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A Few Distinguished Members...


"Progress is the law of life"


Ladies' Auxiliary

of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick


  Established 1881


Prior to 1943, the Natural History Society of New Brunswick (NHS), precursor to the New Brunswick Museum, admitted women only as associate members. Based in the city of Saint John, the Ladies' Auxiliary (or Associates) of the NHS was established loosely in 1881 as a branch of the larger Society.


Then the ladies got organized. In 1892, the Auxiliary members began electing their own officers and refining their objectives. Adopting accessibility as their chief goal, they devised numerous strategies to expand the Museum's outreach, offering popular lecture courses and opening the collections to nonmembers. Their tactics proved markedly successful, and it was largely thanks to the ladies' efforts that the number of visitors to the Museum rose from 150 in previous years to over 1100 in 1899. By 1905, Auxiliary members outnumbered regular (male) members two to

one. The group had expanded its outreach activities, offering an assortment of scientific field outings, conversazioni, summer camps, exhibits, public lecture courses, teas and other events. These lively and educational activities were designed to encourage an intellectual atmosphere in the city while helping to raise crucial funds and train the next generation of guides for the Museum.


New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., Lantern Slide AH12

“Dinner on the Beach, Natural History Society Camp” c. 1918

(click to enlarge)


The Society's motto, "Progress is the law of life," reflects its members' commitment to self-improvement, technological advancement and social uplift, achievable through the panacea of higher education. With "progress" in mind, Ladies' Auxiliary members threw their time and talents into a variety of educational projects, all calculated to create a pleasant learning environment for visitors, particularly women and children. While some members worked to prepare and mount biological specimens or furnish period exhibit rooms, others organized fundraisers to purchase display cases and a larger building to accommodate them. Many brought their expertise and experience to the lecture hall, delivering talks on subjects ranging from French cathedral architecture to crustaceans; from the Moorish kings to prehistoric Indians in Acadia. A few members worked to staff the library and Museum, thereby sustaining regular public access to Natural History Society holdings. Still others collected biological specimens and cultural artefacts for the Museum, oversaw science camps and clubs for children, reached deep into their purses to support NHS projects, baked cakes for socials, or donned costumes to entertain audiences at themed lectures.



New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., X16534

"Unidentified Women in Asian Costume" January 1924
(click to enlarge)


The ladies' painstaking efforts produced substantial results. Propelled by the force of their energetic assistance, the Natural History Society's Museum grew to be, in the words of long-time Ladies' Auxiliary president Katherine Matthew, "one of the most useful civic institutions of St. John." With the opening of the Provincial Museum in 1932, the scope of the renamed Women's Auxiliary of the New Brunswick Museum broadened, as it recruited women from all over the province, embraced new projects, and made use of the emerging media of radio and film.









 Daily Telegraph, 13 February 1914; 21 November 1913; 25 March 1904; 19 February 1904; 12 February 1904; 29 January 1904; 5 December 1912; 1 October 1913; 10 April 1929; 23 January 1914; 13 January 1911.


Globe, 1 November 1907; 6 November 1907.


 New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library online database.


 Natural History Society of New Brunswick fonds. New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library, S128A F100-116, S108 F37.




Catherine Murdoch

Mary Lawrence

Elizabeth Matthew

Caroline Heustis

Grace Leavitt