Literary and Debating Society

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Previous/other names: Men's Debating Society (1902 - 1947); Debating Union (1947 - 1969? co-ed/merged with Delta Rho Society); UNB Debate Society (1982 - ?)

Prominent date(s) of activity: 1863 - 1969?

History: The initial purpose of the Literary and Debating Club was to develop students' public speaking abilities. In the early 1900's the group became known as the Men's Debating Society, because it acted as a counterpart to the equally active Women's Debating Society (Delta Rho Society). Debating continued to be a popular and prominent activity at UNB, and in 1947 the two societies merged into a single co-ed club, the Debating Society. Debating fell out of favour during the 1970's, but was resumed again in 1982.

In 1885, the University Monthly published a disclaimer that despite the numerous invaluable benefits that students were recieving from participation in the society, participation was frequently quite low. Those who chose not to join the society during their time at UNB generally regretted missing out on the experience. Those who showed up to meetings but did not participate generally found themselves disinterested, and received little benefit.

In 1887, the weekly meetings were said to be quite dry and boring, and it was therefore proposed that the group initiate guest lectures on interesting topics to better captivate and entertain the student audience.

In 1895 a student suggested that more focus be placed on the "literary" side of the club by having interesting papers - short or long - read and discussed among the members.

Activities: Members of the Literary and Debating Society practiced public speaking and parliamentary debate. Beginning in the late 1800's, and again in 1948, the Debating Society sponsored an annual Model Parliament at UNB.

In 1952 the Debating Society merged with the UNB Political Club because were members of both societies. It was felt that the goals of both societies could still be met upon ammalgamating.

Note(s): UNB's Literary and Debating Society main activity was the publication of the University Monthly, a predecessor of The Brunswickan. Female students had joined the paper's staff but were relegated to subservient positions and treated in a belittling manner. In a series of letters and articles printed in the University Monthly in 1893, the women argued that, because they comprised one third of the student body, they should be allowed to play a larger role in the production of the paper and other extra-curricular events. Infuriated, the male students suggested that if the women's arguments were carried to their logical conclusion, they might expect to take "part in the varied festivities of smoke-out night or Hallowe'en or scrambling for apples" which would be a "descent to the ridiculous." The male students claimed that the women had no right to be members of the Literary and Debating Society and should "restrain their journalistic aspirations." As a result, the female students cancelled their subscriptions to the University Monthly and those on the paper's staff resigned.

Source(s):

  • UA Case 173.
  • University Monthly, vol. 5, no. 2, November 1885, p. 18.
  • University Monthly, vol. 7, no. 1, October 1887, p. 4.
  • University Monthly, vol. 13, no. 1, October 1893, p. 13, 28-29.
  • University Monthly, vol. 13, no. 5, February 1894, p. 38, 56, 60.
  • University Monthly, vol. 15, no. 2, November 1895, p. 50.
  • University Monthly, vol. 19, no. 5-6, February 1900, p. 149.
  • Up the Hill, 1947, Organizations.
  • Up the Hill, 1957, p .96.


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