Fonds F 0183 - Joan Sullivan fonds

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Joan Sullivan fonds

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  • Textual record

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CA ON00354 F 0183

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  • 1940s - 2022; predominantly 1970s (Creation)

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Physical description

24 cm textual records

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1927 - 2013)

Biographical history

Joan Sullivan, née Somers (1927-2013) was a wife, mother, union and community activist, and working woman whose life managed to combine idealized mid-century standards for married women’s domesticity and personal appearance with a career and union activism. Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Joan Somers completed an accelerated secondary school business program during the Second World War, leaving school at age 15 to become a bank teller, secretary, and teletype operator in quick succession. In 1946 she married Tom Sullivan and moved with him to Timmins, Ontario, where they started a family which would eventually include three children. In 1953 the family moved to Windsor, Ontario, where Joan became a legal secretary and worked in a series of local law offices and for City Solicitor J. Watson. She became a Commissioner of Oaths in 1966, and taught Law Office Management for a term at St. Clair College. In 1970 she enrolled for one term in commercial law at the University of Windsor but left when a granddaughter required care. During the early- to mid-1970s Joan gained local notoriety (and support) as a vocal advocate for improved working conditions and wages for women office workers, ultimately leading a campaign to unionize Windsor’s legal secretaries and becoming a sought-after public commentator on issues of women’s rights and the place of women in the legal profession. Joan Sullivan retired from her position as private secretary and office manager for Ted J. Hochberg in 1986, at which point she and her husband moved to the small northern Ontario community of Tilden Lake. In retirement she was an active volunteer who served on many local committees, raised funds for the Canadian Cancer Society, and contributed her “legendary” baking to many events. She died of cancer in 2013.

Sources: Contents of fonds; Obituary for Joan Sullivan, Windsor Star, 27 June 2013 (accessed 29 September 2022).

Custodial history

Scope and content

This fonds contains personal, professional, and domestic records from the life of Joan Somers Sullivan in the later-20th and early-21st centuries. Series I (Personal Records) includes reminiscences about Joan, medical information, clippings related to community activitism (including traffic problems in Old Sandwich), and personal journals. Series II (Professional Records) features her resumé and qualifications, as well as administrative records, correspondence, public talks, research material, clippings, and publications connected with her pioneering effort to unionize legal secretaries in Windsor, Ontario during the 1970s. This includes talks for events held by the Faculties of Law at the University of Windsor and the University of Western Ontario, and articles published in the Windsor Woman women’s liberation newspaper and The Oyez Windsor law students’ newspaper. Series III (Domestic Records) contains recipes and household hints used in her later-life personal housekeeping, as well as lists of her annual Christmas baking.

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      A PDF finding aid is available in our archival database:

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