Monday, January 08, 2018

Francess Halpenny 1919-2017 RIP

Francess Halpenny, surely the greatest Canadian scholarly editor of the second half of the twentieth century -- should we just say ever? -- died on Christmas Day 2017.  She was, among other things, general editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography from 1969 to 1988, surely an unmatched tenure, so her contributions to Canadian history were very substantial in their own right.

There was a death notice in the Globe and Mail that gives a good sense of her as one of those who overcame the obstacles women faced in mid-twentieth century academia and went on to do many remarkable things. There's also a nice appreciation  in a piece about elder care by Sandra Martin, published just three days before Halpenny's death, though she was "sharp as ever" when it was drafted.

I had the identical experience to Martin: met Halpenny briefly at a conference and never forgot it somehow. Martin:
I met her in the mid-1970s at a conference I was covering as a callow editor for Quill & Quire. Her credentials were impressive. And yet, what I remember about Halpenny is her personality.
She responded with bright-eyed intelligence, curiosity and patience when I cornered her at a reception and bored her with my jejune pensées about the slew of books that had come out about ...
She even explains why she was Francess with an extra S.

Photo: the Globe & Mail
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