Conversazione

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Date(s) of occurrence: 1860s - 1893, 1895 - 1913, 1919 - present
Conversazione, 1928. Acc. 2010.05; Series 1; Item no. 76, File 4. Photo credit: Robert Love.

Previous/other names: the 'Con'

Origins: Conversazione began as a forum for current issues, organized by the Literary and Debating Society in the 1860s. It then grew to a gala ball during the 1870s, held during the winter, which included both the UNB and Fredericton communities.

History: Conversazione always evolving, first as an intellectual function for students and professors, then to an event which included lectures, laboratory experiments, debates, and finally to a social function which included piano recitals, singing, dancing, and poetry readings. Soon it became Fredericton's biggest social event of the year as a formal ball complete with orchestral music, candlelight, lavish decorations and several hundred attendees from both the university and Fredericton communities. The event was executed by the female students, who prepared and served the the refreshments and cleaned up after the event.

Notes: One notable year (1893-94), Conversazione was cancelled after a protest by female students who had decorated, prepared food, and cleaned up post-event but had never been recognized for their work. They asked for recognition as hostesses of the event, but the male students of the Literary and Debating Society refused, and the women complained to the faculty, resulting in President Thomas Harrison issuing the ultimatum "co-con or no-con". The male students refused to reconsider, and the event was cancelled. Conversazione was returned the next year with women participating equally with the male students.

Conversazione was cancelled again during the First World War,
Elizabeth Brewster reading poetry at Conversazione, May 1969. UA PC 4a; Item no. 2 (52). Photo credit: Joe Stone.
only to be reinstated with the 1919 Victory Conversazione. After WWII the event reverted back to its roots as a forum for discussion and became a literary reading held annually at Encaenia.

Source(s):

  • Montague, Susan. A Pictorial History of the University of New Brunswick. University of New Brunswick, 1992, p. 71.
  • UNB Scrapbooks (UA RG 100), January - November 1946.
  • UNB Scrapbooks (UA RG 100), 1935.
  • UA Case 128; Section 2; File 1.


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