II-170604 | Missie Ellen Ballon and piano, Montreal, QC, 1908

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Missie Ellen Ballon and piano, Montreal, QC, 1908
Wm. Notman & Son
1908, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
25 x 20 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Figure (1339) , Figure (1339) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

Playing the piano was another of the "ornamental branches" of education that middle- class girls were encouraged to pursue. By the late 19th century, the piano had become the most important status symbol for respectable families, and girls and women were the family members most likely to play the piano for friends and family. Even so, middle-class women were strongly discouraged from playing the piano in public. Instead, a great many became piano teachers-a respectable occupation that could be pursued from the home.

John G. Reid, "The Education of Women at Mount Allison, 1854-1914," in P.A. Buckner, Gail G. Campbell, David Frank, eds., The Acadiensis Reader: Volume Two; Atlantic Canada After Confederation, third edition (Fredericton: Acadiensis Press, 1999), 192-222.

  • What

    While the piano was appreciated as a musical instrument, it was also regarded as a beautiful piece of wood furniture, sure to impress visitors to the home.

  • Where

    The Maritime Conservatory of Music opened in 1887 in affiliation with the Halifax Ladies' College to teach young Maritime women how to play the piano.
    Most schools and colleges for young women in the Maritimes and elsewhere in Canada taught the ornamental branches of education.

  • When

    Pianos became popular in the 1880s and 1890s after they began to be mass-produced in factories.

  • Who

    Young middle-class women across Canada were encouraged to learn to play the piano.