Elsie Jury played a huge role in fostering the acceptance of women in Ontario archaeology. Born in Perth County, Canada, Elsie was ambitious: at a time when women’s education wasn’t always valued, she attended the University of Toronto and completed her undergraduate degree specializing in English and History in 1933. She then received her MA in History at Columbia University. In her MA thesis, Elsie wrote about the heritage of her ancestors, the Scottish settlers of Perth County.
In 1935 Elsie returned to the University of Toronto and worked as a researcher for Toronto Public Libraries while she worked on a degree in Library Science. In 1942, she took a job at the University of Western Ontario Reference Library. Elsie was very involved in the Ontario Historical Society, helping with their publications, lectures, and research.
Elsie met archaeologist Wilfrid Jury at the University of Western Ontario; he mentions going on a number of chaperoned dates with Elsie in his diaries. During this time, Wilfrid hired Elsie as a historical researcher on the Fairfield project. The dates continued for three years until their wedding in 1948. Elsie and Wilfrid’s marriage marked the beginning of their long lasting partnership and careers.
Elsie played a big role in Wilfrid’s excavations at Saint Marie I in 1947. As part of her role as historical research she contacted every institution, teacher, and historian that could have material on the period to help gather information—she even contacted the Russian Ambassador.
Elsie also helped establish Fanshawe Pioneer Village and the Museum of Ontario Archaeology. She worked on almost every project that Wilfrid worked on during his career as an archaeologist. She would support the project and conduct valuable research to help the projects move forward. Their passion for history and archaeology in Ontario helped further the understanding of Ontario’s history, and promoted conservation of the past.
After Wilfrid’s death in 1981, she continued to work with the Museum of Ontario Archaeology, and at archaeological sites across Ontario until she passed away in 1993.
Submitted by Joan Kanigan and adapted from the original post on the Museum of Ontario Archaeology website.
Images provided courtesy the Museum of Ontario Archaeology and used with permission.