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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The sisters of Saint Ann : their contribution to education in the Pacific Northwest, 1858-1958 Down, Edith Emily


When the Sisters of Saint Ann arrived in Victoria, B.C. on June 8, 1858, they were the first religious order of women to set foot in the territory north of the forty-ninth parallel. The history of their activities and their contribution to education during the first one hundred years of their existence in the west is the specific study of this present work. Histories dealing with the development of the west make reference to their coming but no complete record of their story has been made. Since the work of Catholic Education in British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska commenced with the foundation of the Church in these parts, a background study of the early missionaries and the establishment of the Diocese of Vancouver Island was included. This led to the investigation necessary to confirm the time of establishment of the first Catholic School. The conclusion was reached that a Catholic School was in existence in 1849 and that it opened simultaneously with the one started in 1849 by Reverend R. Staines in the Hudson's Bay Fort. The arrival of the Sisters at the peak of the Gold Rush fever, their success in the first Convent School in Victoria, B.C. and the courage of the individuals who made up the first little missionary band is a study that adds colour to the early picture of the history of British Columbia and the Northland. In the beginning, the need was for schools to christianize and educate the children of the primitive Indians. The Sisters of Saint Ann answered the call and soon they were staffing schools in Duncan on Vancouver Island and at New Westminster and St. Mary's Mission on the mainland. However, almost simultaneously with this type of work, the sudden opening up of the country in these parts created a demand for the education of the children whose parents came west for the various reasons that history relates. This need brought an increased number of Sisters from the Motherhouse in Lachine and it also led to the opening of a novitiate in Victoria, B.C. where young girls could be trained for the Sisterhood. Consequently the Sisters of Saint Ann organized primary, elementary and High Schools at focal points throughout this vast territory. The increased enrolment from thirty pupils in 1858 at Victoria, B.C., to over six thousand in 1958 in thirty-four establishments throughout British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska shows the extent the works of the Sisterhood reached. A study was made of the methods of teaching adopted by the Institute, the success of the schools because of better teacher-training and advanced educational methods. The study included an investigation of the first programme of studies organized at the Motherhouse in Lachine, Quebec, and adapted from the Ontario system of Education. As the Province of British Columbia developed its own teacher-training centres and its own university, the programme of studies of the Sisters of Saint Ann was changed in 1907 in favour of that of the Department of Education of British Columbia and that of Alaska and the Yukon respectively. The successes of students was noted and a survey of departmental examination results was tabulated. In addition, a sample of students in various walks of life who have achieved success and honours was taken. The results obtained from these investigations are an assurance of the excellence of performance in education of the Sisters of Saint Ann. Together with these investigations a study of the Mothers Provincial who administered the works of the province within the first one hundred years, as well as the educational leadership of the Prefects of Studies was essential to show the reasons for the success and continued vitality of the work of the Sisters of Saint Ann in British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska.

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