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Archibald, Edith Jessie

Main entryArchibald, Edith Jessie
Birth placeSt. John's, Newfoundland
Birth date5 April 1854
Death placeHalifax, Nova Scotia
Death date11 May 1936
BRS document number000000212
Identifier0146
Birth nameEdith Jessie Archibald
Alternate namesSydney Morien, Eye Witness
Married nameArchibald
Marital statusmarried
Religious affiliationPresbyterian; Episcopalian
BiographyBorn into a privileged family and educated at private schools in New York and London, England, Edith Jessie Archibald (1854-1936) devoted her time and energy to social causes: the movement to establish a children's hospital in Halifax; the Nova Scotia Red Cross; and the Halifax Victorian Order of Nurses. For her numerous activities she was dubbed "Lady of Grace" by George V, and received a recommendation by the Order of Jerusalem for her war work. After her marriage in 1874 to her distant cousin Charles Archibald (1845-1929), Edith settled in Port Morien to raise the couple's four children at their home, "Seaview,"—a luxurious abode equipped with marble pillars, tennis courts, and rock gardens. While Edith kept herself occupied leading saloon raids with the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Charles owned and ran Gowrie Mine, one of Cape Breton's most successful mines in the nineteenth century. In 1893, Charles sold the business and accepted a position as the Director of the Bank of Nova Scotia in Halifax, and the Archibalds (with their marble columns) left Cape Breton behind, aside from retaining a summer fishing cottage in Margaree. It was in Halifax that Edith's activism flourished: she nearly accomplished her goal of acquiring the vote for Nova Scotia's women within the first year of her arrival in the city, her efforts finally succeeding in 1918. Enabled by her privileged socio-economic status, she worked tirelessly to improve conditions and opportunities for women through such organizations as the WCTU and the National Council of Women. She was also the first president of the Ladies' Musical Club in Halifax. Although Edith died in 1936, her legacy continues to affect Maritime consciousness. In 1997, she was designated a "Person of National Historical Significance" by the Government of Canada as a proponent of women's rights, yet her evident feminism does not enter her novel, THE TOKEN: A TALE OF CAPE BRETON ISLAND (1930), which first appeared in several versions as a play (1926, 1927). Edith died of old age and was buried at Camp Hill Cemetery in Halifax.
TravelBoston, 1922
Other notesSiblings: Elizabeth M. Archibald (c1835-); Catherine Sarah Archibald (1837-1846); Emily Archibald (1838-1882), m. Thomas Clifford Kinnear who was a West India merchant and shipowner, and colleague of Alfred Gilpin Jones (Emily was the niece of Thomas's first wife); Georgina Harriet Archibald (1840-1867), m. Robie Uniacke; Edward Brenton Archibald (1842-1881), m. Caroline Roberta Mann Leaycraft, and was a commercial merchant; Alice R. Archibald (1850-1850); Francis Charles Mortimer Archibald (1851-1855); Elizabeth Archibald ? (1856-1895) ?.
Honours and awardsDesignated a Person of National Historical Significance (1997)
ResidencesSt. John's, Newfoundland (1854); New York (1860, 1870); Cow Bay (Port Morien), Cape Breton (1864-1893); Halifax, Nova Scotia (1894-1936)
Geographic regionsNova Scotia
Primary genresdrama; non-fiction (biography); fiction; poetry
BooksSTRAY SONGS FOR GLAD DAYS AND SAD DAYS (1894); LIFE AND LETTERS OF SIR EDWARD MORTIMER ARCHIBALD (1924); THE TOKEN: A PLAY IN THREE ACTS OF THE OLD DAYS IN CAPE BRETON (1926); THE TOKEN: A TALE OF CAPE BRETON ISLAND (1930); GUFSHATHI AND HERRIAMAN: A MISSIONARY STORY (n.d.); ONE OF THE WONDERS OF PERSONAL SUCCESS (n.d.)
PeriodicalsCANADIAN HOME JOURNAL; CANADIAN MEDICAL JOURNAL; HALIFAX HERALD; HALIFAX MAIL; NEW OUTLOOK
OrganizationsCanadian Authors Association; Women's Christian Temperance Union; Halifax Victorian Order of Nurses; Nova Scotia Red Cross; National Council of Women; Ladies' Musical Club (Halifax)
Other artsmusic
Father's nameSir Edward Mortimer Archibald
Life dates of father10 May 1810, Truro, Nova Scotia - 8 February 1884, London England; m. 1834
Father's notebarrister; Attorney-General, Newfoundland; British Consul General, New York (1858-1883)
Mother's nameCatherine Elizabeth Richardson
Life dates of motherc1817 - 8 April 1898, London, England
Spouse 1Charles Archibald
Life dates of spouse 17 June 1845, North Sydney, Nova Scotia - 29 April 1929, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Spouse 1 notemining engineer at Gowrie Mine, Port Morien (1861-1893); president and co-director of the Bank of Nova Scotia (1893-)
Marriage 1 date2 June 1874
Marriage 1 placeNew York ?
Children number4
Children's names and datesSusan Georgina (12 December 1875 - April 1909), m. Captain Peter Ellison; Thomas Dickson (20 October 1876 - 2 September 1951), m. Muriel Osborne Dumble; Charles Mortimer (9 March 1878 - ), m. Emma McFarland; Edward Brenton Mortimer (23 July 1884 - February 1909)
Biographical referencesErnest Forbes, "Battles in Another War: Edith Archibald and the Halifax Feminist Movement," in his CHALLENGING THE REGIONAL STEREOTYPE: ESSAYS ON THE 20TH CENTURY MARITIMES (Fredericton: Acadiensis, 1989): 67-89; FEMINIST COMPANION TO LITERATURE IN ENGLISH (1990); Rhodenizer, AT THE SIGN OF THE HAND AND PEN: NOVA-SCOTIAN AUTHORS (1948); Peach, "The Legacy of Edith Jessie Archibald," on WORK THROUGH TIME: CAPE BRETON STORIES OF LAND AND SEA, Society of Cape Breton County (Web, 2009); Forster, 100 CANADIAN HEROINES: FAMOUS AND FORGOTTEN FACES (2004), pp. 35-37; 1860 United States Federal Census; 1870 United States Federal Census; 1881 Census of Canada; 1891 Census of Canada; 1901 Census of Canada; 1911 Census of Canada; Boston Passenger and Crew Lists, 1820-1943
Bibliographic referencesWatters, CHECKLIST OF CANADIAN LITERATURE...1620-1960 (1970), pp. 239, 425, 458
Research referencescomplete
Archival referencesmiscellaneous correspondence, National Archives of Canada; several items, Logan Papers, Acadia University; 2 letters to Archibald MacMechan, MacMechan Papers, Dalhousie University Archives; correspondence with George Geddie Patterson, Dalhousie University Archives
Image creditsPhoto by Gauvin & Gentzel, Halifax, NS. Image from Henry Morgan, TYPES OF CANADIAN WOMEN (Toronto: Briggs, 1903).
CopyrightThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/. Please cite Canada's Early Women Writers. SFU Library Digital Collections. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada. 1980-2014.