Sunday, October 2, 2011

a women's college

The idea of establishing a denominational college for young women in the Anglican Deanery of Bedford was first submitted to the Montreal's Synod in 1873. Following a contest between local municipalities, the overwhelmingly Anglo-Protestant rural village of Dunham won the honors, and six years later the Dunham Ladies' College opened. The total cost of construction was 11,000$. Annual cost for a boarder was 150$. In 1913 a gymnasium and infirmary were added and the college was renamed St. Helen's School.

This was a time when religion held a primary role in the construction of women's social identities: education being a means borrowed by the local and diocesan Anglican elite (lay and ecclesiastical) to promote the new spiritual mandate of the Church and a conservative vision of social organization. This elite male population intended the college to be an oasis of peace and of purity, the ideal place for young ladies to become gentlewomen. They planned the education of young ladies so as to ensure their becoming conveyances of the values necessary for the implementation of a spiritual Anglican society.

Under the supervision of Ms. Wade from 1911 - 1947, St. Helen's had an exceptional reputation. During the second world war many young English girls were sent to the school to ensure their safety. One of these women was Ms. Grace Elliot, mother of former Prime Minister of Canada Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

The school is now occupied by Youth With A Mission. When I walked by the other day I noticed a lot of mops laid out on the porch to dry.

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