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Elementary Schools in Victoria County, Ontario Canada

Only a few primitive schools grew up in Victoria county in the ill regulated period prior to Ryerson's appointment as Provincial Superintendent of schools.

In Emily, the first school was at Omemee. James Laidley and Captain Matthew Handcock were early teachers. The first school in Ops was the modern school section No. 9, long known as the "McNeely school." The first teacher here was Wm. P. McGrane, who came in from Cavan township in 1835. He taught at first in his own log home and then in a log school on the farm of Charles Corneil. The "Walker school," at the junction of the Mt. Horeb and Omemee roads, was also very early. The teacher here was Thomas Kent. In Mariposa, the first schools were at Oakwood and at Taylor's Corners. In Eldon, the first teachers were Angus Ray, in a house on the Thorah side of the town line, Lachlan Campbell, on Concession III, and John Groogan, on Concession VI. The first school in Verulam was taught by John Taylor in a log cabin on Bobcaygeon Island.

Under the Common School Act of 1843, Rev. Elias Burnham of Peterborough was appointed Superintendent of Schools for the Colborne District, a position which he held till 1850. His salary was at first 25 per annum, and was later raised to 50, a sum which was supposed to cover traveling expenses which far exceeded his stipend. Had he not possessed private means, he could never have carried on, as he did, at a dead loss for seven years of unremitting toil. His report for 1844 records a great deficiency of school books, due to the poverty or indifference of parents. A fair number of children could read and write, but neither grammar nor history was taught and geography was rare.

Thomas Benson succeeded Burnham in 1851 at a salary of 130 per annum. He resigned at the end of the year and his letter of resignation, quoted hereinafter in part, is an eloquent commentary on conditions at that time: "The first and most powerful motive which impels me to decline a reappointment to the office of superintendent of schools is the conviction that the amount of labor which the faithful discharge of its duties would entail upon the incumbent is more than any one person could possibly endure. The distance which must be traveled over to complete one visit to each school section in this county would appear totally incredible to anyone who had not taken some pains to reckon up the numerous journeys it occasions; one visit could not be nearly accomplished in a quarter of the year at an average rate of traveling of twenty miles a day. This rate, considering the state of most of the roads and the time which must be spent in properly examining a school, is greater than could possibly be maintained for a whole year. Then upwards of six hundred communications have been received and nearly five hundred dispatched. The operation of a law but newly introduced entailed upon me the preparation of opinions and decisions which not infrequently required days of careful research, and much labor in furnishing numerous copies. (All this having to be done personally and in pen and ink.) I do not exaggerate when I state that the office work alone of my situation has consumed more time and required more anxious exertion than is devoted to some of the best paid offices in the country. I find that my health is not equal to the task this office imposes. Frequent night journeys and change of quarters brought on a fit of illness which kept me from the performance of my duties, for several weeks, every attempt to resume my journeys bringing on a relapse. Moreover, my personal expenses for the year, including traveling expenses, repairs, postage, and loss in value of a horse worn down, have amounted to about seventy pounds, leaving only sixty pounds as compensation for services which occupied the whole of my time, to the exclusion of all. other sources of income."

Benson, whose son was later Judge Benson, of Port Hope, was one of the outstanding Canadians of his generation. He was killed in the great railroad disaster at the Desjardines Canal in 1857.

After his retirement in 1852, a system of Local or Township Superintendents was set up. By 1857, nine men (five in Victoria county and four in Peterborough) were carrying out the duties which he had borne alone.

In 1857, Local Superintendents in Victoria were as follows:
Rev. Wm. Briden, Omemee, supervising Emily, with 14 schools;
A. Lacourse, Lindsay, supervising Ops, with 10 schools;
W. H. McLauchlin, Oakwood, supervising Mariposa, with 20 schools;
Peter H. Clark, M.D., Woodville, supervising Eldon, with 6 schools;
Rev. Daniel Wright, Fenelon Falls, supervising Fenelon, Verulam, Somerville, and Bexley, with 10 schools.

Some 4022 children were attending school, of whom 2177 were boys and 1845 girls. Of the 47 school houses, 35 were log, 11 frame, and 1 brick. Some 39 schools were free, and 16 partly free. All the teachers held qualifying certificates. The average length of the school term was 11 months, 26 days. There had been 422 visits made during the year, chiefly by trustees and clergy-men. No common school in the county was teaching Canadian history, but 12 were giving instruction in algebra and 7 in geometry.

In Lindsay, the first school had been begun about 1841 in a frame building which still stands at 23 Wellington Street. It was used as a school during the week and as a Methodist church on Sundays. In 1852 a frame school was built on the northwest corner of Kent and Albert streets.

Four years later, Roman Catholic Separate School classes were begun by John O'Donnell in the log church on the southwest corner of Lindsay and Russell streets. The attendance in 1857 was 114 and the teacher's salary 100. O'Donnell's immediate successors were Michael O'Neill (1858-60), John Murray (1860-61), John O'Brien 1861-62, and John Sweeney (1862-64). In 1868, the present white brick building was erected on the same lot as the log church. At the present day, there is a staff of three teachers with a registration of 154 boys. Roman Catholic girls to the number of 160 are given instruction in St. Joseph's Academy, Lindsay.

The frame Common School building in Lindsay was replaced in 1863 by a red brick Union School building, demolished in July 1921. This mangled adaptation of a mediaeval abbey was built with six class rooms and projecting bricks on either side of the building out side for convenience in making additions. About 1870, the bricks on the west side were utilized by putting on a two room addition. No use was ever made of those on the east side, for a policy of building extra ward schools was entered upon instead. At the present day Lindsay has four splendid Public School buildings, all comparatively new: the Victoria School in the East Ward, the King Albert School in the South Ward, the Alexandra School in the North Ward, and the Central School on the old site on the northwest corner of Kent and Albert streets. The registration in these schools last year was 1217, and the expenditure for maintenance $34,327.29.

In the county as a whole, the School Act of 1871 established two inspectorates, East Victoria and West Victoria. The inspectors then appointed were J. H. Knight and Henry Reazin respectively. Their successors in more recent times have been G. E. Broderick and W. H. Stevens, B.A., respectively.

In 1877, there were 135 schools in the county, of which 53 were brick, 41 frame and 41 log structures.

In 1920, there were only 103 rural schools but 74 were brick, 4 stone, 25 frame, and none of logs. The total value of rural school property and equipment in 1920 was $460,317.00; and the total expenditure on education for the year was $216,604.81.

The number of school children has, however, decreased rapidly. In the rural Inspectorate of West Victoria, during the past 37 years, while the number of householders has increased by 492, the number of children' of school age has dropped from 6593 to 2479. The cause is obviously not migration to urban centers, but the voluntary limitation of families. As a result, many schools once prosperous are now almost deserted. There are five schools in West Victoria whose average total attendance is only 20 pupils, or 4 pupils to each teacher employed. Attempts have been made to improve the situation by "consolidating" school sections adjacent to Manilla and Woodville, but the movement has been defeated by the opposition of childless rate payers. The consolidated school is, however, a make shift and not a remedy; and would itself ultimately stand empty under continued race suicide.

The total value of all school property and equipment in the county today is $867,068.00; while the total expenditure on education in 1920 was $282,663.96.

Agricultural Instruction

The first instruction in agriculture in this county was given in 1907 in connection with the Lindsay Collegiate Institute by Francis H. Reed, B.S.A., then newly appointed as County Agricultural Representative.

The present representative, Mr. A. A. Knight, has been holding courses in agriculture in connection with the Farmers' Clubs. He has also organized very successful school fairs in connection with the rural schools. In 1920 ,school fairs were held at Bobcaygeon, Burnt River, Cambray, Dalrymple, Downeyville, Dunsford, Fenelon Falls, Kirkfield, Little Britain, Oakwood, Omemee, Reaboro, and Woodville. In all, there were 2675 children and 1750 adults at these fairs. Entries of cooking, poultry, flowers, fruits, grains, and vegetables totaled 3779. Competitive garden plots, planted and tended by the children, exceeded 2000 in number. These fairs excite great interest and are undoubtedly a very effective form of instruction.

Secondary Education in Victoria

No secondary schools appeared in this county until after the Grammar School Act of 1853. The Lindsay Grammar School was then established in 1854, the Omemee Grammar School in 1858, and the Oakwood Grammar School in 1859.

It may be convenient to treat of these schools in the reverse order.

The first teacher of the Oakwood Grammar School was George Murray, a BA. of Oxford University, who was later known as one of Canada's most distinguished classicists. The school was at first built and maintained by the school section alone, but later obtained support from the township of Mariposa. It had a long career of exemplary usefulness and turned out hundreds of successful graduates such as Dr. Wylie, M.P.P., George Thomas, Dr. Broad, Dr. Whiteside, J. L. Whiteside, H. J. Lytle, Judge McIntyre, Rev. Thomas Brown, Rev. J. Hubbell, Rev. C. V. Lake, Rev. Isaac Weldon, Rev. S. J. Cunnings, Donald Anderson, Frederick Shaver, and many others. So important was Oakwood as a school center that in 1887 some 45 students passed the Entrance there to 29 at Lindsay. In 1888, an un-edifying feud arose between the School Board and the Township Council, and the school was ultimately assassinated as a piece of municipal politics.

The Omemee Grammar School was begun in 1858 in conjunction with the Common School. The principal for nearly a quarter of a century was John Shaw, M.A. Perhaps the most distinguished graduate of the school has been "Formosa" McKay, the famous missionary. The school buildings were destroyed by fire on November 18, 1884, and again on January 28, 1904, but were rebuilt. Of recent years the registration of pupils has stood at about 40.

The Grammar School at Lindsay was established in 1854. When the first attempt to sketch the history of the school was made in 1899, it was found that incomplete minutes of the Board of Education, dating back to 1857, indicated that the Grammar School had been in existence at least as early as 1855. The present author has since discovered, by research in the Dominion Archives, that a legislative grant of 100 was made to the Lindsay Grammar School in 1854.

Classes were held in the Common School building, a small frame structure on the corner of Albert and Kent streets. The sole teacher was William Daunt, whose wife had charge of all the Common School classes. The total population of the village did not exceed 500 at this time.

On February 5, 1863, a new Union School building of red brick, farther west in the same block, was opened. This edifice, which was torn down in July 19 21 ,was a mock mediaeval hybrid of monastery and barracks, with the air of a shoddy castle badly run to seed. Robert Hudspeth had become master of the Grammar School in 1861, while Francis Whalley and Jos. A. Clark had taken over the Common School classes. Hudspeth was succeeded in 1866 by the Rev. A. Murray, then but recently arrived from Scotland; and the latter in 1876 by Henry Reazin. Reazin retired at the close of 1870 to become Public School Inspector for West Victoria. Alfred M. Lafferty, M.A., then became principal. As the headmaster of the High School was then also head of Public Schools, Lafferty asked for an assistant, and, on meeting with a refusal, resigned. His successor from 1872 to 1879 was Robert L. Dobson.

The following list of successful Entrance candidates from 1872 to 1876 may be of interest:1872, R. G. Corneil, John Woods, Charles Reeves, Robert McDougall, George Patrick, James C. Grace, William Johnson; 1873, George Bigelow, Jas. M. Knowlson, John Baxter, John McIntyre, J. C. Whyte, James Watson; 1874, A. Bryson, Wm. Fee, Hugh McLachlan, W. D. Best; 1875, Alex. Morrison, R. J. McLennan, T. Nugent, Alex. Skinner, E. C. Young, N. McMurchy, George Fowles, S. J. Mason; 1876, A. Freeman, T. Macaulay, W. A. McLennan, R. M. Spier, Jas. Curtin, S. Malone.

In 1876, Thomas C. Patrick, the first matriculate of the school, passed into law school. BM 1885, the number of matriculates had risen to 4; and there was an average of 6 for the three years 1904-06. In 1920, the school passed 34 pass matriculates, and 14 honor matriculants, in addition to securing 40 second class certificates and 7 first class certificates. Another promising record was that of 1915 when there were 22 first class certificates, 36 second class certificates, 49 third class certificates, 5 honor matriculates, and 24 pass matriculates.

The school has also had a gratifying scholarship record, as follows:
1880, Roderick McLennan, Queen's scholarship in mathematics;
1881, B. S. Vanstone, third general proficiency scholarship, Toronto;
1885, W. H. Mills, Registrar scholarship, Queen's;
1886, Fred R. Heap, classical scholarship, Queen's;
1893, Jessie Brown, two Toronto scholarships in classics and general proficiency;
1897, E. J. Kylie, classical scholarship, Toronto;
1898, Mary Macdonald, proficiency scholarship;
1901, F. A. Jackson, scholarship in Latin, French and German;
1901, W. C. Way, scholarship in mathematics, Queen's;
1910, Henry Philp, scholarship in mathematics, Queen's;
1910, Dorothy French, four different Toronto scholarships in Classics and Moderns;
1911, Leigh Cruess, scholarship in Mathematics, Queen's;
1913, J. M. Clark, scholarship in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry;
1913, George Hardy, first Edward Blake Scholarship in Classics and Mathematics, Toronto;
1913, Watson Kirkconnell, eight different Queen's scholarships in Mathematics, English and History, Moderns and general proficiency;
1921, John Lucas, scholarship in Mathematics, McMaster.

The attendance rose from 62 in 1877 to 186 in 1881; then dropped to 115 in 1885; and has since risen steadily to 207 in 1907 and to 374 in 1921. The number of teachers has grown from 4 in 1882 to 7 in 1908 and to 11 in. 1921.

In 1880, W. E. Tilley, M.A., became principal. He was succeeded in 1884 by Wm. O'Connor, B.A., and the latter in 1887 by J. C. Harstone, B.A. Mr. Harstone continued as principal until 1908. Associated with him during his incumbency were Messrs. R. H. Walker, F. F. McPherson, John Head, E. A. Hardy, J. C. Corkery, J. H. Coiling, Geo. H. Cornish, W. H. Stevens, J. S. McLean, Luther Taylor, and Chas. P. Muckle, and Misses Addison, Staples, Eliza Fitzgerald, Sophia Marty, Alice Wilson, and Julia Hillock.

In 1888, a new school building was completed on the corner of Kent and Adelaide streets. This was a three story structure of red brick on a foundation of white Bobcaygeon stone, 74 feet square. Its accommodation included 7 classrooms, an Assembly Hall, 40 feet by 72 1-2 feet, planned to seat 700, and a stage 30 feet by 25 feet. The architect was Wm. Duffus, and the contractors Messrs. McNeely .and Walters. The total cost was $27,000.

The new school was formally opened on January 22, 1889, by the Hon. G. W. Ross, then Minister of Education. It was now raised from the status of High School to that of Collegiate Institute.

A cadet corps, later registered with the Militia Department as No. 44, was organized December 23, 1898, under the stimulus of the approaching Boer War. The corps originally comprised only a limited number of the senior boys but was reorganized in 1910 as a cadet battalion, including every boy in the school. During the World War of 1914-18, some 264 ex-members of the corps served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force ,and 26 gave up their lives in the cause.

On December 29, 1898, a great Alumni Reunion and Conversatione was held; and in 1905 a semi-centennial celebration was staged.

In 1908, T. A. Kirkconnell, B.A., the present principal, assumed control. His associates since that time have been as follows:
Science: Howard Rosevear, D. A. McKay, Thos. Firth
English: J. F. Macdonald, J. Newman, E. W. Jennings;
Classics: J. A. Freeman, R. A. Croskery, E. A. Miller, Chas. Owens, Arthur Hooper, Walter Clark, P. K. Hambly;
Moderns: Miss Allen, Miss Teskay, Miss M. I. Whyte, Miss Gibson, Miss Bristol, Mrs. Cameron, Miss M. Montgomery;
History: Gordon Manning, Albert O'Neill, M. Erb, A. Johnston;
junior work: L. Wheelton, M. Rogers, R. A. A. McConnell, F. H. Bissonette, J. S. Crerar, G. S. Mattice, R. Kerfoot, M. Brokenshire, F. H. Barlow, Miss K. Moir, Miss D. Morley, Miss Vanalstyne, Miss Corkery, Miss Shook, Miss E. Davis;
Commerce: G. A. Robertson, G. A. Lucas.

The growth of school population made necessary the building of a new wing, consisting of four classrooms, two private rooms for principal and male teachers respectively, and a gymnasium 80 feet long by 40 feet wide. This addition to the school was opened March 1, 1910, by President Robert Falconer of Toronto University. In 1921, accommodation has again become painfully inadequate.

The chairmen of the Board of Education of Lindsay for the past 64 years have been as follows:
1857, Rev. J. Hickie;
1858, G. M. Roche, Esq.;
1859-65, Rev. J. Vicars, B.A.;
1866-67, J. Fidler, M.D.;
1868, Hon. S. C. Wood;
1869, 1871-72, 1874-75, John McLennan, M.A.;
1870, Adam Hudspeth, Esq.;
1873, Lawrence Maguire, Esq.;
1876-85, Wm. Grace, Esq.;
1886-90, Adam Hudspeth, Q.C., M.P.;
1890, Hon. John Dobson;
1891-99, J. R. McNeillie, Esq.;
1900-12, Thomas Stewart, Esq.;
1913-15, J. D. Flavelle, Esq.;
1915-17, Alex. Jackson, Esq.;
1917-21, John W. Anderson, Esq.

Public Libraries in Victoria

A magazine reading room was founded in Lindsay in May 1860; and was supported by an annual fee of six dollars from each of 130 of the leading citizens. It was located next to Thomas Beall's store in the present Dundas and Flavelle block.

On January 10, 1880, it was reorganized as a Mechanics' Institute, under the librarianship of H. A. Wallis, over Dobson's store, on the southeast corner of Kent and William streets. In 1884, drawing classes were held by A. Reading, a graduate of the Ontario School of Art. The Institute was opened as a Free Public Library March 23, 1899. Negotiations with Andrew Carnegie were entered into in 1902 with a view to financing the construction of a library building, and $13,500 was secured on the town's guarantee of a minimum annual grant of $1350 for maintenance. A red brick structure in modern Greek style was opened to the public July 5, 1904. In 1920, the shelves contained 7 901 volumes; the legislative grant was $ 251.45; and $2145.31 was spent on books and salaries.

There are also free public libraries at Little Britain and Oakwood, with 3026 and 2177 volumes respectively; and association libraries at Manilla with 5068 volumes, at Fenelon Falls with 4837 volumes, at Bobcaygeon with 3406 volumes, at Kirkfield with 2513 volumes, at Cambray with 2330 volumes, at Omemee with 1716 volumes, and at Kinmount with 1617 volumes.

Technical School Founded

In the autumn of 1919, an Industrial and Technical School was organized in Lindsay under the direction of T. A. Kirkconnell, BA., LL.D., Principal of the Collegiate Institute. There was a registration of 380 pupils, to whom instruction was given by a staff of 14 teachers. The only fee was $2.00, refundable in all cases where 75% attendance had been made. All classes were held in the evening in the Central public school building. Tuition was given in Shop Mechanics, Drafting for Woodworkers and Ironworkers, English, Commercial Subjects, the Railroad Airbrake, and Sewing and Dressmaking. The term lasted from November 1, 1919, to March 31, 1920. Interest was sustained until the end. The most gratifying feature of the work was that the pupils registered were in the great majority of cases precisely those persons, (clerks, artisans, mechanics, housekeepers, etc.,) who might be expected to reap immediate benefit.

In November 1920, the Night School was reopened under the principalship of Thomas Firth, M.A. The subjects of Motor Mechanics, Millinery, and Home Nursing were now added to the curriculum. The future possibilities of the school, as a institution for the continual education of the adult community, are very great indeed.

Present Needs of our Schools

In spite, however, of all the development of Victoria county's schools, as already sketched, and in spite of heavy expenditure in the past and the present, our school system is still far from perfect.

Perhaps the most pressing need of the times is a proper medical inspection of all school children. The system began in Belgium in 1874; has since been adopted in France, Germany, Austria, England, Japan, many of the United States, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta; and only found favor in the supposedly enlightened province of Ontario in 1919. The Department of Education then began to urge its adoption and to assist in conducting medical surveys. In one case, out of 2303 children examined, fewer than 100 were found to be without defects, and of the great number of defectives about 85% were curable by the simplest kind of a surgical operation. It the defects were not remedied, the children would in some cases be condemned to lives of comparative uselessness; while in all cases their powers would be impaired, their progress retarded, and the seeds of incurable disease perhaps planted. Another survey conducted this year in three townships in Lambton county found that out of 1286 pupils examined 92% were defective. Such instances could be multiplied by reference to other surveys.

Victoria county still remains in heathen darkness in this matter. In November 1920, the local Women's Institute sought to stir the school authorities up to action. The movement has, however, been blocked, apparently through the hostility of the doctors, who should be the most enlightened sponsors of the project but who are perhaps unable to agree to cooperate because of incompatibility of professional temperament. It is to be hoped that the Women's Institute will refuse to accept defeat, for the need is urgent and neglect is a menace to the community.

Another necessary measure, affecting only the outside students in attendance at the Collegiate Institute, is the ensuring of proper lodging and guardianship. A residence or hostel for the girls, run at cost and headed by a responsible matron, is very desirable, for protection is needed today from a pack of wolves whom the pioneers knew not of. Boardinghouses, too, should be supervised, not officiously but ,maternally and with only the students' interests at heart.

In the larger public schools, we shall soon hope to see applied a new method of grading children according to intellectual capacity. A school of modern psychologists, beginning with Alfred Binet, a Frenchman, in 1904, has worked out a remarkable system for measuring intelligence, or the capacity of the mind, rather than the actual knowledge accumulated through study. The tests employed demonstrate the vast difference in intelligence which all teachers know to exist between one child and another, and solve most problems associated with retarded or precocious children by enabling the teacher to assign them tasks commensurate with their actual ability. The actuality of the results obtained have been vindicated for all time by wholesale experiments on the American Army, and the time is not far distant when our Ontario school system will recognize, measure, and accommodate the individual differences in intelligence between child and child.

Manual training for boys ,more particularly in the town schools, is much needed. The aim of education is not the accumulation of stores of miscellaneous information, which the adult gets from encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other works of reference, but the training of the mind to deal with life's problems when maturity is reached. The development, through intricate training, of a great variety of muscles, especially those of the hand, brings corresponding growth to the brain centers by which they are controlled. The country boy, through his use of many implements and tools, has thus an immense advantage in actual brain development over the modern town boy. The only practical remedy for this deficiency in the life of the town boy is to supply classes in manual training.

This need not be detrimental to efficient training in the three R's. It has been conclusively demonstrated by modern psychologists that in each subject there is a time limit within which the best results are secured and beyond which instruction is non-productive. For example, half an hour a day on arithmetic and ten minutes on spelling have been found to give as good results with Public School pupils as an hour and a half on arithmetic and forty minutes on spelling. Obviously, ample time can be spared for manual training.

For girls, training in domestic science cannot be too strongly advocated. Our school system has been planned for boys and no provision has been made for girls. From the time that little girls of six or seven begin their primary work in the public schools until the day of their graduation from a university, no class of any kind is, as a rule, provided that has any bearing on their ultimate paramount duty of homemaking. Domestic science is a crying need in our Victoria county schools, and government grants are so generous that the municipal cost would be insignificant.

The relationship of girls to higher education is an advanced form of this problem. Statisticians have secured data as to the families of all graduates from a number of leading women's colleges during the period 1850-1890. It has been found that the average graduate is represented in the next generation by 0.86 of a child. For every 5 possible mothers, there are only 2 daughters. In a century, every 100 of such women would be represented by 4 sickly great granddaughters. If the entire population of Canada were to perpetuate itself at such a rate, it could, in three centuries, be housed comfortably in Fenelon Falls or Bobcaygeon.

Something must be radically wrong with an educational system which has such appalling effects on womanhood. The scientific explanation is that the stress of advanced studies burns up in brain activities the energy which would normally go toward the maturing of the natural functions; and so virtual sterility is brought about.

But a still wider accusation touches the wrong perspective of life which is given the higher student. She either strains over heavy male courses, designed to fit her for an independent position in a male civilization, or else toys with easy trivialities. All too often, as a result, the essentials of existence are lost to her; her instincts are prevented from reaching normal maturity; she comes to regard motherhood as a clog on a wheel of intellectual interests or social indulgences; and all thought of racial responsibility and of racial morality is deadened. Our system of feminine higher education needs a drastic recasting before it will cease to be a menace to womanhood and the race.

Victoria County


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