goal we are all aiming at
Katherine Diller Matthew
Heralded as the Mother of the
Ladies' Auxiliary of New Brunswick's
Natural History Society (NHS), Brooklyn-born and private-school-educated
Katherine Matthew served as its President for nearly 20 years. Her
vision of the Society as a resource for higher education and a foundation
for personal and community growth found expression in her rousing Society
addresses and public lectures.
"Our object as a
branch of the Natural History Society," she declared in 1914, "is surely
first to develop our own powers and to help others in the formation of what
has been called an 'all round' character, the character which will be ours
for time and eternity." Mrs. Matthew carefully guarded the educational
mandate of the Ladies' Auxiliary of the NHS, disapproving of any ties with
philanthropic organizations that might dilute the Society’s intellectual
goals. As she worked to build and care for the growing museum collections,
Katherine Matthew's aim was to throw open the doors of the Museum and make
scientific knowledge accessible to all New Brunswickers. She believed that
such knowledge would carry not only intellectual, but also social and
"[W]e are doing our part in
a real missionary work for our city and province. Fill the cup with good and
there will be no room for the evil, and for our young people especially,
both boys and girls, to inspire them with a love of nature and natural
objects, and to give them the chance to study the laws that govern all they
see in God's out of doors, is as truly missionary
work as to send a teacher to China or India to teach the people there to be
wiser and better and more holy."
A dedicated member of the Church of
England, Katherine blended scholarly achievement, scientific progress and
religious uplift in her "vision on earth of the
Matthew was also the mother of Saint John’s First Family of Natural History.
Her husband, George Frederick Matthew, who helped to establish the NHS in
1862, was a widely published palaeontologist and geologist, Fellow of the
Royal Society of Canada and early Curator of the NHS Museum. Katherine and
George raised a family of
and Bessie were active members of the NHS Ladies' Auxiliary, and son William Diller Matthew carried on his father's scientific pursuits, achieving fame
at age six as the discoverer of a giant trilobite, and in later life as a
renowned vertebrate palaeontologist at the American Museum of Natural
History. Three other sons
pursued business, one took up teaching and one lost his life in Ypres,
France, after seven weeks of service in the Great War.
Katherine and George
seemed to have shared a close and affectionate relationship, connected by
senses of humour
and their mutual interest in natural history and the literary arts. In the
54th year of their marriage, a fellow member of the Eclectic
Reading Club (of which Katherine was Vice President) portrayed the couple as
two "quaint figures" walking
arm in arm in the city:
"Had one slipped up beside
them, the chances are ten to one that the conversation overheard would be
about the upper Silurian strata of the River St. John, - it might be in
Greek or German, and very probably was a dissertation on dinosaurs."
Over the course of her involvement
with the NHS, Katherine Matthew donated or loaned over 150 items to the
Museum, including 108 coins from France, Italy, Germany, Belgium, the
Netherlands, Turkey, Switzerland, Austria-Hungary, Greece, Great Britain,
India, Denmark, Tunisia and the Early Roman Empire. While residing in New
Brunswick, Katherine remained in touch with museums and institutes in her
home state of New York, acquiring photos and materials from those
institutions to supplement her lectures and augment the NHS collections. In
1917, she presented the Natural History Society with an oil painting of
Brooklyn – her place of birth.
Katherine Matthew died
on the third of June
1923, at her son William’s home in New York, just two months after her
husband’s passing. Their ashes were interred near the Matthew home in
Gondola Point, New Brunswick.
of the Natural History Society,
F. "George Frederic Matthew." Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
New Brunswick Museum Archives and
Research Library. S104, F 34-37; S105, F 66-68.
Natural History Society of
New Brunswick Fonds, New
Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library. S127-8, F3-13; F104-5;
New Brunswick Museum,
Archives and Research Library online database.
Brunswick Natural History Society Minute Book,1912-20. New Brunswick
Museum Archives and Research Library.
15 October 1907, 5 December 1912.
Saint John Globe. 19 March 1907, 14 October 1907.
1 Oct 1913.
U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing,