "Working-Class Women as Wage Earners in St. John's, 1890-1921" in Feminist Research: Prospect and Retrospect (Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women: Kingston and Montréal, 1988), a summary of their extensive research on working women, 1886-1939.

Newfoundland Salt Fisheries Digital Exhibit

Life for many girls and women in rural Newfoundland and Labrador contrasted sharply with the images in this web site. In conjunction with Canada's Digital Collections Program, The Rooms Provincial Archives created a multi-media history of the salt fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador, which includes an illustrated essay by Mark Ferguson, "Fish Makers: The Centrality of Women."

Unpublished Works
The most current scholarship on women in Pre-Confederation Newfoundland and Labrador is unpublished, frequently in the form of dissertations, although extracts have been printed in academic journals. See, for example, the following:

• Willeen Keough, The Slender Thread: Irish Women on the Southern Avalon, 1750-1860 (Memorial University of Newfoundland: PhD dissertation, 2001)

• Ingrid Botting, "Getting a Grand Falls Job" : Migration, Labour Markets, and Paid Domestic Work in the Pulp and Paper Mill Town of Grand Falls, Newfoundland, 1905-1939 (Memorial University of Newfoundland: PhD dissertation, 2000)

Exploring all aspects of women's history and culture in Newfoundland and Labrador is an exciting - and at times - an unchartered field. Enjoy!