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Ontario Women's History
Oral Histories of Vaughan

In 2009, the Vaughan Public Library undertook an oral history project they call Villages to City: An Oral History of Vaughan. They recorded a large number of interviews with community members, some whose family had been in the area for generations and some who had settled there from elsewhere, including international immigrants.

Some of our favourite interviews include discussions of immigrating from Lebanon, Malta, South Korea, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Guyana, Scotland, and Jamaica.

Many interviews have been fully transcribed and they are all available for streaming and download. You can browse the entire group of oral histories here, which includes men, women, and anonymous interviewees.

These interviews provide fascinating comparisons between life in urban and suburban Ontario in the 20th century and people's countries of origin or previous residence. In particular, many of the interviews with women include details about the everyday lives of women in these places, and the expectations, social pressures, and challenges they faced.

  • Jungwook Shin (PDF transcript):
    "I was a dentist in Korea but my Korean license is unavailable in Canada so my husband has sent my family money for a living. Now I’m just studying English to overcome the language problem."
  • Mahadai Deosaran (PDF transcript):
    "We weren’t brought up to have like….careers….put it that way. We were brought up that you know, you get married, especially the girls, you get married, go to school and get married."
  • Kay Kenley (PDF transcript):
    "I’m retired now. I’m trained to be a teacher, a school teacher and after that I worked with my father, he had a fur business many many years ago in Quebec which I know now is taboo. People don’t buy furs anymore, well about 30-40 years ago, people did buy furs. That’s what I did, I worked as a bookkeeper for him."
  • Eileen Staudinger (no transcript):
    "It was fields and farms, and I could look from my house and see for miles and miles. And now you can't."
  • Miriam Mozes (no transcript):
    "I was born in Hungary and as a little girl I lived through the Holocaust."
  • Monica Johnson (no transcript):
    "In Jamaica, we have a culture that if a parent dies, or moves abroad, the parent or the child's grandparents looks after, or all the relatives will pitch in and look after that child."
  • Anonymous (no transcript):
    "I moved to Vaughan almost five years ago.... I chose Vaughan because this is where my parents settled [over 20 years ago from Jamaica].... I prefer Vaughan because it's much quieter, it's a growing community, and it's easy access back to Toronto."
  • Christina Wilson (no transcript):
    "My father was in the Highland Regiment, in the army, so he went away, and our life during World War II... I was in Aberdeen, so we were bombed quite frequently. My first nights - when I was five, six, seven, eight, nine - we spent many nights in air-raid shelters."
  • Tessie DeBono (no transcript):
    "I grew up in Malta, Europe - it's just a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean ... My earliest memories would be World War II, I guess. When it started I was about five.... It was scary, in a way, but as a kid, we also had a lot of fun. There were a lot of English soldiers there and they used to give us candies and chocolates. We were always running after them and they would teach us little English songs... When the air raids came, we would run to the shelters."
  • Hanaa Nehmee (no transcript):
    "I always dreamed about ... to have a Bachelors degree in accounting, but then we had the war, and I didn't complete my university studies, and then I married, and I became a teacher."
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