Marjorie Douglas on her 110th birthday.
|Birth:||13 September 1910|
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
|Death:||7 November 2020|
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Age:||110 years, 55 days|
Not to be confused with Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
Marjorie Douglas was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on 13 September 1910. She graduated with a BA from the University of Manitoba in 1931. Encouraged by her mother, she boarded the train to Toronto where the Library School had been established three years earlier. A book lover since childhood, she had a job lined up with the Winnipeg Public Library upon graduation.
Marjorie lived in a women’s boarding house on Madison Avenue, a short walk to her cataloguing and classification classes, which were held at the Ontario College of Education on Bloor Street. In an interview with the faculty’s alumni magazine in 2012, the year she was presented with a U of T Chancellor’s Medal honouring the 80th anniversary of her graduation, Marjorie talked about her fond memories of Winifred Barnstead, the first director of the Library School and Bertha Bassam, Barnstead’ successor.
She also reminisced about her lasting friendship with classmate Ruth McKenzie showing off a signed copy of her late friend’s best-selling book on Laura Secord. Looking over her old photos, Marjorie was struck by how much more formal clothing was back then. “We wore dresses, nice shoes, and never wore slacks,” she said.
After completing her librarianship diploma in 1932, Marjorie learned that Depression-era cutbacks meant the position she had been promised in Winnipeg had been scaled back to a few hours per week so she wrote to “Miss Barnstead,” as she still called her, for help. She was in luck. Barnstead knew that Trinity College needed a cataloguer who was familiar with the Dewey Decimal System.
Marjorie shortly found herself back at U of T, this time as an employee. While on campus a few years later, she met George Douglas, a Knox College divinity student. They married in 1938 and moved to Niagara Falls where George took his first parish as a Presbyterian minister. Toward the end of the Second World War, Douglas served as a chaplain in the Royal Canadian Navy. After the war, the couple lived in Woodstock, Ont. for 15 years, where Marjorie concentrated on raising her sons George and Robert.
In 1961, her husband was offered the position of Librarian at Knox College on the condition that he get a degree in library science. “My mother used to joke that she enjoyed being able to tell him how to run a library,” said Robert, adding that his father graduated with his master’s degree in library science from Columbia University at age 58.
Looking to resume her career, Marjorie walked into the North York Public Library. After quickly checking with U of T, the library offered her a job on the spot. She worked part-time classifying and cataloguing books until her retirement 13 years later. “By the early 70s, the world was just starting to use computers – just as I was retiring,” she said. “We used white ink on the spine to record the book’s numbers using the Dewey System.”
Marjorie, whose husband died in 1990, credits her longevity to good genes, noting that her mother lived well into her nineties. Her 101-year-old brother Dick Richmond, a retired aeronautical engineer, regularly visits his sister and was named to the Order of Canada earlier this year. He was on hand to propose the champagne toast at her birthday party.
At her retirement residence, Marjorie kept active well into her 11th decade, participating in organized activities, regularly attending “sit and be fit” classes, playing bridge and earning the nickname “Queen of Scrabble.” She sees Robert, who lives in Toronto, regularly, and George and his family, who live in Kanata Ont., as much as possible. Marjorie has a grandson, granddaughter, four great grandsons and one great granddaughter. “Every day is a gift,” she said in her 2012 interview. “I’m thankful for that. I feel that you have to keep your mind vital and mentally active.”
The strict isolation under COVID-19 confined Marjorie to her suite for several months and restricted visits from family. No residents have contacted the virus to date, but the inability to walk outside her suite has reduced Marjorie’s mobility and she has had to replace her walker with a wheelchair. Her concentration and short-term memory are also not as keen as they used to be.
In spite of these constraints, Robert says his mother greatly enjoyed her birthday party and the chance to talk one-on-one to guests both in person and online. “We were really happy at how she rose to the occasion,” he said.
In September 2020, she celebrated her 110th birthday.
Marjorie Douglas lived at Amica Bayview Village in North York, Ontario, Canada. She died in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on 7 November 2020 at the age of 110 years, 55 days.
- 110th birthday Facebook Post, 13 September 2020
- Not even a pandemic could stop Marjorie Douglas, a U of T alumna from celebrating her 110th-birthday Agenparl, 25 October 2020
- The passing of alumna Marjorie Douglas UM Today, 13 November 2020