Wednesday, November 25, 2020
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Loretto College: Advocate of Women’s Higher Education in the 20th Century

On Jan. 23, 2012, Sr. Evanne Hunter, IBVM Canadian Provincial, pictured right, presented a lecture entitled “Loretto College: Advocate of Women’s Higher Education in the 20th Century” at Loretto College to an audience of over 80. Sr. Evanne, a graduate and later principal of Loretto Abbey College School, presented an entertaining history of her congregation’s role in providing post-secondary education to young Catholic women in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century.

In the fall of 1910, five University College women, all graduates of Loretto Abbey Academy School, decided to attend the Greek philosophy course being taught by Rev. Henry Carr, csb, at St. Michael’s College instead of the one being taught at University College. On that day, embarrassed by the boldness of these female undergraduates to sit with the male students of St. Michael’s College, Carr continued teaching the class but for the rest of the year taught the five young women separately in the priests’ community room.

With its Charter of 1910, the University of Toronto embraced a federation of four Arts Colleges, all of which enjoyed equal rights: University College, which was non-denominational; Victoria College, Methodist; Trinity College, Anglican; and St. Michael’s College, Catholic. The first three were co-educational, each maintaining a women’s residence in connection: Queen’s Hall, Annesly Hall, and St. Hilda’s College respectively. But owing to the principles of segregation which prevailed at St. Michael’s College, however, women were not admitted to registration at the Catholic college. This was a pivotal point to the establishment of the two Catholic women’s colleges at St. Mike’s.

The Loretto College community hosted a wonderful reception prior to the lecture allowing alumni, faculty, students and members of several religious communities to connect and reconnect.

In Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Education at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto 1911-2011, the Loretto Sisters, Sisters of St. Joseph, the John M. Kelly Library and Continuing Education have partnered to offer a lectures series to mark this anniversary milestone and to complement the work of the three institutional archives in creating an online historical exhibit.

The next lecture in the series will take place on March 7, 2012, when Mechtilde O’Mara CSJ will give a talk on the history of St. Joseph’s College at Regis College (Christie Mansion), 100 Wellesley Street West.

By Linda Wicks, CSJ Congregational Archivist
Photos courtesy of Gerry Graham


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