KIRBY, ANN (Macaulay), mother and businesswoman; baptized 11 Nov. 1770 in Knaresborough, England, daughter of John Kirby and Ann —; m. 13 Feb. 1791 Robert Macaulay* in Crown Point, N.Y., and they had three sons; d. 20 Jan. 1850 in Kingston, Upper Canada.
In 1774 Ann Kirby’s parents brought her and her brothers William and John from Yorkshire to New York. There, at Crown Point, she met and in 1791 married the loyalist merchant Robert Macaulay, a business associate of her brother John. They went to live in Kingston. In 1800, at the age of 30, Ann was left a widow and from this time until her death she assumed the responsibility for raising her family and took part in running the family business and holdings. Marriage to Robert Macaulay had provided her with a position of some influence in the tory village of Kingston and a network of friends and relatives for support. None the less, being left on the Upper Canadian frontier with three young sons must have been a daunting experience.
Ann Macaulay considered that her first duty was to care for and support her family. To her, as to many of her world in Upper Canada, education was the key to advancement and happiness. In 1803 she sent her eldest sons, John* aged 11 and William* aged 9 (Robert started some time later), to Cornwall to be educated under John Strachan* and she subsequently made arrangements for them to learn French and to receive professional training. Recognizing that girls too needed formal education, she would repeatedly recommend in 1839–40 that her eldest granddaughter be sent to school. Ann maintained a lifelong interest in the progress of all her sons, encouraging them to be “diligent and sensible” in their endeavours. Her frequent correspondence with each of them helped to cement strong bonds of affection and respect.
An astute woman who was undoubtedly familiar with her husband’s business interests, Ann Macaulay oversaw his estate. With her brother John as partner, she was involved until 1817 in John Kirby and Company, the firm created from the Macaulay holdings. After its dissolution, she maintained an interest in her own considerable investments. Though her brother and later her son John handled the actual running of her business affairs, she was consulted and gave advice. She also kept up with personal and social commitments to friends and the community. She was an active member of the local Anglican church, St George’s, and after the War of 1812 she joined a number of influential Kingston women in various philanthropic endeavours. In 1817 she was a subscriber to the Kingston Auxiliary Bible and Common Prayer Book Society and during the 1820s served as a director and manager of the Female Benevolent Society, which operated a small hospital. Moreover, Ann Macaulay could always be counted on to support such worthy causes as the relief of fire victims in New Brunswick’s Miramichi valley in 1825 and of cholera victims in Kingston, the newly established Queen’s College, the Cataraqui Bridge Company, and the building fund for a monument to Sir Isaac Brock*.
Yet, throughout her life, family came first. She kept house for her son John until his marriage in 1833. For a short time after this she lived alone in her new stone house, Knaresborough Cottage, but returned to the Macaulay residence when John moved to Toronto to manage his political affairs. And when his wife died in 1846, Ann, at the age of 76, assumed maternal responsibility for the care in Kingston of John’s four children. She died there four years later. As a woman in Upper Canada in the first half of the 19th century, Ann Macaulay undoubtedly subscribed to the cult of true womanhood so assiduously embraced by the colonial élite – the belief that a woman’s proper sphere of influence was in the home as wife and mother. Though clearly a strong, capable businesswoman and active member of her community, she saw her primary role as that of a mother, and it was one she fulfilled conscientiously and well.
AO, MS 78. Parish arch., Knaresborough (Knaresborough, Eng.), Reg. of baptisms, 11 Nov. 1770. The parish register of Kingston, Upper Canada, 1785–1811, ed. A. H. Young (Kingston, Ont., 1921). Chronicle & Gazette, 28 March 1840. Kingston Chronicle, 8 Dec. 1820, 6 June 1822, 11 Aug. 1826, 4 May 1827. Kingston Gazette, 22 March, 12 April 1817. Upper Canada Gazette, 15 Dec. 1825. Margaret [Sharp] Angus, “The Macaulay family of Kingston,” Historic Kingston, no.5 (1955–56): 3–12.