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Grace Louise Dolmage Bredin



Training Location(s):

M.Ed. , Northwestern University , (1940)

BA, University of Manitoba, (nd)

Primary Affiliation(s):

University of Manitoba, (nd)

University of British Columbia, (nd)

Media Links:


Grace Bredin: Oral History of Psychology in Canada



Career Focus: children’s education, psychometry, educational psychology, special-needs education.


Grace Louise Dolmage was born March 20th 1903 in the small town of Souris, Manitoba and was the youngest child in a family of eight. Her mother Maryann Hetherington was a leader in the local Missionary Society and her father John Dolmage was a long-term town mayor. Growing up in an academically-oriented and professional family, Bredin was an avid reader and a rather precocious child, as were each of her older siblings. She skipped the eighth grade, was at the top of her classes, was gifted in athletics, and had many friends in her youth.


Towards the end of high school, Bredin experienced the death of her father. Each of her older siblings eventually moved away from home and Bredin was left alone to look after her mother. As a consequence of the sudden re-organization of her family structure, Bredin failed the eleventh grade. Yet, she persevered and became the sixth child in her family to attend university. Although she was initially interested in nursing and medicine, she ultimately realized her passion for teaching. In 1922, Bredin and her mother moved to Winnipeg so she could study at the Central Normal School (now known as the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba). During her undergraduate degree, she began several teaching experiences that would cement her reputation as a strong educator. She began her first teaching experience in Religious Education in a rural Northern Canadian town, and later taught in Oak Lake — a small town in Manitoba, where she was appointed as a special education teacher for what we would now call special needs or handicapped children.


In her third year as an undergraduate, Bredin moved to Illinois to pursue summer school at Northwestern University where she took a course in Mental Measurement and Statistics and shortly began working as a psychometrist. When Bredin returned to Winnipeg to teach mentally handicapped children, she faced several challenges. For example, in the midst of the Great Depression, she realized that many of the students’ learning difficulties stemmed from a lack of food or resources. She also recalled a particularly difficult student with brain damage who many other educators had given up on teaching, but with patience and positive reinforcement Bredin managed to instruct him how to read through private tutoring. When she overheard other students harassing him for his disability, which kept him separated from the rest of the school, she realized that it was important to place special needs children in regular-sized classrooms. She tested eligible students and founded and taught two special-education classes. Under her guidance, these children’s abilities and confidence excelled. She later worked as the school psychologist.


After completing her undergraduate degree from the University of Manitoba, Bredin returned to Northwestern University to pursue a Master’s of Education, specializing in Psychology and the Education of Young Children. She was particularly interested in guidance and counselling in progressive education. She then returned to Winnipeg and taught Educational Psychology at the newly established Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba. Here, Bredin also spearheaded the Winnipeg school district’s Child Guidance Clinic.


In 1956, Bredin moved to Vancouver, where she lived with her three siblings. Over the next 10 years her career took off. Dean Neville Scarfe from the University of Manitoba was invited to establish the College of Education at the University of British Columbia, and offered Bredin the opportunity to direct its Early Childhood Educational program. Both Scarfe and Bredin strongly believed in the crucial role of early childhood years in future development, so a background in nursery education was a primary consideration in faculty recruitment. In 1969, a B.A. and M.A. in Education were offered, as well as an Education Extension program for mature students and a Diploma in Education for Young Children that soon saw a boom in diverse student enrolment.


During the 1960s, Bredin spearheaded one of Canada’s first Child Study Centres at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and became the Vice-Chairperson of the Centre. With her psychometric background, she performed all of the educational and psychological measurement and gained experience working with young autistic children in the process. Bredin carefully built and trained a team of psychologists and teachers in social work, and developed a reading division and later a remedial centre to handle problems within all public schools in the district. She integrated the Canadian Speech and Hearing Association, which was still developing at the time, into a large section within the Child Study Centre. These contributions at UBC were central in preparing teachers for the expansion of kindergarten education.


Bredin joined the Canadian section of the United States-based Childhood Education International and developed many friendships with her American colleagues while attending conferences. In 1948, she travelled to Prague, Czechoslovakia and represented Canada at the inaugural meeting for L’Organisation Mondiale pour L’Education Préscolaire (OMEP), one of the pioneering not-for-profit international organizations to support the education of young children. Bredin became close friends with Elsie Stapleford, who founded Ontarian educational programs such as the Wartime Day Nurseries Program in Ottawa. The two became determined to spearhead a Canadian branch for OMEP. As the first honorary president of OMEP-Canada, Bredin travelled frequently to the Ontario Ministry of Welfare and organized a national committee, with Canada officially becoming a member of OMEP in 1966.


Bredin died on December 3, 1988 in West Vancouver and has been described as a generous and caring mentor to each of her many nieces and nephews as well as their children, offering wise advice in their pursuit of fruitful careers. After retirement, she continued to demonstrate interest in additional program development to advance opportunities and education for children. Bredin’s inspirational dedication, spirit, and passion for children’s education have been commemorated by many.


By Lucy Xie (2019)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works:
About Grace Bredin

Clark, P., Gleason, M., & Petrina, S. (2012). Preschools for science: The Child Study Centre at the University of British Columbia, 1960–1997. History of Education Quarterly, 52(1), 29-61.


Myers, C. R. (1977). An oral history with Grace Bredin. [Transcript], Oral History of Psychology in Canada, Canadian Psychological Association (MG 28, I 161, Vol. 24, File 24-13). Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, ON.


Stapleford, E. (1989). A tribute to Grace Louise Dolmage Bredin 1903–1988. International Journal of Early Childhood, 21(2), 73-74.


Weiss, G. M. (1979). The development of public school kindergartens in British Columbia.

By Grace Bredin

Bredin, G. (1979). Former Chairman, Department of Early Childhood Education, UBC. Interview.


Bredin, G. (1966). The Child Study Centre of the University of British Columbia: Its history and development. Journal of Education of the Faculty of Education, Vancouver, 39-47.

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