Irene Spry | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Irene Spry

Irene Mary Spry (née Biss), economic historian (born 28 August 1907 in Standerton, Transvaal, South Africa; died 16 December 1998 in Ottawa, ON).

Student of the "great transformation" in 19th-century Western Canada, and of natural resource economics, she wrote books and articles and made valuable contributions to the maintenance of humane values in many communities. Her works on the Palliser Expedition 1857-60 and the reminiscences of Peter Erasmus are marked by an appreciation of the imperial context and the economic factors underlying Canadian history in this era.

She was a member of the League for Social Reconstruction in the 1930s, worked with H.A. Innis while he was engaged in his studies of the cod fishery and pulp and paper, and examined the development of electric power in Canada. She represented the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada with the Associated Country Women of the World from 1954 to 1967, acting as executive chairman 1959-65 and deputy president 1968-74.

With her husband Graham Spry, who served as Saskatchewan's agent general in the United Kingdom and Europe for two decades, she was an untiring supporter of Canada and of a social democratic approach to public policy. She was named an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1993.