Edith Fowke | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Edith Fowke

Edith Fowke, writer
An avid collector of folk song recordings, Fowke was also a prolific writer on Canadian folk music (courtesy McClelland & Stewart).

Edith Fowke

 Edith (Margaret) Fowke (b Fulton). Folklorist, collector, writer, teacher, b Lumsden, near Regina, 30 Apr 1913; d Toronto 28 Mar 1996. BA (Saskatchewan) 1933, BA (College of Education, Saskatchewan) 1934, MA (Saskatchewan) 1937, honorary LL D (Brock) 1974, honorary D LITT (Trent) 1975, honorary D LITT (York) 1982, honorary LL D (Regina) 1986. She studied English literature and history at the University of Saskatchewan and teaching methods at the Saskatchewan College of Education. She taught high school, and worked briefly for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF); her interest in prairie socialism later manifested itself in her interest in the songs and legends of ordinary people. She married Frank Fowke in 1938 and moved to Toronto. Her interest in folksong and her disappointment in the small quantity of Canadian song published and recorded led her to begin her own researches in the mid-1940s. She prepared CBC radio's weekly "Folk Song Time" (1950-63), supplementing available material with music from her several field trips around Ontario in the mid-1950s. The first collector to concentrate on that province's folklore, she found the Guelph, Ottawa Valley, and, especially, Peterborough areas to be rich in folksongs. Among the folksingers she discovered and recorded were O.J. Abbott, Tom Brandon, and LaRena Clark. Also for CBC radio Fowke prepared "Folk Sounds" (weekly 1963-74), "Folklore and Folk Music" (42 programs broadcast in 1965 on "The Learning Stage"), and "The Travelling Folk of the British Isles" (seven programs for "Ideas" in 1967). A founding member of the Canadian Folk Music Society (now Canadian Society for Traditional Music) in 1956, she became the editor of its publication, the Canadian Folk Music Journal, in 1973, a position she retained until her death. In 1971 she began teaching folklore at York University. In the 1980s Fowke also (briefly) taught folk music in the University of Calgary's Kodaly program, and was president 1985-6 of the Folklore Studies Association of Canada.

Fowke edited various periodicals including The Western Teacher, and contributed articles to the Journal of American Folklore, Midwest Folklore, Western Folklore, Ethnomusicology, Sing Out!, and the Canadian Forum, and to such reference books as the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature, and Literary History of Canada. Her book Sally Go Round the Sun: 300 Songs, Rhymes and Games of Canadian Children won a bronze medal from the Association of Children's Librarians in 1970, and she received the Canadian Authors Association's Vicky Metcalf Award in 1985 "for a body of work inspirational to Canadian youth." At the time of her death Fowke had published over 20 books on folklore and folk music, and was working on others.

Fowke was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1978, and named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1983. She was the first Canadian to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Folk Alliance conference, Feb 2000 (posthumously). A biographical play entitled "Fowke Tales (One Woman, 72 Road Trips, CBC Radio, and the Rest is Peterborough County's Musical History)" premiered in 2008 at the Lang Pioneer Village Museum in Peterborough. In 2011 the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame honoured Fowke with the Frank Davies Legacy Award.

Fowke's dedication to preserving Canada's folk music has been widely recognized both by scholars and by folk musicians, who have often turned to her for repertoire. Her field recordings have been deposited at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa and at the York University library. Some have been released commercially in LP form. Her archives are held by the University of Calgary.


- and Johnston, R. Folk Songs of Canada (Waterloo Music 1954)

- and Glazer, Joe. Songs of Work and Freedom (Chicago 1960)

- and Johnston, R. More Folk Songs of Canada (Waterloo Music 1967)

Sally Go Round the Sun: 300 Songs, Rhymes and Games of Canadian Children (Toronto 1969)

"Canadian folk songs for children," In Review, Winter 1970

- and Cass-Beggs, Barbara. "A reference list on Canadian folk music," Canadian Folk Music Journal, vol 1, 1973, rev Canadian Folk Music Journal, vol 6, 1978

The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs (Harmondsworth, Eng, 1973)

Folklore of Canada (Toronto 1976)

Ring around the Moon (Toronto 1977, repr 1987)

- and Carpenter, Carole H. A Bibliography of Canadian Folklore in English (Toronto 1981)

- ed. Songs and Sayings of an Ulster Childhood by Alice Kane (Toronto 1983)

- and Mills, Alan, eds. Singing our History (Toronto 1984)

"Filksongs [sic] as modern folk songs," Canadian Folklore vol 7, 1985

"Romantic ballads in North America," New York Folklore, vol 13, no. 3/4, 1987

Canadian Folklore (Toronto 1988)

"Irish folk songs in Canada," The Untold Story of the Irish in Canada (Toronto 1988)

"History of English ballads research in Ontario," Ballades et chansons folkloriques, ed Conrad Laforte (Quebec City 1989)

"Collecting and studying Canadian folk songs," Ethnomusicology in Canada, ed Robert Witmer, CanMus Documents 5 (Toronto 1990)

"Marius Barbeau," Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol 92: Canadian Writers 1890-1920, ed W.H. New (Detroit 1990)

See also Bibliographies for Folk music, Anglo-Canadian (Ontario and the Prairies); Occupational songs; Political songs.


(recordings made by Edith Fowke)
Sally Go Round the Sun (companion to Sally Go Round the Sun). 1970. T-46494-95

Far Canadian Fields (companion to The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs). 1975. Leader LEE-4057

See also Discographies for Folk music, Anglo-Canadian (Ontario and the Prairies); Tom Brandon; LaRena Clark; Lakes; Occupational songs.

Further Reading