An anonymous $1.7-million dollar bequest in honour of iconic lesbian author Jane Rule has been made to the University of BC to create Canada’s largest endowment fund for the study of human relationships and sexuality.
Rule dared to be openly lesbian and to tell lesbian stories when few others would. She died in November 2007.
A former UBC educator herself, Rule is also credited with contributing to the decriminalization of homosexuality and raising the profile of Canadian literature on the world stage.
The Jane Rule Endowment for the Study of Human Relationships will support programs related to the study of sexual orientation, race and gender.
It will also assist new initiatives to foster positive dialogue among UBC students on identity and empower future generations of teachers with the skills to guide these discussions.
The endowment will also provide support for UBC’s Critical Studies in Sexuality program, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) student groups, conferences and visiting lectures.
The announcement comes on the eve of a conference UBC is hosting this weekend called Queerly Canadian: Changing Narratives, which will pay tribute to Rule and her groundbreaking contributions and feature leading researchers and authors addressing a wide variety of topics related to gay and lesbian culture.
UBC Dean of Arts Nancy Gallini says Rule helped shape international dialogue in Canada around gay rights. “This generous gift will build on her legacy and support the most vibrant and emerging interdisciplinary scholarship in the field,” Gallini says.
Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva says the bequest is “wonderful” news for the community.
“It’s important,” he says. “It sort of fits with what Jane believed in, what she moved forward with her life and her fiction.”
Deva believes the bequest could well have come from Rule’s estate. “She was worth several million,” he says.
Rule was born in Plainfield, New Jersey, and arrived in Vancouver in 1956, becoming a Canadian citizen.
She taught English and Creative Writing at UBC for nearly 15 years.
Rule was one of the first female writers of her generation to publicly acknowledge homosexuality and gay culture in her work. She authored 12 books, contributed to the Body Politic (Xtra West’s parent paper) and received numerous awards, including the Order of Canada, the Order of British Columbia, the Canadian Authors’ Association Award for Best Novel and the Benson and Hedges Award for Best Short Stories.
Rule died at the age of 76 at her home on Galiano Island due to complications from liver cancer. She was buried next to her long-time partner Helen Sonthoff.
Visit Xtra.ca’s Jane Rule archives for her essays, columns, photos and more.