DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

CAREY, ELIZABETH (Murray), home-maker and social activist; b. 10 Nov. 1835 in Baie Verte, N.B., fourth of the nine children of John Carey and Caroline Chappell; m. 24 Aug. 1867 Robert Murray* in Halifax, and they had seven children, of whom one daughter and four sons survived to adulthood; d. 9 Aug. 1920 in Dartmouth, N.S.

Elizabeth Carey’s father moved from Halifax to Baie Verte, where he married and “successfully conducted a large business for many years.” Little is known of her childhood, but she probably received her elementary education at the local school. In 1854–55 and 1857–58 she was a student under Mary Electa Adams* at the “female branch” of the Wesleyan Academy in Sackville, N.B. Elizabeth’s elder sister Margaret Jane had married Edward Chappell Goodwin in 1850, and Murray family lore has it that the Goodwins lived in Halifax for a few years. It is possible that Elizabeth went to Halifax to visit her sister and brother-in-law and may then have met Antoinette Nordbeck, daughter of silversmith Peter Nordbeck*. At any rate, in the early 1860s she became a companion to Antoinette and her invalid sister, Caroline.

After Carey’s marriage to Robert Murray in 1867, her husband was invited to join the Nordbeck household. The rapid growth of the Murray family necessitated a move to a bigger house, which Antoinette Nordbeck purchased on Victoria Road in the south-end suburb of Smith’s Fields. In 1879 the Murray-Nordbeck household moved again, this time to the large west-end estate of Studley, originally the home of Alexander Croke*, judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court.

Early in 1875 Elizabeth Murray and other women had founded the Halifax Infants’ Home, the initiative for which came from lobbying by the Halifax City Mission and influential clergymen. The home was one of three opened that year, the others being for prostitutes and inebriates. Incorporated in 1876, it was created “to receive and tenderly care for destitute infants” and subsequently to arrange for their adoption. Later there also appears to have been a concern for the nursing unwed mother, who was to come in with her child and remain as long as necessary. Attending physicians, with “the entire medical control of the Home,” included Thomas Ritchie Almon and Maria Louisa Angwin*. Money was obtained from annual subscriptions, donations, and Thanksgiving collections from churches across the Maritimes. The home was administered by a committee of at least 12 women, with the aid of an advisory committee of three or more men. In addition to serving on the committee from the beginning, Murray was a valiant collector of subscriptions, and she was also corresponding secretary for a time.

There was a great need in Halifax for an institution such as the Infants’ Home, but its facilities were limited and the number of children and women admitted was never large. Moreover, disease caused a high rate of mortality among the babies. In 1882 the original home was badly damaged by a non-fatal fire. Although it was rebuilt, by the late 1890s its capacity was badly strained, and a grand ball was held at the Halifax armoury in 1899 to raise funds with which to build a new and larger home. Designed by James Charles Philip Dumaresq* and his son, the magnificent brick building opened in May 1900.

Apart from church work, her connection with the Infants’ Home, and her interest in her husband’s involvement with the Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty [see John Naylor*], Murray seems to have led an active social life, and she once boasted that she had never cooked a meal. The Studley home was known for its hospitality, and Murray’s New Brunswick relatives were frequent visitors. She was well read and a good conversationalist. Her children were amused to see that if she knew something about the birthplaces, interests, or professions of expected guests she would use her husband’s well-stocked library to brush up her knowledge in order to converse intelligently with her company.

Antoinette Nordbeck died in 1898 and Caroline Nordbeck in 1902. After Robert Murray died in December 1910, Elizabeth and her eldest son, Robert Harper, sold the Studley estate to Dalhousie University, in accordance with her husband’s wishes. They moved to an equally large property in Dartmouth, but Murray was unhappy with the move, missing her friends and connections with her church and the Infants’ Home. Moreover, she felt that Dartmouth society was of a lower standard than that of Halifax, and she refused to attend her new daughter-in-law’s at-home. Instead she visited the one friend she had in Dartmouth, watched the guests from a window, and later criticized their appearance to her daughter-in-law.

In 1917 Murray broke her hip. By the time of the Halifax explosion on 6 December she was walking with difficulty with the help of a cane, but immediately afterwards her family was amazed to see her walking unaided. Murray died on 9 Aug. 1920, aged 84.

Joan Murray Payzant

[Much of the material contained in this biography has been taken from the author’s unpublished history of the Murrays, “Rob and Francie” (typescript, Dartmouth, N.S., in progress).  j.m.p.]

PANS, MG 100, 53, no.87. Private arch., R. G. Murray (Dartmouth), Murray family bible; J. M. Payzant (Dartmouth), Frances Creighton Murray, diary, 1914, and W. M. Goodwin, “Notes on the Carey family from E. P. Goodwin’s book of records,” a handwritten document tucked into the copy of “The ‘Inchure’ Murrays of Nova Scotia,” comp. W. M. Goodwin (photocopy, Manotick, Ont., 1968), in her possession. Daily Echo (Halifax), 11 May 1900. Halifax Evening Reporter, 11 March 1875. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 27 May, 19 June 1889. Morning Herald (Halifax), 8 March 1884. Judith Fingard, The dark side of life in Victorian Halifax (Porter’s Lake, N.S., 1989), 122. Halifax Infants’ Home, Annual report, esp. 1876, 1879, 1884, 1898. Elizabeth Murray Stevenson, “The Witness” (typescript, Peterborough, Ont., [1984?]; copy in possession of the contributor), intro. Howard Trueman, The Chignecto Isthmus and its first settlers (Toronto, 1902; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1975). M. E. Wright, “Unnatural mothers: infanticide in Halifax, 1850–1875,” Nova Scotia Hist. Rev. (Halifax), 7 (1987), no.2: 12–29.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Joan Murray Payzant, “CAREY, ELIZABETH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 21, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/carey_elizabeth_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/carey_elizabeth_14E.html
Author of Article:   Joan Murray Payzant
Title of Article:   CAREY, ELIZABETH
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   May 21, 2024