Winslow Papers

Thomas J. Condon, Remarks on the Dedication of the Winslow Electronic Site to the Memory of Ann Gorman Condon, May 11, 2005

It's a bit of a homecoming this evening. Ann and I began our long involvement with UNB in 1962 when there was no UNBSJ or UNBF, only UNB. I began teaching that year; she the next. We frequented the Bonar Law-Bennet Library with its then 275,000 volumes which after Harvard's more than 10 million seemed pretty small, but it was a great place because of the people. With more than a million volumes now, the HIL is a great place, too, and for the same reason.

As I thought about what I might say this evening it occurred to me that I could not remember an occasion when either of us talked publicly about the other's scholarly, pedagogical or administrative work. And in a way, it's difficult for a spouse to do that even when an event such as tonight requires it. So what I'll do is talk a little bit about Ann and us, about her approach to scholarship - illustrating it in her published words - and choose some quotes from others about what she did which strikes me as more seemly.


Four years ago at this time, Ann and I had just returned from spending 3 1/2 months in Arizona and California. Apart from enjoying the luxury that comes with retirement of spending the winter in a warmer clime, we were there to launch Ann's Architects of Our Fortunes: The Journal of Eliza A.W. Otis, with Letters and Civil War Journal of Harrison Gray Otis published by the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery which she had edited and provided a fascinating introduction for. She loved the Huntington Library and Pasadena was where she grew up so the launch there meant a great deal to her. A few days after our return the UNBSJ Book Store hosted an east coast launch of her book. We then plunged into the rush of events that is UNB Encaenia and Convocation week. The following Monday we were in need of some tennis and went to try out the resurfaced courts in Rothesay. As we were warming up she suffered a sharp pain in the head, lost consciousness on the race to the hospital, and died the next day of a massive brain aneurism. It was a great shock. We had celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary the day before she was stricken.

Some marriages are said to be made in heaven or elsewhere; we used to say that our's was made in Widener Library for we first met there in a seminar of Professor Bernard Bailyn. Bud later supervised both our theses. We started off in graduate school at Harvard in 1957. Ann had just graduated from Cal Berkeley and I had just finished my tour of active duty with the U.S. Navy. We were each enamored of others back home that first year and did not date but we became great friends. Ann returned to California after the first year, having taken an M.A. and I carried on with Ph.D. studies. It was not easy then for a woman to think of doing a Ph.D. and Ann did not think she was ready at that point. She worked for three years at Stanford Research Institute in Los Angeles but the pull of scholarship was strong and she decided to return to Harvard and plunge in. We corresponded from time to time during her absence and in the summer of 1961 she wrote to tell me she was returning. Being the gallant easterner, I offered to meet her at the plane and 3 months later we were engaged. It was a whirlwind courtship, culminating in a proposal on the Concord Bridge in Lexington, Massachusetts - I thought what better place would there be for a pair of American colonial historians. She didn't know it was coming, of course, when I suggested a Sunday drive there since she had not visited that historical landmark. It was raining and I'm sure she thought I was nuts when I suggested we get out of the car and walk across the bridge. We did, I did, and she said yes.

Throughout our many years together we functioned as each other's best editor and critic in the scholarly part of our lives, eagerly reading each other's stuff as a manuscript moved along. It helped that we were both historians of the U.S. and both interested in ideas and social history.

Ann was a voracious reader throughout her life, with a wide range of interests in many fields -literature, art, art history, political studies, anthropology, sociology, music, philosophy and more - in many time spans - classical, medieval, renaissance, modern and postmodern - and in many parts of the world - North and South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In Ann's mind, in her teaching and in her writing this eclecticism came together often to brilliant effect.

For example, Ann began her piece on "The Family in Exile: Loyalist Social Values after the Revolution" with a quote from Leo Tolstoy: "All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion." "Thus begins," Ann continued," Anna Karenina, that extraordinary fictional journey into the private lives of the Russian aristocracy in the nineteenth century. While modern anthropologists might gasp at Tolstoy's willingness to make such sweeping generalizations about the family, no one can deny his success in creating a vivid world of intimacy and intrigue, devotion and deceit, noble suffering and base humiliation, climaxing, of course, in the necessary self-destruction of its flawed heroine, followed by a ringing affirmation of traditional, and very Christian, family values. Culturally, Tsarist Russia was a far different place than colonial Canada, but they did, for a short while, have one thing in common: an official ruling class." Ann only deplored that "Alas, thus far Canada's period of gentry rule has inspired no Tolstoyan masterpiece, no insider account of the passions and pairings of this select group."

To cite another example, although many scholars have characterized the Loyalists as exiles, Ann thought they were not only exiles but refugees and that the difference was important Once again she drew widely to demonstrate the point in her 1998 Milham Lecture:

"Looked at in broader perspective, the fundamental topic of the Winslow Papers is the experience of exile, or becoming a refugee. Exile is a familiar occurrence throughout history. The diaspora of the Jewish people, after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians, would leave them to wander homeless for 2000 years. The banishment of the poet Ovid from Rome, to stop his mischief making, in fact produced one of the most mischievous books of all time, The Metamorphoses. Similar political forces expelled the Italian poet Dante from Florence, inspiring him to write his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, and to put all his enemies in the lowest circle of hell, where they remain to this day. Our century ( the 20th) features not only solitary exiles, but thousands, perhaps millions of people uprooted, outcast, homeless. "Displaced persons", "boat people", political or religious "unreliables" - these are a few of the euphemisms used to disguise the inhumanity of exile. Canada has been exceptional in helping refugees and giving many a new home with real opportunity. The impact of exile in our own day makes it especially important to realize that the Loyalists were refugees - in fact the first mass refugee movement in modern history. This peculiar circumstance means that we have a vested interest in understanding how the shock of exile affected not only their everyday lives, but their minds."

Manuscripts and books were her great loves as a scholar but increasingly she became interested in artifacts and what they could tell us of the past. She spent over a decade working on material history topics, producing articles such as "What the Object Knew: Material History in Canada" published in Acadiensis in 1984, "Loyalist Style and the Culture of the Atlantic Seaboard," published in the Material History Bulletin in 1987, and my favorite, "The Celestial World of Jonathan Odell: Symbolic Unities within a Disparate Artifact Collection," published in 1991 in a book edited by Gerald L. Pocius of Memorial University of Newfoundland.

On her passing, I received many notes and letters from people with their reflections on Ann. I selected a number of them and compiled a kind of "in memoriam" for relatives and friends who could not be at the funeral. Let me quote a few. Bud Bailyn wrote "Ann was one of the most thoughtful, genuine, and intelligent people I've known, and in the work we do, truly talented - she had a great gift for language: clear, graceful, and effective expression - which I saw when I first got to know her, many years ago." Many people admired Ann's reviews and she did quite a lot of reviewing. Tom Lewis of Skidmore was one of the admirers and he wrote about a review he remembered she had done of a book by a top academic in the field: "Ann shows herself to be anything but awed. The author presents material with a 'Fourth of July feeling' and fails to examine 'the dark recesses of the human condition.' And she wonders how far material culture studies have come since the 'sentimental, pious banalities of the nineteenth century.' It's very clear and very tough, and above all convincing that the author has somehow failed to appreciate his material. But above all the review is intelligent and graceful and never a hatchet job - but I'm sure glad she wasn't reviewing my book." A graduate student, now a Professor at Simon Fraser, recalled her as "a kind and rigorous mentor, a caring devoted friend and a gifted and passionate historian." An undergraduate student wrote "I will always remember her as a warm, caring, enthusiastic and encouraging woman and teacher and felt privileged to have known her. Up to the last time, only a few weeks ago, when she urged me never to stop reading, she was an inspiration to me."

Let me return now to books and papers. As Alan Burk has noted, Ann regarded the Winslow correspondence as "the single most important collection of loyalist personal papers in Canada" As she wrote in her piece on Winslow in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, the collection is: "By turns erudite, passionate, vitriolic, and high humoured, [for] his letters vividly record the drama of the Loyalist exodus to British North America as well as the minutiae of daily life in early New Brunswick. Winslow could pierce an opponent with a phrase. Thus Elias Hardy was a 'pettifogging notary public,' Richard John Uniacke 'a great lubberly insolent irish rebel,' and the waspish Jonathan Odell 'a High priest of the order of Melchisedec.' Mainly, however, Winslow's rhetoric reflected his enormous zest for life and his profound love of humanity. The climate of New Brunswick had 'all the marks of virginity about it. It breaks wind furiously spits a little but we continue to manage it.' And the disputatious New Brunswick Assembly was simply another 'Lilliput,' composed of 'fellows here who three years agoe did not know that Magna Charta was not a Great Pudding.'"

I think Ann would have been very pleased to have this electronic Winslow website named in her honour. Though she could damn technology at times, she recognized the good things it does in the realm of scholarship and, as in this case, would encourage more. Though if she were here tonight she might remind us with tongue in cheek, as she did on another occasion:"Now we all know what books are; this Library has over a million bound volumes. My New Age children tell me that a book is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electronic circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It's so easy to use, even a child can operate it." Technology, however useful, would never replace Ann's love of the real thing.

My family and I thank the University and especially Alan Burk and his colleagues at the Elecronic Text Centre for the honour of dedicating The Winslow Papers Electronic website to the memory of Ann's life and role as a scholar at UNB. And I want to thank all of you for coming this evening for your presence here makes it very special for me.