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McCHESNEY, SARAH (Hayward), teacher; b. 16 Nov. 1839 in London, England, daughter of John McChesney; m. 14 March 1862 Charles Hayward, and they had nine children, three of whom survived her; d. 30 July 1901 in Victoria.

Sarah McChesney trained as a teacher in England and received her schoolmistress’s certificate in December 1859. She was a schoolmistress at the West Ham and Stratford Girls’ British School until July 1862. In September she sailed to join her husband, who had emigrated to Victoria that spring. She arrived on 10 Jan. 1863 and, probably the next year, founded the Fort Street Academy, a school for young ladies, of which she was principal. It advertised “a sound practical education, imparted by the approved system of teaching practised in the Model Schools of England,” and operated until 1871. During this time Sarah Hayward also taught at the Anglican school, Angela College. In August 1872 she was appointed principal of the girls’ department of the public school in Victoria.

In 1880 Hayward was at the centre of a controversy which had begun the previous year when the Public School Act was rewritten to concentrate power in the office of the superintendent of education. The first wide-ranging action of the new superintendent, Colin Campbell McKenzie, was to revoke all teaching certificates and require their former holders to write examinations in order to get them back. Teachers who had held first-class certificates were particularly enraged at rules which automatically granted such credentials to people who possessed university degrees even though they might have no teaching experience.

Discontent grew, fed by a report in which McKenzie, who had been a teacher in Victoria himself, criticized teachers, remarking in particular on a lack of cooperation with his requests. He further charged the previous board of education with favouritism in granting teaching certificates. In response to the outcry the British Columbia legislature appointed a select committee to inquire into the situation. In his testimony McKenzie specifically mentioned Hayward as one of four teachers who had written to the provincial secretary, Thomas Basil Humphreys*, in complaint against him and he noted irregularities in her school reports. Hayward replied that he lacked tact and understanding in his communications with teachers. The controversy was unresolved by 5 July, when Hayward and other teachers in Victoria and New Westminster began the examinations. On 30 July, before any announcement of the results, Charles Hayward met one of the examiners on the street and asked how candidate number 49 had fared. He was told that “no.49 had successfully passed.” The next day Sarah Hayward received a letter directing her to report to the superintendent’s office. There she was told that she “had done remarkably well” but was asked to rework two problems because her answers formed “inconclusive results.” This she refused to do, believing that her examination would stand. As she put it, she “wanted no favour, but preferred being dealt with as were the other candidates.” In early August the names of the successful examinees were posted and hers was not among them.

When the assignments of the newly certified teachers were publicized, it was revealed that the school trustees had reallocated positions: several long-term teachers were replaced in their previous posts by younger people, some holding only third-class, or temporary, certificates. In one case a woman was given a class entirely of boys. The general thrust was to advance the newer teachers at the expense of the older ones, in particular the women. Old-style teachers were facing a trend towards professionalization. To C. C. McKenzie they seem to have been an obstacle in his quest to modernize the province’s education system.

On 5 October Sarah and Charles Hayward, represented by Theodore Davie*, obtained from the Supreme Court of British Columbia a rule nisi for a mandamus commanding the school officials to grant her a certificate. The officials then had to show cause why one should not be awarded. In December both parties met before the full bench of the court. The officials stated that Hayward had received assistance with her examinations. No proof, however, was offered. Instead they focused on the issue of whether the court had power to interfere with the examiners’ discretionary authority. On this ground the case was decided, with justice John Hamilton Gray* finding in favour of the Haywards and justice Henry Pering Pellew Crease and Chief Justice Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie* finding for the officials.

Hayward had had her day in court but it ended her teaching career. She declined to reapply for certification the following year and channelled her energies in different directions, devoting herself to her family and to charitable works. Between 1864 and 1880 she had borne nine children, including British Columbia’s first recorded triplets. While teaching she had balanced her dual roles, and eventually had taught by choice, not by necessity.

Over the years she also founded or was closely linked with almost all the charitable organizations formed in Victoria during the late 19th century. These included the Friendly Help Society, the ladies’ committee of the British Columbia Protestant Orphans’ Home, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the Local Council of Women of Victoria and Vancouver Island, the women’s auxiliary of the Royal Jubilee Hospital, and the committee of the Homes for Aged and Infirm Women. At her death the Victoria Daily Times reminded its readers of her active involvement “for forty years in the religious, philanthropic, social and educational interests of the city.”

Kathryn Bridge

BCARS, Add. mss 503; GR 148; GR 450; GR 526; GR 1052, box 21, no.3044; GR 1304, file 1901/2445; GR 1445; GR 1465, 1880; GR 1467; GR 1468; GR 1727, vols.701, 731, 762. B.C., Ministry of Health (Victoria), Vital statistics, death certificate. City of Victoria Arch., 98212–23 (Hayward family coll.). Daily Colonist (Victoria), March, December 1864; July 1865; February 1869; March–June 1879; March–December 1880; June 1881; March 1882; July 1901. Victoria Daily Times, 2 Aug. 1901. B.C., Education Office, Annual report of the public schools (Victoria), 1877/78–1880/81. Elizabeth Forbes, Wild roses at their feet: pioneer women of Vancouver Island ([Victoria], 1971), 42. E. I. Watts, “Attitudes of parents toward the development of public schooling in Victoria, B.C., during the colonial period” (ma thesis, Simon Fraser Univ., Burnaby, B.C., 1986).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Kathryn Bridge, “McCHESNEY, SARAH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcchesney_sarah_13E.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/mcchesney_sarah_13E.html
Author of Article:   Kathryn Bridge
Title of Article:   McCHESNEY, SARAH
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   June 23, 2024