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Home - introductions to the site
Search - a searchable database of letters/essays/etc.
Family - short biographical information of each family member
Photographs - various images pertaining to the McQuesten family
Thesis - essays on the McQuestens and lifewriting by Mary Anderson
Timelines - a chronological list of events in the McQuesten family and corresponding historical events

Family - Mary Baker McQuesten
Mary Baker McQuesten
Oct. 10, 1849 - Dec. 7, 1934

Mary Baker McQuesten

[Note to readers: Throughout this website Mary Baker McQuesten will be referred to as exactly that, and is to be distinguished from her daughter Mary Baldwin McQuesten.]

Mary Baker McQuesten (1849-1934) was an exceptional and enlightened woman of the Victorian and Edwardian age in Canada, yet she is little known. Her writings reveal the political strength and matriarchal power that were possible for women in Ontario during the extended Victorian era. Although Mary never wrote for publication, she was a prolific and uninhibited letter writer; approximately seven hundred of her letters are extant, mostly those written to her children. She was also a forceful and impassioned speaker and wrote and delivered many Presbyterian missionary society addresses. Mary's letters record the development of her matriarchal power after she suddenly became a widowed single parent of six young children, and was forced to raise and educate them in a state of genteel poverty. Her writings give details of the family's financial problems and health concerns, such as inherited mental disease and tuberculosis. We have included extensive annotations to the letters to provide background material for the family's social scene, education, literature, politics, religion and social reform. Mary was a dynamic and determined matriarch in both the domestic sphere and in her public leadership, and she was a keen observer and an outspoken critic of her times.

LifewritingThe thesis section of this website includes biographical and theoretical essays based on Mary Anderson's PhD thesis, The Lifewritings of Mary Baker McQuesten (1839-1934): Victorian Matriarch of Whitehern. It also offers an approach to the literary aspects of the McQuesten life writings through a review of critical and cultural theory, and provides the precedents that establish personal letter writing and autobiography within the genre of life writing. The theoretical section also shows how the McQuesten writings are important to cultural and interdisciplinary studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences. The writings are a rich repository of Canadian Victorian ideas and ideals, and they are important cultural artifacts that provide insights into the Victorian family and society during a period of great change in Canada.

For more information on Mary Baker McQuesten, please browse the Thesis section.

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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
Please direct questions and comments to Mary Anderson, Ph.D.

Hamilton Public Library This site was created in partnership with and is hosted by the Hamilton Public Library. Canada's Digital Collections This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections initiative, Industry Canada.