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MabelHave you ever looked at an old photograph, been intrigued by the unknown person staring back at you and wondered what kind of life she lived? That happened to me when I saw this photo at a yard sale in Peterborough, Ontario a few years ago. On a piece of paper glued to the back is this note:

Miss Mabel Cartwright
Dean of Women
Principal of St. Hilda’s College 1903-1936
Trinity College, University of Toronto

I bought the photo and it’s been sitting on a shelf in my office ever since. This week, I could no longer contain my curiosity and began researching Miss Cartwright. She led an influential life and was descended from a number of well educated, accomplished, and highly respected Canadian families. This is the first in a series of stories featuring Mabel’s ancestry.

The first of six children, Mabel Cartwright was born at Kingston, Ontario in 1869 to James Robison Cartwright (1842-1919) and Emily Boulton (1845-1920). She grew up in Toronto and was sent to England in 1885 at the age of 16. There, she was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford University. Mabel earned honours in the School of Modern History, taught in Oxford High School and in Toronto’s Bishop Strachan School for four years. In 1903, she was appointed Lady Principal of St. Hilda’s residence for women at Trinity College.

Founded in 1888, St Hilda’s College held its own charter and was intended to provide higher education for women in affiliation with the Anglican men’s college, Trinity. At first, women students attended honours lectures at Trinity and pass lectures at St Hilda’s, which was located in a series of houses near Trinity College. In 1894, Trinity opened all of its lectures to women and St Hilda’s became a residential and social centre for women attending Trinity College lectures.

– from Centres of ‘Home-Like Influence’: Residences for Women at the University of Toronto, Alyson E. King, University of Toronto


current St Hilda’s College building, University of Toronto

SOURCE: Wikipedia

Mabel played an important role in Ontario education during the early part of the 1900s. Upon her retirement from St. Hilda’s in 1936, the following resolution was adopted by the Corporation of Trinity College at their 25 Apr meeting:

The Corporation of Trinity College desires to place on record its deep appreciation of the services of Miss Mabel Cartwright, B.A., LL.D., Principal of St. Hilda’s College from 1903 to 1936.

The success of St. Hilda’s as a College is due almost entirely to the devotion and skill with which Miss Cartwright has worked during this long period of thirty-three years. She brought to her task a fine equipment in personal character and strong religious convictions. Her notable services in connection with the missionary work of the Church are well known to all. At St. Hilda’s she was able to maintain a simple but sincere religious life which was of incalculable value to the institution. Her insistence upon the highest standards of conduct and her sense of the importance of dignity and due restraint in all the activities of college life have made the influence of our women undergraduates a very wholesome element in the University.

– from A History of the University of Trinity College, Toronto, 1852-1952 by Thomas Arthur Reed, University of Toronto Press

Mabel’s father, John Robison Cartwright, was a lawyer who, in 1893 is noted in a summary of Anderson Veney’s murder trial as Deputy Attorney General of Ontario.

Unlike most other members of the Cartwright family (of whom I will write in future posts), comprehensive biographical information for John Robison Cartwright is non existent online. Had his name not appeared in the obituary for his brother James Strachan Cartwright (1840-1913), I would have been hard pressed to place him as part of this family.

John Robison Cartwright, the youngest child born to John Solomon Cartwright (1805-1845) and Sarah Hayter Macaulay (1809-1866) married Emily Boulton (daughter of D’Arcy Boulton) at Cobourg, Ontario 30 Jun 1868. In addition to Mabel, John and Emily had the following children:

John Macaulay Boulton Cartwright (1872-1877)
Stephen Hayter Cartwright (1875-1909)
Ralph Bingham Cartwright (1877-1899)
Edwin Aubrey Cartwright (1879-1951)
Winnifred Macaulay Cartwright (1883-1953)

It appears that none of these Cartwright siblings married. It’s easy to imagine that this branch of the family contained quiet, devoted, studious, community minded people. John Robison Cartwright compiled and published five volumes of books entitled “Cases Decided on the British North America Act, 1867, in the Privy Council, the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Provincial Courts”.

Cases Decided on the BNA Act

Mabel Cartwright died in Toronto, Ontario 8 Apr 1955, aged 86. A Cartwright family stone can be seen at St James’ Cemetery & Crematorium in Toronto.

Cartwright headstone

Stephen Hayter Cartwright is buried at the Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery in Seoul, South Korea. His brother Edwin Aubrey Cartwright’s remains were cremated and interred at High River, Alberta where he had been a rancher.

One found photograph and a few days’ work has uncovered 263 fascinating people so far in Mabel Cartwright’s family tree.

FUTURE POSTS in this series:

1) The Boulton Family (including Hon. Justice George D’Arcy Boulton 1759-1834 and Lt Col D’Arcy Edward Boulton 1785-1846)

2) More on the Cartwright Family (including John Solomon Cartwright 1804-1845, lawyer, militia officer, author, judge, Justice of the Peace and his twin brother Rev Robert David Cartwright 1804-1843)

3) The Macaulay Family (including Sir James Buchanan Macaulay 1793-1859 and his father Dr James Macaulay 1759-1822)

4) James Secord (Mabel Cartwright’s great grand uncle) and his heroic wife, Laura Ingersoll Secord

5) The Van Straubenzee Family (including Colonel Bowen Van Straubenzee 1829-1898, General Sir Charles Thomas Van Straubenzee 1812-1892 and Casimir Van Straubenzee, Captain in the Dutch Guards)

What’s your family story? WeGoBack can help find it.