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Original title:  Photograph E. W. Arthy, Montreal, QC, 1881 Notman & Sandham 1881, 19th century Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process 17.8 x 12.7 cm Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd. II-59856.1 © McCord Museum Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)

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ARTHY, EDWARD WESTHEAD, educator, educational administrator, and author; baptized 3 Feb. 1853 in England, eldest son of William Robert Bridge Arthy and Elizabeth ; m. Sara Morris, and they had one daughter; d. 19 Feb. 1914 in Vancouver and was buried there two days later.

The son of a clergyman in Macclesfield, England, Edward Westhead Arthy was matriculated at Queen’s College, University of Oxford, on 3 Nov. 1871 at age 18, but did not complete his studies there. The date of his arrival in Canada is unknown; in 1873, however, he was a student at the University of Toronto. His professional career began two years later in Montreal, when he was appointed headmaster of the Royal Arthur School. Around 1876 he became headmaster of the Preparatory High School, an elementary school connected to the High School of Montreal which prepared students for secondary school. Arthy’s appointment as secretary-superintendent of the Protestant Board of School Commissioners of the City of Montreal came on the eve of the 1883–84 school year, when the incumbent, Sampson Paul Robins, resigned to accept the principalship of McGill Normal School, the province’s only Protestant teacher-training facility. Arthy’s tenure as secretary-superintendent, from 1883 to his resignation in 1908, was a long and, by all indications, successful one. During this period he was also active in the leading Protestant educational bodies in the province, serving on the Protestant Central Board of Examiners, which certified teachers for the Protestant schools, and on various committees of the Provincial Association of Protestant Teachers. As a member of the governing body of the High School of Montreal for many years, he continued to be closely associated with that institution. In addition, he wrote a number of arithmetic manuals which were used in schools until 1932.

The post of secretary-superintendent was a demanding one, since it required its holder to wear two hats. As secretary, Arthy kept the minutes of the board’s meetings and answered its correspondence. In the role of superintendent, he more nearly resembled the chief school officer of today. He was responsible for the general supervision of the city’s Protestant schools, a task that, among other duties, meant regular visits to them all and the submission of monthly reports on their educational and material condition.

As chief officer of Montreal’s Protestant schools around the turn of the century, Arthy oversaw an educational network that looked to English-speaking Canada and Britain for identification and inspiration. Accordingly, Empire Day and other dates calling attention to the glory and development of the British empire were celebrated regularly. The school system that Arthy left in 1908, however, bore only partial resemblance to the one to which he had been appointed 25 years earlier. In 1883 approximately 4,500 children attended the city’s Protestant schools; by 1908 enrolment had almost tripled to 12,000, spread among 15 elementary and 3 secondary schools. But a more significant development was the changing face of the school population. What had heretofore been an almost exclusively English Protestant population was now an ethnic and religious mix, thanks to a wave of Jewish immigrants. When Arthy first became superintendent, Jewish children represented less than four per cent of enrolments in the Protestant schools. On his retirement they accounted for an astounding 37 per cent, their numbers peaking at 44 per cent in 1916.

The influx of Jews into the Protestant schools unleashed a host of educational and legal problems that were only partly settled during Arthy’s tenure. The province’s system of public education, which was divided officially along denominational (Roman Catholic and Protestant) lines, had not been created with non-Christians in mind. The system had been established well before confederation on the assumption that every schoolchild was French Catholic or English Protestant. From the start, Jewish immigrants to Montreal opted to send their children to Protestant rather than Catholic schools. Protestant schools were considered less sectarian and classes were taught in English.

The status of Jews in the Protestant schools was a continuing source of conflict during Arthy’s superintendency. Protestant school officials frequently complained that revenue from Jewish school taxes did not match the costs of educating the Jewish population. For their part, Jewish community leaders accused the Protestant schools of failing to respect their religious and cultural traditions. A partial solution was reached in 1903 with the passage of a provincial law which recognized Jews as Protestants for educational purposes. Both Protestant and Jewish leaders praised the legislation. Yet, a few years later, on the eve of Arthy’s resignation, a new conflict broke out. Jewish representatives insisted that as “Protestants” they were eligible for membership on the Protestant Board of School Commissioners of the City of Montreal. School board officials disagreed, arguing that membership on the board was not included in the act of 1903; they also maintained that Jewish representation on the board would contravene section 93 of the British North America Act of 1867, which protected the educational rights of Catholics and Protestants.

In early 1908 Arthy resigned as secretary-superintendent for reasons of ill health. His decision was not unexpected since he had been on paid sick-leave since 1906. Herbert Joseph Silver, who had been acting superintendent during his absence, succeeded him.

Judging by the comments of well-wishers following his retirement, Arthy was both liked and respected by his employer and professional colleagues. The Protestant school board praised “his personal qualities, his power of comprehensive mental grasp, his scholarly attainments, and administrative ability.” A Protestant school inspector, John W. McOuat, said that Arthy’s “courtesy and kindness toward all made him an ideal superintendent, whom we all appreciate very much.”

According to the minutes of a meeting on 27 May 1910 of the Protestant committee of the Council of Public Instruction, Arthy was replaced on the Protestant Central Board of Examiners because he had “left the province.” Pension records show him residing in Vancouver from 1911 until his death in 1914.

Roger Magnuson

Edward Westhead Arthy is the author of a series of manuals, Grafton’s graded arithmetic . . . (4v., Montreal, 1895–97; rev. ed., 1895–99); he also prepared the teacher’s guide for at least three of the volumes, published as Grafton’s graded arithmetic . . . : teachers’ manual with answers (3v., Montreal, 1896–97; rev. ed., Toronto, 1915).

Arch. of the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal, Protestant Board of School Commissioners of the City of Montreal, annual reports, 1905–44; minutes, 1908–31. Alumni oxonienses; the members of the University of Oxford, 1715–1886 . . . , comp. Joseph Foster (4v., Oxford and London, 1888). Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1912). Directory, Montreal, 1873–1910. Educational Record of the Prov. of Quebec (Quebec), 3 (1883)–51 (1932). G. E. Flower, “A study of the contributions of Dr. E. I. Rexford to education in the province of Quebec” (ma thesis, McGill Univ., Montreal, 1949). Roger Magnuson, A brief history of Quebec education; from New France to Parti Québécois (Montreal, 1980). Que., Parl., Sessional papers, 1911, report of the superintendent of public instruction, 1909/10. Harold Ross, “The Jew in the educational system of the province of Quebec” (ma thesis, McGill Univ., 1947).

Revisions based on:
Edward Westhead Arthy and Sara Morris were issued their marriage licence on 27 June 1881 in Montreal: Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Québec, E14, S1, 1960-01-033/1068, 36.

Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre darch. du Vieux-Montréal, CE601-S69, 11 juill. 1882. B.C. Arch. (Victoria), Genealogy  general search: search-collections.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/Genealogy (consulted 31 May 2018). Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, England, Cheshire parish registers, 1538–2000: familysearch.org (consulted 31 May 2018). Vancouver Daily World, 20, 23 Feb. 1914.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Roger Magnuson, “ARTHY, EDWARD WESTHEAD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 29, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/arthy_edward_westhead_14E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/arthy_edward_westhead_14E.html
Author of Article:   Roger Magnuson
Title of Article:   ARTHY, EDWARD WESTHEAD
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   2019
Access Date:   September 29, 2023