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Donalda David Fonds (P735)

Extract from Dictées sténographiques. Cours élémentaire (detail), 1908. Gift of Mr. Pierre-Majella David, Donalda David Fonds P735, M2009.60.1.5 © McCord Museum

Profession: Stenographer

"Lesson One - Shorthand exercises on the vowels A, O, OU, OA. [...] Father saw a cat on the ramp. I got John some coffee. Howard went down on the ground. Rose, go load the boat with clothes."

In early 20th-century Quebec, schools were still allowed to educate girls differently from boys and properly prepare them for their role of wife and mother. The curriculum offered to the "advanced class" (grades 6, 7 and 8) by certain religious communities did, however, include a variety of educational activities for girls that focussed on languages, religion, the humanities, art, home economics and even math and science. Some institutions even went so far as to include subjects such as shorthand and typing, thus preparing young women for the job market. With the increasing demand for secretaries, more and more women were able to enter this formerly male-dominated occupation. This was the path taken by Donalda David (1906-1985), the daughter of a farmer from Sault-au-Récollet (Montreal) and a student at the Sainte-Sophie day school, who subsequently pursued a career as a secretary.

P735 Donalda David Fonds. - 1908-1960. - 10 cm of textual records. - 11 photographs.

Biographical Sketch

Donalda David, the daughter of Ferdinand David and Mélina Langlois, was born in the former village of Sault-au-Récollet (Montreal) in 1906. She likely attended the Sainte-Sophie day school, which was run by the Sisters of the Sacred-Heart. It would appear that Donalda's education was typical for a girl of modest means in a school operated by nuns. There seems to have been a particular emphasis on piety and artistic talents (music, writing, drawing).

Donalda subsequently found work as a secretary for a religious order. As she never married or had children, she left her estate to the Œuvre des vocations du diocèse de Montréal. She died in Montreal in 1985.

Scope and Content

This fonds focusses on the life of Donalda David, in particular, the education she received as a young middle-class woman in early 20th-century Montreal. A music dictation book and a sketch pad exemplify some of the subjects in the curriculum, revealing the teaching and evaluation methods used and the work of a talented, hard-working student. A book on shorthand dictation represents the educational path that led Donalda to a career as a secretary. Clearly valuable as historic examples of girls' education in Quebec, these documents are also rare artefacts of a middle-class child's education.

Moreover, a hand-written speech for a religious jubilee celebrated in 1922 and a notebook containing religious cards (circa 1960) illustrate Donalda's lifelong devotion to the Christian faith.

The fonds also contains eleven photographs of the David family in Montreal North, some of which were taken by the Notman studio. There are two portraits of Pierre M. David (Donalda's nephew), a nun's calling card, a painted portrait of Donalda David, and group photographs from the very first Saint-Vital alumni reunion in 1932 and a 1936 gathering.

Collation: The paper and bindings of the dictation book and sketch pad are fragile and must be handled with care.
Language: The documents are in French and English, but primarily in French.

The fonds is divided into the following series:

  • P735/A Donalda David
    • M2009.60.1.5 Dictées sténographiques. Cours élémentaire. - 1908 [5th edition]. - 1 textual record ; 22 x 15 cm.
      Digitized document

    • Scope and Content: This notebook contains shorthand dictations for the use of teachers and independent learners of shorthand. It documents how Donalda David learned this technique that would lead to her profession.

    • Source of supplied title: Based on the title of the document.
      Physical description: 15 pages.
      Language: The document is in French.

    • M2009.60.1.4 The Ideal Music Dictation Book. - November 21, 1919-February 15, 1920. - 1 textual record ; 20 x 23 cm.
      Digitized document

    • Scope and Content: This music dictation book chronicles the music training Donalda David received at the age of 13 or 14, when she was probably registered in the "advanced class" (grades 6-8). Theory questions alternate with melodic dictations, illustrating the preferred methods of teaching sight reading. The exercises were evaluated on a regular basis and Donalda's marks indicate that she was a serious, meticulous student.

    • Source of supplied title: Based on the title of the document.
      Language: The document is in French and English, but primarily in French.

    • M2009.60.1.6 Cahier de dessin. Québec. À l'usage des Écoles de la Province. - [ca 1920]. - 1 textual record ; 18 x 28 cm.
      Digitized document

    • Scope and Content: This document, which combines two originally separate sketch pads, contains pencil drawings by Donalda David, some of which are titled and signed. It illustrates the drawing method that was taught at that time (which includes copying existing images and studying geometric forms) and Donalda's artistic skill.

    • Source of supplied title: Based on the title of the document.
      Edition: Granger Frères, Limitée, Montréal
      Language: The document is in French.

    • M2009.60.1.2 Book of religious cards. - [ca 1960]. - 1 textual record ; 15 x 20 cm.
      Digitized document

    • Scope and Content: This collection of religious cards reflects the great piety of Donalda David. It contains images of saints and men of the Church, biblical and pastoral scenes, pious reflections, and prayers (addressed, for example, to Our Lady of the Cape and Our Lady of Perpetual Help, or for the beatification of Brother André).

    • Language: The document is in French and English, but primarily in French.

  • P735/B Harcourt Howie Lawrence

  • P735/C Photographs


Last update: August 30, 2017