Series MS-2767 - Constance Swartz personal papers

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Constance Swartz personal papers

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  • textual record
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  • 1923-1981 (Creation)
    Swartz, Constance (Grey)

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Physical description

Originals, 2.2 m

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Biographical history

Constance Swartz was the daughter of English parents who emigrated to Pender Island. She grew up in Victoria, eventually living in Vancouver and later in Kelowna as a newspaper correspondent on cultural affairs. She returned to Pender Island in the 1950s.

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Scope and content

Constance Swartz was the daughter of English parents who had emigrated to Pender Island and Samuel Island. She grew up in Victoria and then lived in Vancouver and Kelowna where she worked as a newspaper correspondent interested in cultural affairs. She returned to Pender Island in the 1950s. The collection contains journals, notebooks, personal correspondence, drawings, poetry and publications pertaining to her family ca. 1923-1981; correspondence and published programs relating to cultural events, mostly in Vancouver, ca. 1930-1970; and correspondence and subject files relating to her life and work as a journalist in the Gulf Islands. Constance Grey was born 16 January 1902 at Victoria, the daughter of Ralph Geoffrey Grey and Winifred Grace Spalding Higgs Grey. Both parents were English immigrants: her father, who was a cousin of Earl Grey, the Governor-General, settled on Samuel Island; while her mother's family, the Higgses, settled on Pender Island. Through her mother Constance was related to the Spalding family also of South Pender Island. Constance ("Contie" or "Connie") and her sister Evelyn ("Evie" or "Eve") were educated at St. Margaret's School in Victoria. Later, Constance was sent to finishing school in England and to France to complete her education. Both sisters spent the summer of 1925 at the Church family ranch in the Chilcotin. On 27 May 1926 Constance married Englishman Barnard Box (born 1900). Their son, Rollo Grey Barnard Box, was born in 1928. Constance and Barnard Box were divorced in June 1933, at which time Constance changed her name back to Constance Grey, and her son's name to Rollo Grey. In July 1934, Constance married an American born musician, Ira Wesley Swartz (born 1902); they were divorced in 1946. Constance retained the name Constance Grey Swartz and never remarried; Rollo Grey subsequently changed his name to Richard (Rick) Johnson. Between the 1930s and 1950s Constance lived in Vancouver, first with Ira Swartz and later with her aunt and uncle, Mabel (Higgs) and Martin Grainger. She worked as a stenographer at a number of Vancouver law firms, hotels, advertising agencies, and cultural organizations. She was also involved in the arts community in Vancouver. During the late 1940s she worked in Kelowna as women's editor, reporter, music, drama, dance and art critic for the Kelowna Courier. In the 1950s she returned to Higgs family land on South Pender Island where she built a house called "Clakili". During the 1960s and 1970s she wrote a social and news column for the Gulf Islands Driftwood under the Chinook name "Cultus Coulee". On Pender Island she assisted her cousin Beatrice J.S.I.M. Freeman complete her book A Gulf Islands Patchwork. She died in 1981. Most notably, the records include musical programmes and correspondence relating to Vancouver's cultural life in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and files relative to the Gulf Islands in the 1960s and 1970s. Letters, journals, photographs, books, poetry, and songs make up the rest of the records. 152 photographs and negatives, including one photograph album, transferred to Visual Records accession 199009-009. File list available. Related records include: MS-0588, Martin Allerdale Grainger, MS-0604, Grey Family and MS-2698, John Granville Orton. The records were received by Richard Mackie and Jonathan Spalding from Mrs. Jean Connors of North Pender Island in the summer of 1988. Spalding and Mackie at the time were collecting garbage for Spalding Sanitary Services. Part of the collection had already been destroyed. Permission to deposit the collection in the Provincial Archives was subsequently obtained from Constance Swartz's daughter-in-law, Mrs. Jean Johnson of Regina, Saskatchewan, who was executor of Mrs. Swartz's will.

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Gift from Jean Johnson (daughter-in-law of Constance Swartz) per Richard Mackie, 1988.


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General note

Photographs transferred to Visual Records accession 1990-09-009.

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Accession number(s): 90-1484; 90-9628; 74A-644; 199009-009; 89-057

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