Memorable Manitobans: Barbara Anne Johnstone (1925-2003)
Born at Winnipeg on 20 April 1925, daughter of Edwin Brooke Johnstone (1884-1951) and Ruby Beresford Cowie (1889-1984), granddaughter of Robert Cuthbert Johnstone and Isaac Cowie, she attended Wolseley School, Isaac Brock School, and Gordon Bell High School. In 1943, she enlisted in the Women’s Division of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Subsequently she trained in nursing at the Winnipeg General Hospital.
A passion for Canadian history led to her appointment as Custodian (later curator) of the Hudson’s Bay Company Museum in its Winnipeg store. Following the closing of this museum in 1961, she was appointed Superintendent of the National Historic Park of Lower Fort Garry, the first woman in Canada to be named to such a position. Here she remained, participating in the fort’s restoration until ill health forced her retirement in 1967.
In recognition of her work in history, she received two Margaret McWilliams Medals (1955, 1969), a Manitoba Centennial Medal (1970), and a Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977). She was a life member of the Manitoba Historical Society, Manitoba Archaeological Society, and Royal Canadian Legion. She wrote many articles and made presentations communicating her knowledge and enthusiasm for Canadian history.
She died unmarried at Selkirk on 11 April 2003 and was buried in the Brookside Military Cemetery.
Her articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:
“Lower Fort superintendent resigns on health grounds,” Winnipeg Tribune, 22 August 1967.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 22 April 2003.
“They will never be forgotten,” Winnipeg Free Press, 31 December 2003, pages A6-7.
We thank Patricia Holbrow for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 10 March 2023