DALE, SARAH ANN, college matron and Society of Friends (Quaker) minister; b. 16 March 1848 in Pickering Township, Upper Canada; d. unmarried 2 Aug. 1915 in Pickering, Ont.
Sarah Dale was the youngest of the seven children of Richard Dale, a Quaker farmer from Yorkshire, England, and Jane Valentine of Belfast (Northern Ireland). She was raised on the family farm north of the village of Duffin’s Creek (Pickering), in an area with a sizeable Quaker community. Little is known of her early life; she was living at home in the 1870s and in 1890 she inherited the family homestead. Three years later she joined the staff of Pickering College as matron (housekeeper) at the rate of $200 per annum.
The college, a private residential school owned and operated by the Society of Friends, had evolved from a seminary established near Picton, Upper Canada, in 1841. Moved to Pickering in 1878 and opened to both sexes and all denominations, it closed temporarily in 1885 as a result of a split between conservative and progressive elements within the society. When it reopened in 1892, with William Philip Firth as principal and Ella Rogers as lady principal, its primary purpose remained essentially the same: to give students “a thoroughly useful and well-grounded liberal education” while “surrounding them with all the moral influences and guarded care of a well-conducted home.” During its years at Pickering, the school acquired a solid reputation for its business department and preparatory courses for university and normal school.
Sarah Dale served as matron from the fall of 1893 to late December 1905, when a disastrous fire forced the college to shut down. It reopened at Newmarket, north of Toronto, in September 1909. Dale served as matron for one more year and then retired. Although few records relating to her work at the college have survived, Quaker historian Arthur Garratt Dorland noted that “beneath a somewhat stern demeanour, Miss Dale possessed a kindly disposition, and her devoted service to the institution, especially during the first difficult period of reorganization, was no small factor in its success.” As matron, Dale had played an important role in helping the college fulfil its primary objective; her obituary in the Pickering News would note that her “manner made her beloved by all the students, particularly the younger ones who had left home for the first time.”
Quaker practice gave women an exceptionally strong voice in the affairs of the Society of Friends. Not surprisingly then, in addition to her work at Pickering College, Dale was actively involved with the Canada Yearly Meeting of the Orthodox (evangelical) branch of the society. In 1893, for instance, she was secretary to the executive of the home mission committee and superintendent of the juvenile department of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society; as well, she was secretary to the Peace Association of Friends in America. Dale also served as a minister, whose sermons were “always full of good common sense.” Sarah Dale died at her home in Pickering on 2 Aug. 1915 following her return from Uxbridge, where she had preached two sermons on the words “Be ye also ready.” She was buried in the Friends Cemetery in Pickering.
NA, RG 31, C1, Pickering Township, Ont., 1871, div.2: 56; 1901, div.2: 8 (mfm. at AO). Pickering College Library (Newmarket, Ont.), Arch. of the Religious Soc. of Friends in Canada, B-1-1; D-1-12 (mfm. at AO, F 997). Pickering News (Pickering Village [Ajax], Ont.), 18 Sept. 1889, 19 Sept. 1890, 6 Aug. 1915. A. G. Dorland, “A hundred years of Quaker education in Canada: the centenary of Pickering College,” RSC, Trans., 3rd ser., 36 (1942), sect.ii: 51–91. M. V. Royce, “Education for girls in Quaker schools in Ontario,” Atlantis (Wolfville, N.S.), 3 (1977–78), no.1: 181–92.