QUINLAN, ANNE, teacher; b. 7 June 1839 in County Tipperary (Republic of Ireland), daughter of William Quinlan and Susan Medill; d. unmarried 18 Feb. 1923 in Chatham, N.B.
Anne Quinlan was the daughter of a Roman Catholic shoemaker and his wife who immigrated from Ireland when she was a child and settled in Chatham. It was then the most populous town in northern New Brunswick and had many residents of Irish extraction. She was educated in its common schools, which were co-educational and non-denominational. One school she attended in the early 1850s was conducted by Davis P. Howe, an independent-minded man of Methodist background from Tipperary. In contrast to most other teachers, he refrained from birching or using other forms of corporal punishment; instead he promoted self-discipline and orderly competition. He encouraged his pupils to respect the learning environment and was one of the few teachers in Chatham who staged money-raising events for their schools.
The experience with Howe may have helped Anne Quinlan decide to become a teacher. In 1856, in her mid teens, she enrolled in the training school in Saint John. The program lasted three months and led to a second-class licence. By February 1857 she was teaching in Chatham. She brought enthusiasm, intelligence, artistic talent, and professionalism to her work and was soon one of the town’s most respected educators. Her success may explain why she sometimes had as many as 60 pupils in her classroom. The authorities would not usually divide a class or provide an assistant, so for many years, to make the job manageable, her younger sister Susan helped her on a voluntary basis.
The formation in 1860 of the Catholic diocese of Chatham and the selection of James Rogers* as bishop had a direct impact on education there. Soon after his installation Rogers launched St Michael’s Academy for boys, which stimulated public interest in a parallel institution for girls. Because resources were limited, Rogers was unable to act immediately, but in 1862 Anne Quinlan received permission to conduct a school in the Catholic Temperance Hall. Sometimes referred to as St Michael’s Female Academy, this de facto Catholic school was officially a common school. When the customary public examinations took place, Chatham’s school trustees participated along with the bishop, parents, and others. The compromise the academy represented was mutually beneficial: the trustees were spared the necessity of providing space, and since Anne Quinlan, as a licensed teacher, was compensated by the province, the diocese was relieved of the cost. All were satisfied with her performance. The Chatham Gleaner reported in 1862 that she ran a “very superior” school and in 1865, following a public examination, that “too much praise cannot be given” to the work she was doing with her sister’s assistance. Gratitude was also expressed for the musical concerts they staged.
A turning point came in 1871 with the introduction of New Brunswick’s Common Schools Act [see George Edwin King*], which effectively provided for free, non-sectarian schooling and abolished public support of denominational schools. Catholics objected strenuously but once the act had been proclaimed, Rogers advised that private means should be found for Catholic education. To this end he invited Montreal’s Religious Hospitallers of St Joseph, who had established a hospital in Chatham in 1869, to open a girls’ school there. After some hesitation they agreed, and they engaged Anne Quinlan to help organize a convent school. St Michael’s Academy opened on 2 Oct. 1871 with an enrolment of 30. Although Sister Cesarine Raymond was its designated directress, “Miss Quinlan,” whether described as a teacher, head teacher, or principal, was in charge during the 1870s and 1880s. The academy was primarily a day school, but boarders were admitted from the start, and the number of students in each category grew rapidly, reaching more than 200 in total by the late 1880s. In addition to the usual academic subjects, musical and theatrical performance was featured in the curriculum, and the principal was responsive to external requests for special services she and her pupils could provide. They often took part in church events, and when Governor General Lord Dufferin [Blackwood*] visited Chatham in July 1873, the girls provided the “musical and literary entertainment.” In the view of the Chatham Gleaner, their presentation proved that it was no longer necessary to send young ladies abroad to obtain “a thorough and polite education.” In 1877 David George Smith, the Methodist editor of the Miramichi Advance, concurred with the community that Miss Quinlan was a highly intelligent teacher and “a lady of no ordinary culture.” Even the priests of the diocese sometimes sought her assistance in drafting addresses they had been asked to deliver.
Anne Quinlan had upgraded her teaching credentials at an early date. For many years she was the only member of the St Michael’s staff to hold a first-class licence. When an “advanced department” was created around 1880, she became its head, with Sister Margaret Carter as her assistant. She took an interest in the professional development of colleagues in her school and in the public schools of the town and county. For a time in the 1880s she was one of the five members of the management committee of the Northumberland County Teachers’ Institute, which arranged in-service training.
In 1888 Anne Quinlan was still at St Michael’s, along with six other teachers (three lay and three religious). However, owing to the onset of an unspecified but “incapacitating infirmity,” she soon retired, at around the age of 50. Though her state of health prevented her from ever occupying a full-time position again, it did not render her completely inactive. In 1896 she was appointed to the first Board of School Trustees of the newly incorporated town of Chatham, and she served until 1900. She continued as well to teach privately, in her home and at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital, where she resided for many years prior to her death in 1923. In her obituary in the Chatham World, she was described as a woman of “singular nobility of character.” Possessed of a “truly Christian spirit,” she had accepted with cheerful resignation the limitations her illness had imposed over a span of more than 30 years.
Arch. du Diocèse de Bathurst, N.-B., Groupe II/1-1–119 (fonds James Rogers) (mfm. at PANB, MC290, F7652–58).
NA, RG 31, C1, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, Chatham, N.B.
PANB, RS8, F6777, education, warrants to teachers and inspectors, 1856–59; RS141C5, F18927, no.024755; RS655, petition of Susan Quinlan, 1 March 1866.
St Michael’s Church (Miramichi, N.B.), Church records.
Gleaner (Chatham), 24 March 1851; 19 May 1860; 22 Feb., 29 Nov. 1862; 1 Oct. 1864; 8 April, 30 Sept. 1865; 19 July 1873.
Miramichi Advance (Chatham), 15 Nov. 1877, 1 May 1879, 10 Sept. 1896.
Miramichi Press (Chatham), 9 July 1969.
North Shore Leader (Newcastle, N.B.), 23 Feb. 1923.
Union Advocate (Newcastle), 8 Oct. 1884, 20 Dec. 1899, 31 Jan. 1900.
World (Chatham), 22 April, 1 Nov. 1882; 22 Oct. 1887; 21 Feb. 1923.
Directory, New Brunswick, 1865/66.
J. A. Fraser, By favourable winds: a history of Chatham, New Brunswick ([Chatham], 1975).
W. D. Hamilton, Dictionary of Miramichi biography; biographical sketches of men and women born before 1900 who played a part in public life on the Miramichi: Northumberland County, New Brunswick, Canada (Saint John, 1997).
K. F. C. MacNaughton, The development of the theory and practice of education in New Brunswick, 1784–1900: a study in historical background, ed. A. G. Bailey (Fredericton, 1947).
N.B., Dept. of Education, Annual report (Fredericton).
125 years on the Miramichi: the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, 1869–1994 ([Chatham, 1994]; copy in St Michael’s Museum and Geneal. Centre)