Margaret Ormsby

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Margaret Anchoretta Ormsby, OBC (7 June 1909 – 2 November 1996) was a Canadian historian, particularly concerning the History of British Columbia. She was head of the Department of History at McMaster University.

Early life and education[edit]

Ormsby was born in Quesnel, British Columbia and raised in the Okanagan Valley. She enrolled at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1925, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in 1929, and a Master of Arts in 1931, both in History. While pursuing her Ph.D. at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania she interrupted those studies to work as a teaching assistant in history at UBC, then graduated from Bryn Mawr in 1936.[1]


Ormsby taught in the United States for the next three years, then became a lecturer at McMaster University in 1940, returning to teach at UBC in 1943.[2] In 1955 she was appointed Professor and in 1965 became head of the university's Department of History, a position she held until her retirement in 1974.[3]

Ormsby was chair of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada from 1960 to 1967. She received honorary doctorates from the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University as well as UBC, and holds the Insignia of the Order of British Columbia.

During her career she wrote extensively about the history and political development of British Columbia.[4] In 1976 she was editor of the book A Pioneer Gentle Woman in British Columbia: the Recollections of Susan Allison.[5]

Ormsby's 1958 book, British Columbia: A History, provided a framework for both timeline and causation of historical events in British Columbia's past.[6] The book has been used as a resource by many historians and teachers.[3] Although the book is more than 60 years old, it is still held in more than 350 libraries in 2018.[7] Ormsby posited a series of propositions that sought to explain the ongoing pull between maritime and continental forces; the opposition between a hierarchical model of society represented by the Hudson's Bay Company and colonial officials, and the more egalitarian ideas of English and Canadian settlers; and regional tensions between Vancouver Island and mainland, metropolitan Vancouver and the hinterland interior.[8]


Her works include:

  • Ormsby, Margaret Anchoretta (1958). British Columbia: A History. Vancouver: MacMillan Company of Canada. - Total pages: 558 commemorating the centennial of the designation of B.C. as a crown colony.
  • A Pioneer Gentle Woman in British Columbia: the Recollections of Susan Allison (1976) (see John Fall Allison)
  • Coldstream - Nulli Secundus (1990)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Historical Essays on British Columbia. McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP; 1980. ISBN 978-0-7715-5694-4. p. 22–.
  2. ^ Creating Historical Memory: English-Canadian Women and the Work of History. UBC Press; 1 November 2011. ISBN 978-0-7748-4164-1. p. 225–.
  3. ^ a b Cathy Converse. Mainstays: Women who Shaped BC. TouchWood Editions; 1998. ISBN 978-0-920663-62-2. p. 27–.
  4. ^ Canadian History: Confederation to the present. University of Toronto Press; 1994. ISBN 978-0-8020-7676-2. p. 370–.
  5. ^ Michael Kluckner. Vanishing British Columbia. UBC Press; 1 November 2011. ISBN 978-0-7748-4253-2. p. 16–.
  6. ^ Chad Reimer. Writing British Columbia History, 1784-1958. UBC Press; 1 July 2010. ISBN 978-0-7748-5897-7. p. 186–.
  7. ^ "British Columbia: a history". WorldCat, accessed Feb 15 2018
  8. ^ Chad Reimer "Ormsby, Margaret A." in Kelly Boyd, ed. (1999). Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing, vol. 2. p. 886.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)

External links[edit]