People / Helen Sonthoff

Educator, critic. Helen Sonthoff was born in 1916 in Rochester, New York. She studied at Smith College and Radcliffe College. She accepted a teaching position at Concord Academy (Massachusetts), where she met Jane Rule, who would become her longtime partner. Sonthoff came to Vancouver—where Rule had relocated—in 1956 for what was supposed to be a holiday; she would live in British Columbia for the rest of her life. Sonthoff accepted a teaching position at the University of British Columbia in the Department of English. The quality of her teaching, along with her passionate advocacy for First Nations students and the insight of her critical writing on the work of Phyllis Webb, Milton Acorn, Eli Mandel, and Leonard Cohen, gained Sonthoff a tenured appointment as an Assistant Professor of English in 1968. In addition, as a member of the Women’s Action Group, Sonthoff participated in drawing up the first Report on the Status of Women at the University of British Columbia. Sonthoff retired from teaching in 1976. She passed away in 2000.