CCHA, Historical Studies, 60 (1993-1994), 103-125
Education of Ontario’s girls and young women in nineteenth century Ontario was characterized by its diversity. As historians of secondary education have established, from the 1820’s onward, privately administered schools were the educational venues of choice for the majority of parents of middle class girls who sought options for their daughters to be educated beyond the elementary level.3 Private ladies colleges and denominational residential schools for young women proliferated. Significant within their number were the Catholic convent academies staffed by orders of women religious whose mission included the education of girls and young women. These convent academies educated generations of young women, yet, their study has been largely neglected or their contributions summarily dismissed. They have been erroneously labelled as places focusing mainly on moral education, social graces and solicitation of new members for the order.
This paper explores the education of girls and young women at St. Joseph’s Academy, Toronto, a convent academy founded in 1854 by members of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The school was originally located in “The White House” on Power Street, the order’s hastily constructed second Toronto home. “The White House” served as a motherhouse, novitiate and boarding school, and quickly was too small to house the boarders, professed sisters and 63 women who presented themselves as postulants in the first decade of the order’s presence in Toronto. In 1863, the order was able to move to a much more imposing building constructed on two acres of land which had been given to the Sisters by John Elmsley. Elmsley’s Estate, commonly referred to as Clover Hill, was bordered by present day Queen’s Park Circle, Bloor Street, Bay Street and Wellesley Streets. Elmsley had previously donated other acreage to the Basilians; thus the new motherhouse, novitiate and boarding school had as its neighbours St. Basil’s Church and later its parish school, St. Michael’s College and the Elmsley Home. In that location, the Academy grew from a private day and boarding school which offered a program of studies devised by the Sisters themselves to one governed by provincial regulations. In October of 1911, the Academy completed an agreement with St. Michael’s College becoming a residential college, with its own faculty teaching college subjects, for Catholic women who for degree purposes were registered at St. Michael’s College within the University of Toronto.4 The history of St. Joseph’s Academy demonstrates key elements in the history of Catholic-centred education in Ontario. The school’s curriculum illustrates an evolution of what constituted appropriate high school curriculum for girls and young women, moving from one which emphasized “moral and polite deportment”5
to one which qualified them for teaching, post-secondary education and entrance to the world of work. The experience of its staff documents the professionalization of teacher education within a community of women religious. Finally, St. Joseph’s Academy plays a significant role in the establishment of a Catholic College for women within the University of Toronto.
The order of women religious which created St. Joseph’s Academy was founded in France in 1650. The mandate of the order as outlined in the Letters Patent was “laudable works of charity,”6 further refined in a 1693 constitution as
embrac[ing] the services of hospitals, the direction of orphan homes, the visiting of the sick poor ... in their homes or prisons, assist them with alms, preparing broths and remedies that the doctors will recommend for them ... and also the instruction of girls in places where the religious already established do not take care of this.7
The Daughters of St. Joseph, as the community was first called, was unique among female orders in its internal structure. The basic organizational unit was the diocesan house. Rather than the typical centralization of all power into the hands of a superior for the whole order, the duties of temporal and spiritual direction were individually assigned to officers of each new house. Each house was to be headed by the Bishop of the diocese and to have a spiritual father, appointed by the Bishop. Thus, each new foundation was independently administered.8
Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the order expanded throughout France, establishing hospitals, orphanages and boarding schools for girls. It has been estimated that before 1789, more than thirty communities, of varying sizes, existed in the diocese of Le Puy alone.9 This phase of the history of the order terminated with the French Revolution and the persecution and dissolution of religious communities by the state. A nucleus of sisters adopted secular dress but continued to secretly keep their Holy Rule. One of these, Mother St. John Fontbonne formally re-established the order, and on 14 July 1808, at St. Etienne, ceremonially received 12 women, who for a year had been living as postulants, and robed them in the habits of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Under the direction of Mother St. John, the order expanded rapidly and soon a series of diocesan-based houses were founded throughout France. The Sisters resumed their institutional activities including education of girls, juvenile offenders, and the deaf; their social services including prison work, care of the aged and hospital work. By 1835, when Joseph Rosati, Bishop of the American Diocese of St. Louis, requested sisters to teach deaf children and be involved in charitable works in his diocese, Mother St. John felt that she had both the personnel and the promise of financial support of wealthy local patrons necessary to undertake this new venture. She asked for volunteers from her community to emigrate to the United States and selected six sisters, including her two nieces Delphine and Febronie Fontbonne, to establish the order in the diocese of St. Louis. From St. Louis, a foundation was successfully established in Philadelphia. In 1851, at the invitation of Armand Francois Marie de Charbonnel, Bishop of Toronto, four members of the order, including Delphine Fontbonne, came from Philadelphia initially to staff an orphanage. The following year, 1852, the order was asked by the bishop to teach in the Toronto separate schools. From that year to this, the Sisters of St. Joseph have played a significant role in the education of Canada's children and youth.
Mother Delphine Fontbonne, the Toronto community’s first superior, embodied the variety of roles which her successors would play in Toronto’s history. Mother Delphine was a teacher, an administrator and also served as the community pharmacist. She brought with her from France a prescription book, inscribed as “"Donne par Notre Reverende Mere le 17 September 1835.”10 This collection of treatments for a variety of ailments indicates just how self-sufficient this community and, indeed, most women in this period had to be. The formulae, written by several hands in French and in English, include directions for preparing cough mixtures, salves and tinctures, and several disinfectants. This tradition would be continued in the following decades as the Sisters of St. Joseph extended their mandate to include founding hospitals and schools of nursing (St. Michael’s, 1892).
Mother Delphine presided over the Toronto community until her death from typhus in 1856. She was a remarkable woman who achieved much in a short time. She planned the House of Providence which opened to receive the infirm and the elderly the year after her death. She launched the order’s work in the separate schools of Ontario. She supported the order’s second Ontario foundation in Hamilton (1852). She set the orphanage on a firm footing and established a private boarding school for girls.
The documentary evidence surrounding the opening of the Academy is not plentiful. The Community Annals of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, the order’s own record of daily events, merely state that “in 1854, a Boarding And Day School was opened in this building [the White House, Power Street] and this became the nucleus of our College Academy.”11 Systematic attendance records of the “Young Lady Pupils” who were attending the school have survived only from the 1859 school term, listing the names of 18 young women boarders. There are no records of the numbers of day pupils. Similarly, there exist few early boarders’ financial records. Only tentative observations and conclusions based on sketchy evidence can be made about the first decade of the school’s history. From 1863, with the opening of the new motherhouse and academy at Clover Hill, the records are more complete and the educational history of this institution can be more fully analyzed.
The Sisters of St. Joseph were not the only providers of private Catholic-centred education for girls and young women in Toronto. Four members of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) had sailed from their community house, Loreto Abbey at Rathfarnham, Ireland to Toronto to open a school for girls. When he had written to invite them to undertake this work, Bishop Michael Power commented:
I cannot inform you of the number of scholars (boarders) you might have because you are [as] likely to have (after a few months) fifty as twenty.... I am aware that for a short time there may exist among the Protestants slight prejudice, but when the parents will find that they can obtain a cheaper and better education for their daughters in the Convent than any other establishment, they will certainly avail themselves of its advantages.... You remember that the people (Catholics mostly, Irish or of Irish descent) are not rich. Some families are well able to educate their daughters.12
The Loretto sisters arrived in Toronto on 16 September 1847 and by 29 September had begun classes for girls in their convent on Duke Street.13 In 1848, the Loretto Sisters commenced their association with the separate schools with Mother Gertrude Fleming’s assignment to St. Paul’s School. The first of many moves that the Loretto Sisters were to experience occurred in 1849, when their convent was relocated from rented space on Duke Street to larger premises (and ones with lower rent) located at the corners of Wellington and Simcoe Streets.14 Owing to the death of three sisters, and the decision to send one ill sister back to Ireland, the community felt that the six remaining sisters could not run both the parish school and the boarding school. The boarding school closed in March 1851 and, when it re-opened in September, only five of the nine boarders who had been pupils of the school returned.15 Bishop de Charbonnel wrote of the sorry state of the small community.
For girls, my predecessor had brought from Ireland some Ladies of Loretto. His death, [a] few days after their arrival, threw them into a distress which carried three of them to the grave; I have sent back a fourth to Dublin in order not to have to bury her like her sister, the Superior. In fine, there remain only two who can teach but very little and who are an expense to me but who by their virtues are no more precious to me than they are to every one.16
More likely physical exhaustion and the toll of caring for the victims of the typhus epidemic caused the death of the sisters; not “distress” at the death of Bishop Power.17
Nonetheless, it is apparent that de Charbonnel was concerned that illness within the Loretto community caused the future of girls’ private Catholic education within Toronto to be in question. It seems that de Charbonnel encouraged the Sisters of St. Joseph to establish their own boarding school to meet this need. De Charbonnel and Mother Delphine undoubtedly examined the order’s constitution which,
expressly stated that the sisters should not open schools, except in those places in which other convents already established did not desire the care of them.18
and decided that “service to others”19 should be expanded to include private education for girls. Thus, while the order was invited to Toronto to assume responsibility for an orphanage and engage in charitable work, it is not surprising nor was it possibly unexpected that within three years of their arrival the Sisters should have been laying the groundwork for their boarding school. The four women who established the Toronto foundation all had experience in the teaching and administration of boarding schools in France and in the United States and would have passed their knowledge on to their novices.
Establishing a boarding school for girls might also have been seen as a logical development from running a motherhouse and novitiate. A boarding school was a source of income for the order. In addition to generating fees from the day and boarding pupils, it employed Sisters as teachers of art, music and foreign languages, offering instruction both to the Academy’s pupils and to members of the community at large. Marta Danylewycz and others have suggested that operating a boarding school has been viewed as a means of replenishing the order with new members.20 The evidence available on the Sisters of St. Joseph, Toronto, indicates that of the 2338 pupils listed as boarders in the Academy Register between 1856 and 1920, only 104 girls (4.4%) are annotated as entering the Toronto community as novices. Significantly, the Academy attracted daughters of Catholic and Non-catholic families. The Register also listed the religion of 396 boarding pupils (16.9%) as non-Catholic.21
Whatever their motives or long term goals, the attendance books and other record-keeping volumes printed specifically for the school indicate clearly that the Sisters were planning, from its foundation, to manage a large and growing school. When plans were drawn for the Clover Hill Motherhouse, careful consideration was made within the design to accommodate both a novitiate and boarders’ quarters. Ample room was left for expansion within both the structure of the building and the surrounding space. A study of the parallel evolution and development of the curriculum offered in the Academy clearly demonstrates that the Sisters of St. Joseph attempted to ensure that their institution was a permanent feature of the Ontario educational landscape.
The Sisters described the Academy as offering “every branch suitable to the complete Education of Young Ladies, with strictest attention to their moral and polite deportment.”22 The Prospectus issued after the school’s relocation to Clover Hill, offers one of the first pictures of the Academy’s curriculum:
English, French and Italian Languages, Reading, Writing, Grammar, Geography, History, Intellectual and Practical Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Book-keeping, Elementary Chemistry and Botany, Natural Philosophy, Logical Analysis, Astronomy and Use of Globes, Rhetoric, Vocal and Instrumental Music, Drawing, Painting, Plain and Ornamental Needle-work, Wax Fruit and Flowers.23
The subjects listed above are almost identical to those offered in private schools for young women throughout Ontario.24 Fine arts and musical studies were not considered a part of the core curriculum and were described as “extras.” Pupils wishing such studies had to pay – and pay heavily – for lessons.25 An annual fee of $16.00 was charged for a day pupil to attend the school. Harp lessons were $50.00 a year. Piano lessons cost $28.00. Annual tuition for Vocal Music, Guitar, Drawing (Pencil and Crayon Drawing, Painting in Water Colours) was $20.00 per subject.
For at least the first two decades of its existence, the curriculum presented to the pupils at St. Joseph’s Academy was prepared and regulated by the order. At graduation, those pupils who met the Academy’s internal standards and who had completed the requisite term as a boarder were ‘crowned as graduates’ and received a graduation medal at the Annual Public Examination and Prize Giving. The Academy was a private school and as such, neither followed the curriculum set out for secondary education within the publicly funded schools of Ontario nor had its teachers or programs examined by the government inspectors. Yet by 1882, there is strong evidence to suggest that this situation had dramatically changed, for in that year the Academy lists its first pupil as certified to teach.
There are many reasons to explain why the Sisters of St. Joseph aligned their curriculum to comply with provincial standards. As education became more regulated, the Sisters recognized that without the ability to grant a certificate of matriculation, the Academy would inevitably lose pupils to other public and private institutions which offered this option. As Gidney and Millar have argued:
the growth of a system of matriculation examinations and certificates sponsored by the Department of Education and accepted by all universities and professional associations, eliminated . . . [the option] for private schools to negotiate with the universities about their own academic programs and thus reserve a degree of curricular independence.26
The experience of the Religious of the Sacred Heart in London, Ontario proves the validity of the argument. An historian of that order attributes the failure of their boarding school in 1913 to the fact that “the Sacred Heart classical course of studies appealed little to students or parents.”27 More accurately, as a non-accredited, non-regulated institution, the Sacred Heart Academy offered its pupils too few options, for without curricular preparation and instruction on how to sit the provincial certification examinations, the pupils could not obtain a license to teach.
Throughout the nineteenth century, there were many options available to Ontarians who wished certification as elementary teachers. From 1870 onward, there was a movement toward standardization in the awarding of teaching certificates. The lowest level was the Third Class Certificate. These were issued to individuals who had attended high school for two years28 and who were successful in provincial examinations in ‘reading, spelling, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, history, literature composition, algebra, Euclid, drawing, bookkeeping and physics.”29After 1891, candidates had to be at least 18 years of age.30 There were two types of Third Class Certificates and those issued by County Model Schools were deemed “Third Class Professional Certificates” as they included some instruction in methodology. Third Class Certificates licensed a candidate to teach for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years, after which the candidate could proceed on to Normal School, where the focus of instruction was methodology. Successful completion of one Normal School session (which by 1882 was five months long) yielded a Second Class Certificate and completion of two sessions a First Class Certificate. A First Class Certificate was one of several ways in which candidates qualified for appointment as high school teachers.31 Although Normal School attendance was an option for those candidates who could meet the age and higher secondary education entry requirements, it was not until 1906 that the graduation from Normal School was viewed as the standard route into elementary teaching.32
Between 1882 and 1897, 19 pupils of St. Joseph’s Academy were awarded Second Class Teaching Certificates and 19 were awarded Third Class Teaching Certificates “under the tuition of the Sisters of St. Joseph.”33 The fact that the Academy’s pupils were gaining certificates as teachers indicates that they were successful at the provincial examinations. The Academy’s curricular standards were equal to those of public high schools and collegiate institutes.34 The significance of this certification to Catholic education is demonstrated in the increase in lay women teaching within the Toronto Separate School Board, rising from 12 between 1885 and 1891 to 89 between 1913 and 1921.35 Through the move to meet provincial matriculation standards, as evidenced through the numbers of pupils who obtained teaching certificates, the Sisters of St. Joseph were responsible for the preparation of a significant number of these Ontario teachers in St. Joseph’s Academy.36
Internal factors within the order also contributed to these changes in the Academy’s curricular orientation. Throughout the 1870’s, the Sisters worked through the process of drafting their constitution – and in the process, further defined their mission. The public discussions of appropriate curriculum for young women, stimulated by the restructuring of the Ontario secondary school curriculum throughout the 1870’s37 would likely have informed the Sisters’ discussion. The constitution which resulted from these discussions details the operations of schools, the preparation of teachers and images of appropriate education for young women.
The constitution of an order of women religious is a valuable source for historians for it details how the mission of the order is to be carried out in daily activities. When the Toronto community wrote the Constitution and Rules of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Archdiocese of Toronto (1881), they made many references to teachers and the convent Academy. The duties and responsibilities of Sisters teaching in both the separate schools and the Academy were clear:
One of the most important works for the service of neighbour and the progress of religion is the education and instruction of young girls. This duty requires peculiar qualifications of those who are employed therein; therefore the choice and education of the sisters who are destined to be teachers should be to the Congregation a special object of solicitude.38
Special reference was made to the responsibilities of the Sister who held “one of the most important [charges] of the Congregation” – The Directress of the Academy. She was “to see that, while making continual progress in science,” the young lady pupils of the Academy “also advance in piety and virtue.”39 The phrase, “religion and science,” which is used throughout the Constitution of 1881, can be interpreted to mean that the pupils of the Academy were to advance in both secular knowledge and in religious development.
The Directress was appointed by the mother superior on the advice of her counsellors and was both the Academy’s chief administrator and curriculum consultant. She admitted pupils to the Academy and determined, through an interview, their class placement. She was permitted to reject a pupil ‘whose admission might be injurious to the school.” The directress was the principal teacher, ensuring that “the teachers use the books and follow the methods of teaching that have been pointed out to them.” She served as the chief evaluator. She was to “interrogate [the pupils] in regard to what they have learned” in order to “ascertain what progress they make in their studies, [and] whether they apply [themselves] to them with diligence,” awarding “premiums and notes of approbation” to deserving students. The directress was to hold staff meetings, to “assemble the teachers once a week to confer with them concerning the general good of the Academy.”40
The Sisters who taught in the Academy were charged to be model teachers of “religion and science.” Once given their teaching assignment by the Directress, the Constitution of 1881 directed the Sisters to
devote to their own improvement all the time that is necessary, but they shall not study any other branches than those prescribed by the Superior or Directress in order that their progress in science may be accompanied by their progress in humility and obedience.41
Finally, they were reminded to
prepare the lessons they are to give their classes so that while understanding perfectly what they teach, they may be able to communicate it to their pupils with clearness and precision.42
Teaching was recognized as hard work and the Sisters were instructed to ‘take proper care of their health” as their job required “much exertion of the voice and great application of the mind.”43 They were to inform the superior if they were ill or tired.
The Sisters of St. Joseph saw themselves as a community of lifelong learners. As well as documenting the planning of their spiritual growth through retreats, the Annals record numerous courses and lectures targeted at the intellectual growth of the teaching Sisters. As early as 1869, the Annals record a course of instruction being delivered on Saturdays to the Sisters by Rev. C. Vincent, CSB, the Superior of St. Michael’s College.44 With the Constitution of 1881, the Sisters set specific direction on the professional development of teaching Sisters. They were to attend conferences, organized by the mother superior, on “the methods of teaching.”45 These annual conferences parallel closely a professional development program of today.
Accurate records of the annual conferences commenced in 1890. The order was encouraged to hold these conferences on a more formalized basis by Mr. C. Donevan, the Inspector of the Separate Schools, who was one of the supporters of certification for all members of religious communities teaching in Ontario schools.46 The first conference was “organized chiefly for the Religious Teachers in the Separate Schools as such teachers did not have the advantage of attending Public Conventions,” and was opened by Toronto Archbishop J. J. Walsh, who delivered,
a most instructive and eloquent address ... [he] dwelt on the importance of a good sound education ... on the necessity there is that teachers should constantly strive to improve themselves.47
The Sisters attended four days of lectures delivered by Dr. McCabe, the principal of the Ottawa Normal School and two Separate Schools’ Inspectors, Mr. J.F. White and Mr. C. Donevan. Within the decade, the conference was held either in connection with the Easter Break or during the summer. It expanded to include lectures delivered by the principals of the Normal and Model schools, the Inspectors of the Model and Separate Schools, the staff of St. Michael’s College and Hospital, and sessions delivered by members of the Community. Significantly, one of the chief supporters of the conference was the Minister of Education, Mr. George W. Ross, who addressed the convention in 1895.
In addition to the annual conferences, the order provided opportunities during the school year and during the summers for the Sisters to improve their knowledge and skills and give the best instruction possible to their pupils. In the winter of 1900, Mr. Scott, Principal of the Normal School, delivered a series of fifteen lectures on Methods in Teaching. His fees were partially covered by Rev. M. Kelly, CSB.48 During the summer of 1901, a Miss Morly taught “French and harmony to a class of sisters.”49 The lecture and demonstration given by Mr. Harry Field, ‘lately returned from Leipzig ... [where he was] a pupil of Reinach, who was a pupil of Mendelson [sic]” gave an opportunity for the annalist to reflect upon the importance of professional instruction for the members of the Community.
The Music Teachers from the Academy and those from the Mission Houses have assembled in the Hall to listen to a lecture and practical illustration of how to teach music up to date. It is necessary that our Sisters should teach the most approved methods, in order that our pupils may not only pass the University Examinations, but should also become competent musicians.50
With the advent of the conferences, there commenced an important formal and informal relationship between the order and the members of the Department of Education. The Annals record the order sending condolences to Premier George Ross on the death of his wife.
When Minister of Education, Dr. Ross was kind and courteous to us always; at times he visited the Convent to address our Teachers’ Convention; therefore, it is fitting that we should show our sympathy with him in sorrow.51
From 1902 onward, the Annals recorded increased interest in the professional certification of women accepted as postulants. In that year, the annalist wrote:
Called on Mr. Millar, Deputy Minister of Education, at the Normal School to request that a young lady in whom we are interested may be allowed to attend the next Session of the Normal and was received with the courtesy characteristic of the gentlemen of the Department.52
By 1905, the order was not accepting young women, who were planning to teach academic subjects, unless they had completed their state certification.
Another young lady, one of our Academy pupils of last year, was to have received the Habit but as she failed by 16 marks to obtain her Second Class Certificate at the Mid-Summer non-Professional Exams, she must resume her study. There are breakers ahead in the educational sea for Ontario Religious Teachers and we must trim our sails accordingly.53
For the next several descriptions of Reception ceremonies, the annalist recorded, when it was appropriate, where and when the young women received their teaching certification. Yet, when the Globe published an article in March of 1905, stating that the Sisters of St. Joseph had adopted the policy that “no more postulants should be received in the order unless they have passed the examinations and received Government certification,’ the annalist expressed the concern of the Community:
Well, well! This is news indeed ... Of course such a publication is no discredit to us professionally – rather the contrary ... Reverend Mother is much disturbed by it ... She fears that Young Ladies who are competent to teach music, art and the languages may be deterred from seeking admission ... in the case of English teachers, His Grace [Archbishop O’Connor] has strongly advised that they be legally qualified; in this respect we are endeavouring to the utmost of our power to comply.54
The community did its best to ensure that the Academy was staffed by the most qualified teachers possible. In the fall of 1907, the Department of Education issued new regulations concerning the issuing of school leaving certificates. The annalist wrote that,
Candidates for the Normal School who have not attended an ‘approved school’ (protestant collegiate institutes and protestant high schools) cannot receive certificates certifying their proficiency in certain subjects, but must pass September examinations in same. We deem these regulations unjust because for about a quarter of a century we have been preparing candidates for certificates, Senior and Junior Leaving, and consequently, our pupils have attended the Normal School.55
Because the community wished to ensure that St. Joseph’s Academy was”"approved,” in 1908, they withdrew a teacher from the Separate high school to add to the Academy staff. They explained to the officials of the Toronto Separate School Board that the high school “will not be neglected as we shall send a perfectly competent Sister to take her place.”56 It is apparent nonetheless that the Academy was their first priority.
The education and certification of teaching Sisters bring focus to challenges which religious communities had to address. First, as education became a focus of community enterprise, the order was determined to ensure that the women it accepted were well qualified, meeting the criteria set in what St. Joseph’s described as “religion and science.” While candidates had to meet the spiritual criteria set by the order to exemplify the order’s charism which, as set out by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph was ‘Christian perfection and Service to Neighbour,” the women also had to meet the increasingly exact standards of the state, that is the Ontario Department of Education.
The achievement of the Academy’s pupils attested to the strength and quality of instruction they received. The spectacular success of Gertrude Lawler, the Academy’s Gold Medal graduate of 1882, who sat the provincial matriculation examinations at Jarvis Collegiate, achieved first class honours and embarked upon a brilliant academic career at the University of Toronto, confirmed the Sisters’ decision to have the Academy accredited as a senior matriculation school. Thus, by the turn of the century, while the Academy still rewarded “lady-like deportment” and achievement in the fine arts, the pupils’ academic achievements were more emphatically celebrated and highlighted in the Annual Prize Distribution.
As the twentieth century began, the Prospectus of the Academy listed three courses in which prospective pupils could enroll: the Collegiate Course, the Academic Course and the Commercial Course. The Collegiate Course, which qualified the pupils for admission to university as well as professions such as teaching and nursing, was regulated by the Department of Education. Branches of the Academic Course, which included foreign languages, music and fine arts, were affiliated with a number of institutions including the University of Toronto Music Department and the Toronto School of Art. The Commercial Course was affiliated with a number of Toronto business schools including the Nimms and Harrison Business College.57All these external certifications yielded credentials for employment: in the public sector of education and commerce, and in home-based private instruction in the arts. These credentials enabled some of the graduates to become economically independent lay women, independent of motherhood and family financial support. St. Joseph’s Academy had grown from largely undocumented beginnings to a multi-optioned, highly regulated institution of education for young women. With its successful affiliation with St. Michael’s College and the University of Toronto, it offered a fourth program for its pupils: the option to pursue university education.
The establishment of the Catholic women’s colleges at the University of Toronto is a topic which cries out for a full scholarly investigation. The analysis which follows documents one piece in this complex mosaic: the experience of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the establishment of St. Joseph’s College. From the building of the Clover House motherhouse and the publication of the 1866 Prospectus, the Sisters of St. Joseph advertised the educational appeal of the Academy’s new location. The Prospectus stated that
The situation the new building is one of the most eligible in Toronto; that the locality has superior advantages, the presence of the many educational institutions in its immediate vicinity is the best proof.58
Early in the history of the school, it is evident from the Annals that the Sisters were co-operating with the surrounding institutions and using the location to the academic advantage of the Academy. In 1870, Dr. McCaul, President of the University gave the Sisters a key to the University’s Avenue Road Gate for their use.59 With St. Michael’s College in close proximity, the Sisters were able to utilize the services of its staff to give lectures and seminars, as well as general advice about the progress of their school.
Beginning with the turn of the century, references to the question of establishing a women’s college appear in the Annals and many instances of information gathering on the American experience of founding women’s colleges are documented. In 1902, Miss Burns of Boston, “a regent of the Women’s Catholic University (Trinity College, Washington)” came to the convent to visit her friend, Sister Bathilde.60 At the end of her visit, Miss Burns “kindly offered to send us their Curriculum, Examination Papers, etc.”61 Three years later, another member of the Catholic University of America staff, Rev. Dr. H. Hyvernat visited the convent on 22 September 1905 and delivered a lecture on the topic of the higher education of women.62 This garnering of information was undoubtedly undertaken to support the order’s negotiations with the University of Toronto.
It is also important to note that the Clover Hill convent served as a guest house for sisters from a number of other communities of women religious. Sisters from the American Provinces of the Sisters of St. Joseph visited the Toronto community and would have discussed their thoughts and their progress on higher education for women with their Canadian associates.63 Members of other teaching orders who administered academies across Canada, including the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, the Religious of the Sacred Heart and the Ursulines64 were guests of the Toronto motherhouse. The Toronto Sisters spent their vacation time visiting other convents throughout Canada and the United States. Personal travel, combined with the familial connections which existed among the orders likely provided a wealth of information for the Sisters on the topic of higher education. Yet, it was undoubtedly the success of St. Michael’s College in gaining affiliate status as an arts college within the University of Toronto that motivated the Sisters into actively pursuing the idea of a women’s college administered by their order.
The Report of the Royal Commission on the University of Toronto and the subsequent University of Toronto Act 1906, gave St. Michael’s College the legal apparatus with which to become a federated arts college within the University. It successfully did so on 8 December 1908. Thus, the 1910 graduating class was the first group of St. Michael’s students to receive University of Toronto degrees without having to register at University College.
There is considerable evidence to suggest that both the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Loretto Sisters were also working towards affiliation with the University of Toronto for their respective academies, using the St. Michael’s College experience as the model. One reference indicates that in May of 1908, Father Teefy had applied, on behalf of St. Joseph’s, for university affiliation. He was unsuccessful.65An application was prepared by Mother Ignatia Lynn the Superior-General of Loretto, and presented to University of Toronto President Falconer by Father Roche of St. Michael’s College on 30 May 1908. Roche was also unsuccessful.66 A third application to affiliate Loretto Abbey, St. Joseph’s Academy and the Ursulines’ Chatham Academy, “The Pines” under the title of “St. Mary’s Affiliated Colleges” was discussed, drawn up but never officially filed.67
Commencing in 1908, there are firm indications that the Sisters of St. Joseph were cementing their ties with the University and actively pursuing the preparation of its Sisters for delivering a college-level program at St. Joseph’s Academy. In that year, Sister Austin Warnock wrote “her Professional Exams for Senior Leaving or First Class Certificate,”68 and Sister Perpetua Whalen wrote the University of Toronto first year examinations.69In later years, as Dean of St. Joseph’s College, Sister Perpetua Whalen explained this early period.
St. Joseph’s College began the course for a degree in Arts at the University of Toronto by preparing for the examinations of the first two years extramurally. It was not until 1911 that she was admitted to the privilege of a residential college for the Catholic women registered in St. Michael’s College.70
The University was most supportive of the Sisters’ studies. The annalist recorded that the University authorities, with their
usual courtesy, placed a private room at our disposal, where Miss Salter presided ... The Normal School authorities would scarcely grant such a privilege. They are not so broad as the University Staff.71
Letitia Catherine Salter was the Chaperon of the University who presided over both Sisters’ examinations. She was to have a long and mutually supportive relationship with the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Salter was the driving force behind the establishment of The Catholic Women’s Club of Toronto University. This club was to be a forum for Catholic undergraduates to meet socially. The inaugural meeting was held on December 3, 1908 in St. Joseph’s Convent. The annalist explained that the club had 24 members “many of them, or perhaps I should say some of them are old pupils of ours.”72 They planned to meet in the convent once a month.
Reverend Mother [Irene Conroy] asked me to take charge of them. She herself has kindly consented to allow them a beautiful reception room for their meetings; they are to have a piano for their social... Rev. Mother, Sr. Perpetua and Sister Austin (the last named members of the club) and I are endeavouring to make them as much ‘at home’ as possible. The Club will make the members of the different faculties ... acquainted with each other ... so that Catholics may sometimes breathe a Catholic atmosphere of which! Alas ! there is not a breath at the University.73
Over the next several years, the Annals document the meetings at which such topics as “Women in Papal Universities” were presented.74 A prominent member of this group was Gertrude Lawler.
The Sisters were in communication with members of the University community other than Miss Salter and the members of the Catholic Women’s Club of Toronto University. The Registrar of the University, Mr. James Brebner, was described as “always so kind, so courteous to the sisters who call at his office.”75 University officials were well aware of the scholarly strength of the community after Sister Austin Warnock won the Edward Blake Scholarship for First Year Moderns in 1909.76 In 1910, she won the George Brown Prize and the Italian Prize, standing first in the University in Moderns.77
There are several other notable examples of the Academy preparing itself for affiliation. From 1908, “The Register 1906-1915: Names of Pupils in St. Joseph’s Academy” included the category “university pupils.”78 The Annals recorded the success of the University pupils in their examination. At the same time, the superior, Mother de Pazzi Kennedy was also writing to Rev. J. J. McCann to request permission to build “an addition to our Academy’ – which will enable the Academy to be “properly equipped and enlarged [so that] we may succeed in having it classed among ‘Approved Schools’.”79 Not mentioned in this letter, was the plan to house a women’s college. Yet, by the time that ground was broken for the building 2 May 1909, the site was described as a “Ladies College” in the local press.80 Thus, in spite of lack of official affiliation, the Sisters were preparing the pupils, preparing the, space, and preparing the staff for the official foundation of St. Joseph’s College.
The University officials stalled on this issue of affiliating a Catholic women’s college for almost three years. In his history of St. Michael’s College, Rev. L. Shook explains that, in 1911, the issue was resolved through a compromise suggested by University of Toronto president Sir Robert Falconer. The two academies, Loretto and St. Joseph’s, would affiliate with St. Michael’s College.
All girls proceeding to a degree in the faculty of arts should be enrolled in St. Michael’s; lectures in college subjects were to be given at both St. Joseph’s and Loretto ... lecturers in religious knowledge,ethics, logic and psychology were to be supplied by St. Michael’s; university subjects were to be taken at the university proper as was the case with men; degrees should be conferred by the university through St. Michael’s.81
The period from 1854 to 1911 was a time of tremendous change and challenge for the Sisters of St. Joseph and St. Joseph’s Academy. With the stresses imposed upon the community by the changes in teacher certification, and the strains which arose from the logical conclusion of the – implementation of a program of university preparation – the establishment of a tertiary level to the Academy – the Congregation was hurled into the twentieth century.
Conclusions can be drawn concerning the role which the Sisters of St. Joseph played in the certification of the religious teaching orders in the province and in the establishment of a Catholic women’s college at the University of Toronto. As a teaching order, the Sisters of St. Joseph clearly had mixed feelings toward external preparation of their teaching staff. In the mid to late nineteenth century, as they were defining their mission, the order accepted both women who held Normal School certification and women whom it can be assumed acquired their teacher certificates through their high school experience. Two of the leading figures in the early history of the Academy, Sister Camilla (Mary Eliza O’Brien) and Sister Holy Cross (Mary Agnes White), were both graduates of the Normal School.82 The realignment of the curriculum of the Academy to meet provincial regulations necessitated further teacher education. Using experts both inside and outside the community, the order attempted to improve the quality of its teaching and thus the achievement of its pupils. The proficiency which the pupils demonstrated on the provincial examinations attests to the order’s success. With the question of “approved schools” in the first decade of the twentieth century, the community saw as its first priority the staffing of the Academy by provincially certified teachers to ensure its “approved status.” A telling comment on the rationale for this decision is contained in a 1908 letter from Mother de Pazzi, the Superior of the Community, to Rev. J. J. McCann, the Vicar-General of the Diocese. She wrote:
Our Community teaching Staff is in large measure recruited from our Academy; therefore you can understand the consequent decrease in Catholic teachers and especially religious vocations that will result if our girls attend these [collegiate] Institutes.83
Clearly, the community viewed the Academy as the training ground for the educational leadership of the order. Although less than 5% of the members of the order were annotated in the “Register of Young Lady Pupils” as graduates of the Academy, these women were expected to go on to teach in the Academy and to provide the leadership for the teaching branch of the community.84
The questions surrounding the establishment of St. Joseph’s College are complex. More research needs to be done to uncover those missing parts of the puzzle which will supply answers to such questions as “What did the community see as the end product of its Academy?” On the one hand, women such as Sister Emerentia Lonergan, Mistress of Boarders and annalist of the order from 1899-1917, viewed both the Academy and College as preparing well-educated wives and mothers. Other members of the community like Sisters Austin Warnock and Sister Perpetua Whalen, were both graduates of the Academy and felt it necessary to pursue the ideal of the university educated woman – as did Sister Agnes Murphy, the community’s first graduate from St. Joseph’s College. One could argue that these Sisters saw, in their mission to provide a Catholic education for women, the necessity of acquiring the best possible qualifications.
As well as examining the achievement of these women religious, one must look to the achievement of lay women and their perceptions of the St. Joseph’s Academy and College experience during this period. Florence Quinlan, of the class of 1917, personified achievement in science, as she joined the University of Toronto as a lecturer in Physics. Gertrude Lawler’s achievements were of a different sort. As scholar, administrator, public high school teacher, Senator of the University of Toronto and social service activist, she served within the public institutions while maintaining close affiliation with both the Academy and the Catholic Church. Teresa Korman Small had a brief but outstanding public career as a community volunteer. For these former pupils and for many more, the Academy remained a significant influence in their lives. Lawler and Korman Small played key roles in the formation of the Alumnae Association in 1891, a mechanism through which formal ongoing linkage of past pupils and teachers was established. The Association sponsored regular speakers’ series, published a quarterly journal, served as an affiliate of both the National and International Federations of Convent Alumnae, and liaised closely with other Catholic and secular associations for women. One key contribution of the Alumnae Association was the sponsorship of scholarships for members of communities of women religious to pursue graduate studies.
Was St. Joseph’s Academy typical of Canadian convent academies in English Canada? One cannot say. More basic research is needed to lay the foundation for comparative studies. One may find similarities: the regimentation of the pupils’ day; the life-long links apparent through the alumnae associations; the links between a small percentage of pupils of the Academy and leadership of the order. Yet, based on the evidence reported here, there seems to be some important differences, at least with the Quebec studies to date. Among the unique features are the strong links which St. Joseph’s Academy had to secular organizations and public institutions; the small minority of pupils who entered the order; the cohort of pupils who as single, independent women pursued careers in the public sector, including the public education system, yet who maintained close ties to the Academy.
The records of St. Joseph’s Academy provide some evidence of the changing role of the convent-academy in the promotion of higher education and increased economic opportunities for late nineteenth century Ontario women. Perhaps one of the greatest needs identified by this study is the need for further research on women religious in education, and on the world of convent education in English Canada.
1Prospectus, St. Joseph’s College Academy, 1912. Box 8. Archives of the Sisters of St. Joseph (Morrow Park). (Hereafter ASSJ.)
2The author wishes to thank the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Archdiocese of Toronto, and especially Archivist Sr. Mary Jane Trimble, for their support of this research as well as the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education for assistance in data collection.
3R. Gidney and W. Millar, Inventing Secondary Education (Toronto: McGillQueen's, 1990). n. 48.
4L.K.Shook, Catholic Post Secondary Ecucation in English-Speaking Canada: A History. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971), p. 158.
5Prospectus of the Convent of St. Joseph, Academy for the Education of Young Ladies, Clover Hill [1870?], Box 8, ASSJ.
6“Letters Patent,” 10 March 1651, cited in M. Nepper, Origins: The Sisters of St. Joseph (Villa Maria College: 1975), p. 20.
7Sr. E. J. Daly, “Genesis of a Congregation” in D. Dougherty et al, The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet (St. Louis: Herder, 1966), pp. 28-9.
8Nepper, Origins, p. 31.
9Daly, “Genesis,” p. 33.
10“Prescription Book,” ASSJ.
11Community Annals of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto, 3 volume, 1851-1956, (n.p.), p. 7. (hereafter Annals)
12 Bishop Michael Power to Mother Teresa Ball, 25 June 1847, as reprinted in Life and Letters of Rev. Mother Teresa Dease (edited by a member of the community), (Toronto: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1916) pp. 37-9. The spelling ‘Loreto’ is used in Ireland; the North American spelling is ‘Loretto’.
13Life and Letters, p. 46.
14K. McGovern, Something More Than Ordinary: The Early History of Mary Ward's Institute in North America (Toronto: Alger Press, 1989), p. 97.
15Life and Letters, p. 63.
16“a letter written sometime in 1851,” Records in the Archives of Loretto Abbey, Toronto. Cited by Sister Evanne Hunter “History of Loretto Abbey, Toronto” Unpublished Graduate School Paper, Niagara University, (December 1977), p. 7. Held in the Archives of Loretto Abbey, Toronto. Corrections appear in the cited text.
17In spite of its tentative beginnings, the tiny Loretto community did survive and indeed prosper. Its motherhouse was to move several more times within Toronto and the community was called upon to establish private schools and work in the separate schools throughout the province. Among the early foundations are Brantford (1852), London (1856- later abandoned) ; Guelph (1856); Belleville (1857-1865; 1876); Niagara (1876) and Hamilton (1876).
18Introductory Comments, Constitution and Rules of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the Archdiocese of Toronto (Toronto: n.p., 1881), p. 7. ASSJ.
19Constitution of 1881, p. 11.
20Marta Danylewycz, Taking the Veil (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1985). Barbara Cooper, “‘That We May Attain to the End We Propose to Ourselves...’ The North American Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1932-1962.” Ph.D. diss., York University, 1989.
21See Appendix 6: Boarders Of St. Joseph’s Academy Entering the Toronto Community 1856-1920 and Appendix 9 “Religion of Pupils Registered As Boarders in St. Joseph”s Academy, Toronto 1854-1920” in E. Smyth “The Lessons of Religion and Science: The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph and St. Joseph’s Academy, Toronto 1854-1911” (Ed.D. diss, University of Toronto, 1990), pp. 258, 261.
22Prospectus, [1870?]. Box 8. ASSJ.
23Prospectus, [18661. Box 8. ASSJ.
24For other examples of curriculum in Ontario see Gidney and Millar Inventing Secondary Education, pp. 15-19.
25Prospectus, . Box 8. ASSJ.
26Gidney and Millar, Inventing Secondary Education, p. 317.
27Marthe Baudoin RSCJ “The religious [sic] of the Sacred Heart in Canada 18421980.” Canadian Catholic Historical Association Study Sessions 48, (1981), p. 54.
28C.E. Phillips, The Development of Education in Canada (Toronto: Gage, 1957), p. 576.
29 J. G. Althouse, The Ontario Teacher 1800-1910 (Toronto: Ontario Teachers’ Federation, 1967), p. 61.
30Althouse, The Ontario Teacher, p. 85.
31Althouse, The Ontario Teacher, p. 90.
32R. Stamp, The Schools of Ontario (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 77. These requirements varied throughout the nineteenth century; however, direct entry into Normal School generally required attendance at high school for a longer period of time.
33“List of the Names of Pupils who have obtained Teachers’ Certificates under the tuition of the Sisters of St. Joseph.” ASSJ, Box 8.
34Annals, 9 July 1889, p. 162.
35M. McGowan, “‘We are all Canadians’: A Social, Religious and Cultural Portrait of Toronto’s English-Speaking Roman Catholics 1890-1920.” (Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto 1988), p. 72.
36Between 1882 and 1897, 22 Second Class certificates and 29 Third Class Certificates were awarded to pupils at St. Joseph’s High School, the Separate School’s high school in which the Sisters of St. Joseph also taught. “List of the Names of Pupils who have attained Teaching Certificates under the Tuition of the Sisters of St. Joseph.” Box 8. ASSJ.
37Gidney and Millar, Inventing Secondary Education, p. 293.
38Constitution of 1881, p. 32.
39Constitution of 1881, p. 54.
40Constitution of 1881, pp. 87-8.
41Constitution of 1881, pp. 90-1.
42Constitution of 1881, pp. 90-1.
43Constitution of 1881, p. 90.
44Annals, 14 December 1869, p. 19.
45Constitution of 1881, p. 91.
46The Annals record this information when reporting Mr. Donevan’s death. Annals, 16 January 1895, p. 187.
47Annals, 7 July 1890, p. 168.
48Annals, 13 January 1900, p. 252. Father Kelly was a member of the Congregation of St. Basil, the community of teaching priests who administered St. Michael’s College.
49Annals, 5 July 1901, p. 279.
50Annals, 29 December 1904, p. 377.
51Annals, 14 March 1902, p. 310.
52Annals, 3 October 1902, p. 320.
53Annals, 5 January 1905, p. 378
54Annals, 4 March 1905, p. 383.
55Annals, 23 November 1907, p. 424.
56Annals, 23 October 1908, p. 435.
57“St. Joseph's Convent,” Catholic Register, 21 June 1900, “Scrapbooks” v. vii, pp. 23-25, ASSJ. Neither this article nor others written on the academy at the turn of the century specify who examined the pupils in foreign languages. Perhaps those sisters who had studied languages, or perhaps the staff of St. Michael’s College (who, the Annals document, were used to examine a variety of “collegiate subjects”) examined the pupils.
58Prospectus, . Box 8. ASSJ.
59Annals, 17 October 1870, p. 24.
60Miss Bums was visiting her friend, the Oshawa born Sister Bathilde (Elizabeth Quigley) who had been a boarder at the academy from 1875 to 1877.
61Annals, 8 July 1902, p. 318. Unfortunately, none of this material has survived in the ASSJ.
62 Annals, 22 September 1905, p. 392.
63The St. Louis Province (Missouri) purchased land in 1908 for the foundation of Fontbonne College in St. Louis and obtained its charter in 1917. (Daly ‘Genesis,” p. 104.) The St. Paul Province (Minnesota) began their work on St. Catharine’s College in 1887 but it was not established until 1905. H. Hurley ‘The St. Paul Province” in Dougherty The Sisters, p. 166.
64The Sisters of Charity operated Mount St. Vincent Academy in Halifax. The Ursulines established an academy in Chatham, Ontario in 1861 and had it incorporated in 1866. In addition to the communities mentioned previously, among the other orders whose members spent time in the Toronto motherhouse were Sisters of Providence (Kingston and Montreal), Sisters of the Precious Blood, Sisters of St. Joseph (Flushing, New York, Brooklyn, Buffalo and Philadelphia), Sisters of Mercy (Providence, R.I. and Chicago), Sisters of the Holy Name, and members of the Franciscan, Benedictine and Dominican orders.
65Mother Agatha O’Neill IBVM. Notes dated 10 October 1911, entitled “Written after an interview with Fr. Roche.” The notes stated that “He [Father Roche] also said that the Sisters of St. Joseph were also working for it [affiliation] but only one of us would get it. A letter was written from St. Joseph’s Convent saying that Father Teefy had applied for them three years ago in May. Father Roche said he never heard of it.’ [Affiliation With St. Michael’s College File, Loretto College Box, Box 6A Loretto Abbey Archives.]
66Letter from Dr. J.J. Cassidy to Mother Agatha 12 February 1913. Loretto College Box 6A, Affiliation with St. Michael's College File, Loretto Abbey Archives.
67 Letter from Dr. J.J. Cassidy to Mother Agatha 12 February 1913. This letter states that “Mr. Brebner also reports President Falconer as saying he has no date of an application of Loretto Abbey, St. Joseph’s Academy etc ... no such formal application was made to the University, although the matter was discussed.” Handwritten notes which accompanied this letter state, “In 1909, a form of application was drawn up including the Academies of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Toronto and Ursulines of Chatham which was never presented.” Loretto College Box 6A, Affiliation with St. Michael’s College File, Loretto Abbey Archives.
68 Annals, 25 April 1908, p. 428.
69Annals, 2 May 1908, p. 428.
70Sister Perpetua Whalen “St. Joseph’s College” Varsity 25 February 1921. St. Joseph’s College Box, ASSJ.
71Annals, 2 May 1908, p. 428.
72Annals, 3 December 1908, p. 436.
73Annals, 3 December 1908, p. 436.
74Sr. Emerentia Lonergan gave this talk. Annals, 2 December 1909, p. 446.
75The annalist wrote these comments as she sent condolences to Mr. Brebner on the death of his mother. Annals, 16 March 1909, p. 440.
76Annals, 30 June 1909, p. 444.
77Annals, 9 June 1910, p. 450.
78Mary Cecilia Ryan is first pupil listed as a university student. She was enroled at University College and was one of the five women who walked into Father Henry Carr’s class in Greek Philosophy in September of 1910. [St. Joseph’s College Box, St. Michael’s College Archives]. Shook claims that this was “the first time women ever appeared at a regular class at St. Michael’s.” [Shook Catholic Post Secondary Education, p. 157.]
79Letter from Mother De Pazzi Kennedy to Very Rev. J. J. McCann, 12 March 1908. Sisters of St. Joseph, Box 3. Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto.
80Annals, 6 May 1909, p. 441, citing a description in The Catholic Register.
81Shook, Catholic Post-Secondary Education, p. 158.
82“Names of Successful Students 1847-95” in The Toronto Normal School 1847-97: Jubilee Report. Toronto: Warwick Brothers and Rutter: 1898. The obituary of Sister Holy Cross White listed her Normal School training among her qualifications. ‘Scrapbooks” iv, xii (ASSJ). Sister Camilla O’Brien's obituary recorded in the “Acts of Profession” (1860-1896) (ASSJ) likewise records her Normal School education.
83Letter from Mother de Pazzi to Rev. J.J.McCann 12 March 1908. Sisters Of St. Joseph, Box 3. Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto.
84It is also noteworthy that of the 20 Graduates of St. Joseph College between 1914 and 1919, six were or became members of the Sisters of St. Joseph and a seventh was or became a Sister of the Good Shepherd. “List of St. Joseph's College Students Who Have Obtained Degrees from the University of Toronto.” ASSJ.