II-148671 | Mrs. Anna H. Leonowens, Montreal, QC, 1903

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Mrs. Anna H. Leonowens, Montreal, QC, 1903
Wm. Notman & Son
1903, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Girls from wealthy families were often educated at home rather than at school. Teachers, known as governesses, were hired to live with the family and provide daily instruction to the children. Anna Leonowens became internationally famous after she wrote a book about her experiences as governess to the children in the court of Siam. It was titled The English Governess at the Siamese Court being Recollections of Six years in the Royal Palace at Bangkok. Leonowens lived in Halifax from 1887 until 1897, where she was governess to her own grandchildren. Also active in the public affairs of the city, she led the campaign to establish the Victoria College of Art and contributed to the long struggle for the right of women to vote in Nova Scotia. Her story inspired two Hollywood movies: the first, a musical called The King and I (1956); the second, Anna and the King (1999).

Leslie Dow Smith, Anna Leonowens: A Life Beyond the King and I (Lawrencetown Beach, NS: Pottersfield Press, 1991).

  • What

    Because Anna Leonowens led the campaign to establish the Victoria College of Art in Halifax, its art gallery -- which shows the work of its students and teachers -- is named in her honour, the Anna Leonowens Gallery.

  • Where

    The Victoria College of Art opened on the upper floors of the Union Bank Building on the corner of Hollis and Prince Streets. In 1978, after several moves, the college settled into a block of 19th-century buildings on the Halifax waterfront.

  • When

    The Victoria College of Art was opened in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee-50 years on the British throne.

  • Who

    Although the Victoria School of Art was open to both men and women, women made up a large proportion of its student body in its early years. Young women trained there both as professional artists and in art-related occupations such as wallpaper design.