Last week’s column considered Kathleen Rice’s childhood within her extended family: her parents, aunts, uncles and cousins all close by and dominated by her grandparents, George and Elizabeth Carter. As she grew up, she had influences outside the home, including the academic atmosphere of St. Marys Collegiate Institute, a school with an excellent record of preparing students for further education.
Today’s photograph, taken in 1898, shows a group of young women at the collegiate, senior students of teacher Adelaide Clayton (1867-1961) who is second from the left in the middle row. From Listowel, she was an early female graduate of the University of Toronto. She was then hired as the first female teacher at St. Marys Collegiate. She taught here throughout the 1890s and had Arthur Meighen as one of her students.
In the early 1900s she returned to Listowel where she continued her teaching career. Well-known as a public speaker and political activist, she was a staunch advocate of patriotism. During her years in St. Marys, she organized the Junior Red Cross at the collegiate to support the soldiers in the South African (Boer) War. She has been credited as the first to establish this branch of the Red Cross and received many honours for her work. A role model, she showed young women that higher education was possible and that they could lead strong, independent lives.
Kathleen Rice is the tallest girl in the back row — serious and rather awkward. At 16, she was younger than some students in the photograph. Some had worked, usually as third-class teachers, for a year or two in order to finance their final years of secondary education. Kathleen was lucky to have a father who could support her desire to continue school. The collegiate had monthly examinations with results published in the newspaper. Kathleen’s marks in 1898-9 were unremarkable but she persevered, possibly seeing her daily trip across town to the school on the North Ward hill as her chance to escape to a different life. In the fall of 1901, she was one of eight recent St. Marys Collegiate graduates to begin studies at the University of Toronto and one of four local scholarship winners. Three of these, including Kathleen, were women.
This photograph has been cropped for size. To see the full picture with the young women identified, visit the St. Marys Museum or the website: images.ourontario.ca/stmarys/search.