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Neatby, Hilda (1904–75)

Hilda Neatby.
University of Regina Archives and Special Collections 80-8-16

Hilda Neatby was an educator and a professional historian, and was the sole woman member of the Massey Commission. She was born in Sutton, Surrey, England in 1904, to Andrew Neatby and Ada Neatby (Fisher). In 1906 Hilda, her parents, and eight siblings emigrated to Saskatchewan, settling in Earl Grey. After Andrew Neatby’s medical practice failed, the family turned to farming. Conditions were initially desperate, and never became comfortable. The children were formed by the need to survive, their mother’s determination, their father’s religious training, and his constant reading to them. In 1924 Neatby received a BA Honours in history from the University of Saskatchewan. She then spent ten years in study and university teaching. In 1934 the University of Minnesota granted her a PhD in history. She taught history and French at Regina College until 1946, when she began to teach history at the University of Saskatchewan. In 1958 she became head of the History Department, until 1969. She then spent several years at Queen’s University, researching and writing its history.

Hilda Neatby played an important role on the Massey Commission (1949–51), was the first woman president of the Canadian Historical Association (1962), and became a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1967. She is best known for her 1953 book, So Little for the Mind, a stinging attack on Canadian education that triggered a national debate. Among her other publications were a history of Quebec and two collections of speeches on education. She died on May 14, 1975.

Michael Hayden

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Further Reading

Hayden, M. (ed.). 1983. So Much to Do, So Little Time: The Writings of Hilda Neatby. Vancouver: UBC Press.
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