"Monklands" - Villa Maria Convent

Left:"Monklands", Villa Maria Convent, Montréal, QC. 1970-1871

Right: Villa Maria School, Montréal, QC. After Notman (I-60958) Taken on November 16th 1999 at 12:40 p.m.

Photographers: Left: William Notman, Right: Andrzej Maciejewski
McCord Museum of Canadian History

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


Date/Time: November 16, 1999, 12:40 p.m.

This former convent is now a school. Since my daughter is studying there, I had no problem locating it, but some technical problems arose. There are many points of reference for this shot, but all of them are on the same plane, which made it difficult to find the exact camera position, especially the distance of the camera from the building. Apartment buildings have sprung up behind, and as a result I think this place has lost the mysterious atmosphere and sense of isolation that Notman captured in his original photograph.
Date/Time: November 16, 1999, 12:40 p.m.

This former convent is now a school. Since my daughter is studying there, I had no problem locating it, but some technical problems arose. There are many points of reference for this shot, but all of them are on the same plane, which made it difficult to find the exact camera position, especially the distance of the camera from the building. Apartment buildings have sprung up behind, and as a result I think this place has lost the mysterious atmosphere and sense of isolation that Notman captured in his original photograph.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Map

This Map of Montreal depicts the location where the photographs by Notman and Maciejewski were taken.

McCord Museum of Canadian History

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


In a rural setting on the slopes of Mount Royal, the Monklands estate was one of the favourite destinations of visitors and Montrealers on beautiful summer days. You could breathe the fresh air there and the site offered a magnificent view of the city.

At first a private home, then briefly the official residence of the Governor General Lord Elgin, Monklands became in 1854 a private school for girls called Villa Maria. This boarding school of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame educated the young ladies of the Montreal elite. In 1864, during her stay in Montreal, Frances Monck went there to attend an awards ceremony presided over by the wife of the Governor General of the time. The guests included the mayor of Montreal, politicians, military officers, members of the bench and businessmen, along with their wives.

Villa Maria was an exceptional educational institution, but it exhibited nonetheless basic characteristics of the Montreal school system in the 19th century. Education was then structured according to religion, sex and social status. Catholics and Protestants, boys and girls, rich and poor did not go to the same schools.
In a rural setting on the slopes of Mount Royal, the Monklands estate was one of the favourite destinations of visitors and Montrealers on beautiful summer days. You could breathe the fresh air there and the site offered a magnificent view of the city.

At first a private home, then briefly the official residence of the Governor General Lord Elgin, Monklands became in 1854 a private school for girls called Villa Maria. This boarding school of the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre Dame educated the young ladies of the Montreal elite. In 1864, during her stay in Montreal, Frances Monck went there to attend an awards ceremony presided over by the wife of the Governor General of the time. The guests included the mayor of Montreal, politicians, military officers, members of the bench and businessmen, along with their wives.

Villa Maria was an exceptional educational institution, but it exhibited nonetheless basic characteristics of the Montreal school system in the 19th century. Education was then structured according to religion, sex and social status. Catholics and Protestants, boys and girls, rich and poor did not go to the same schools.
Printed Documents
  • Danylewycz, Marta. 1987. Taking the Veil. An Alternative to Marriage, Motherhood and Spinsterhood in Quebec, 1840-1920. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.
  • Dumont, Micheline, Nadia Eid, et al. 1986. Les couventines : l’éducation de filles au Québec dans les congrégations religieuses enseignantes, 1840-1960. Montreal : Éditions du Boréal.
  • Lahaise, Robert. 1980. Les édifices conventuels du Vieux Montréal : Aspects ethno-historiques. La Salle (Que.) : Hurtubise HMH.
  • Malouin, Marie-Paule. 1985. Ma soeur, à quelle école allez-vous?: Deux écoles de filles à la fin du XIXe siècle. Montreal : Fides.
  • Sandham, Alfred. 1876. Picturesque Montreal, or, The Tourist’s Souvenir of a Visit to the Commercial Metropolis of the Dominion of Canada. Montreal: Witness Printing House.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Our Lady's Terrace

Gathered on Our Lady's Terrace, Villa Maria students pose for the photographer Notman. The school system of the time was extremely hierarchical, in the image of Montreal society. The standard for working-class girls was the public parochial school with its four-year elementary curriculum, while middle-class families could provide their children with education that was a little more advanced in private primary schools, which were called academies.

William Notman (1826-1891)
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gifts of Mr. James Geoffrey Notman
c. 1860
Silver salts on paper mounted on card - Albumen process
7.3 x 7 cm, 7.3 x 7 cm
N-0000.193.16, N-0000.193.17
© McCord Museum


School days.

In one of the classrooms of the Villa Maria Convent, young girls from good families are bent over their desks, busy improving their handwriting, reading and math skills. Each one is doing her best to get good grades. The teacher, dressed in the habit of the Sisters of Notre-Dame, moves between the rows of desks overseeing the work of her protegés. She devotes much of her time in the classroom to the teaching of religion, social sciences and the domestic arts, since it is her duty to prepare the girls for their future roles as wives and mothers.
School days.

In one of the classrooms of the Villa Maria Convent, young girls from good families are bent over their desks, busy improving their handwriting, reading and math skills. Each one is doing her best to get good grades. The teacher, dressed in the habit of the Sisters of Notre-Dame, moves between the rows of desks overseeing the work of her protegés. She devotes much of her time in the classroom to the teaching of religion, social sciences and the domestic arts, since it is her duty to prepare the girls for their future roles as wives and mothers.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Desk

Although a toy, this is an example of the style of desk that was common in schools at the beginning of the 20th century. The full-size versions would also have been used in upper-class homes, where young children were privately tutored.

McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Mrs. S. Boyd Millen

Wood
7.3 x 6.7 x 10.7 cm
M977.97.22
© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


Between 1896 and 1914, education was hotly debated in Quebec. In 1897, both the Catholic and Protestant clergies strongly opposed the attempt by educational reformers to create a public "Ministère de l'Instruction" and ensure passage of a law making school attendance mandatory for children. At the time, the majority of working-class children within the Catholic community did not go to school past third grade. The law was eventually passed, although both the Catholic and Protestant Churches maintained their hold on education for several more decades.
Between 1896 and 1914, education was hotly debated in Quebec. In 1897, both the Catholic and Protestant clergies strongly opposed the attempt by educational reformers to create a public "Ministère de l'Instruction" and ensure passage of a law making school attendance mandatory for children. At the time, the majority of working-class children within the Catholic community did not go to school past third grade. The law was eventually passed, although both the Catholic and Protestant Churches maintained their hold on education for several more decades.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

School Report

This report card was written on March 1, 1865, and signed by the Mother Superior, Sister Marie de Ste. Léocardie.

McCord Museum of Canadian History
c. 1865
Paper
21.5 x 17 cm
M2001X.6.59
© McCord Museum


This is the school report of a young girl named Hermine Fauteux. She was a boarder in 1865 at a school in St-Laurent run by the Congregation of Sainte-Croix. The Congregation was founded in France in 1837 as a teaching order and invited by Bishop Bourget to come to Montreal in 1847.

This report shows that Fauteux’s health was delicate and that she received a "B" in subjects such as French and English. "Manual work" probably refers to instruction in general housekeeping such as cooking, cleaning and washing. The report reveals how limited the curriculum was for a young girl in a religious school in the mid-19th century.
This is the school report of a young girl named Hermine Fauteux. She was a boarder in 1865 at a school in St-Laurent run by the Congregation of Sainte-Croix. The Congregation was founded in France in 1837 as a teaching order and invited by Bishop Bourget to come to Montreal in 1847.

This report shows that Fauteux’s health was delicate and that she received a "B" in subjects such as French and English. "Manual work" probably refers to instruction in general housekeeping such as cooking, cleaning and washing. The report reveals how limited the curriculum was for a young girl in a religious school in the mid-19th century.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Nun's Habit

This habit was worn by a Sister of the Congregation of Notre-Dame.

McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Musée du Château Dufresne
c. 1940
M990.786.20.1
© McCord Museum


The Congregation was founded in Montreal in 1652 by Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700), who had come from France to the small settlement of Ville-Marie to establish a school. At that time there were few children to teach, so the Sisters helped the sick and needy.

From this modest beginning, the Congregation of Notre-Dame grew into a well-respected teaching order. Its convents educated many generations of Montreal girls. The Congregation purchased the estate known as "Monklands" in 1854, establishing it as the Villa-Maria Convent. The main building, built in 1804, has been declared a historic monument and currently houses a girls' school.
The Congregation was founded in Montreal in 1652 by Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700), who had come from France to the small settlement of Ville-Marie to establish a school. At that time there were few children to teach, so the Sisters helped the sick and needy.

From this modest beginning, the Congregation of Notre-Dame grew into a well-respected teaching order. Its convents educated many generations of Montreal girls. The Congregation purchased the estate known as "Monklands" in 1854, establishing it as the Villa-Maria Convent. The main building, built in 1804, has been declared a historic monument and currently houses a girls' school.

© McCord Museum

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify the changes that were operated within Canadian society over two decades (territory, population, economy, etc.);
  • Describe in details changes that he/she is able to observe;
  • Explain and speculate about the reasons that could justify these changes;
  • Make connections between the differences and similarities of the two eras.

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