Williams, M. B. (Mabel Bertha), 1878-1972 : M. B. Williams was born in Ottawa in 1878, daughter of David Williams and Sarah Longley. The provincial registration of her birth records her name as just "Mabel" Williams but she usually went by "M. B. Williams" for professional purposes and in her publications (the "B" stood for Berta or Bertha). Shortly after her birth, her family moved to London, Ontario. Her older brother, Ernest Lewis Williams, was a family physician and surgeon in London. She studied English and Languages at Huron College in London, and then went to the University of Toronto, graduating in 1900 with a Bachelor of Arts. Williams secured a position in the federal civil service in Ottawa in 1901, first with the Department of Fisheries, and then very shortly after moved to the Department of the Interior. In 1911, J. B. Harkin, the first Commissioner of National Parks Branch, hired her to handle publicity and education for the new branch, making her one of its first seven employees. She remained with National Parks for the rest of her professional career, retiring in 1930 when the Depression forced heavy cutbacks to her section. During her years with the National Parks, she assisted in the production of promotional film documentaries and wrote articles and guides to promote and publicize the Parks. Her guidebooks, "Through the Heart of the Rockies and Selkirks" and "The Kicking Horse Trail", were reprinted many times.
Williams moved to London, England in 1932 with her close friend, Mrs. Zoe Herridge, the widow of W. T. Herridge, and together they wrote the 1932 Commonwealth Christmas broadcast commentary for the CBC. Williams became involved with various groups in London, including the Society for Psychical Research, and began work on a number of her own projects. There she wrote the publication for which she is most remembered, "Guardians of the Wild" (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1936); a comprehensive and historical account of Canada's National Parks, written and published for a British audience. "Guardians of the Wild" won praise on both sides of the Atlantic and became a symbol for conservation and tourism in the Rocky Mountains. While in England, Williams began research for a biography or play based on the life of David Thompson, the fur trader and explorer of the Canadian wilderness. This work was never completed or published, though she left extensive manuscripts of her research.
With rising tensions in Europe, Williams and Herridge returned in 1938 to Canada. Williams settled in London, Ontario until the death of both her mother and sister "Brownie" in 1944. At that time, she moved to Vancouver where she and artist Mabel Bain combined efforts to write and illustrate "The Banff-Jasper Highway" (Saskatoon: H. R. Larson Publishing Co., 1948), a guidebook to the area that would be sold on that route, one of Canada's most popular and scenic tourist destinations, for many years. Williams returned to London, Ontario in 1948, following the death of her brother Ernest's wife, Adah Campbell. She remained there, sometimes wintering in the south until her own death in 1972. In her later years, she was absorbed by an interest in philosophy and metaphysics, reading the works of Jung, Einstein, Huxley, Blake, and others, and keeping detailed notes of her findings. She also became an avid painter and was active in local groups such as the Local Council of Women and the Women's Garden at Springbank.