Mary Victorre (Hea) Lawrence
New Brunswick Museum,
Saint John, N.B., NBM 000966
name: cedar waxwing
Lawrence collected this female specimen at Hampton, New Brunswick,
A primary teacher, music
lover, and bird enthusiast, Mary Lawrence of Saint John was an earnest and
active member of the Natural History Society Ladies'
Auxiliary from the early 1890s until her death in 1939. Her extracurricular
exertions did not end with the Ladies' Auxiliary however. She was enthusiastically involved
with the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Saint John Art Club, Women's
Canadian Club, Centenary Church Choir, Sunday School and Women's Missionary
Society, and she was a charter member of the Ladies' Morning Musical Club.
Born Mary Hea in Prince William, New Brunswick, Mrs. Lawrence was the
daughter of John Hea of Ireland and Mary E. Treadwell of New Brunswick. In
1881, she began teaching in New Brunswick's public schools and in 1892, she
married John M. Lawrence and set up residence in Saint John.
educationists of this era tended to view female teachers as transient
members of the profession, less likely than men to make teaching their
calling." The problem, as many saw it, was the tendency for women to leave
off teaching once they married. Indeed, women were even encouraged to do so.
1880s school inspector Eldon Mullin believed that
"… the deliberate
perpetration of a matrimonial alliance when actually engaged in teaching or
about to be so, should cancel any lady's license.
They should have their husbands, or they should have their schools, but not
New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., NBM 001153
common name: Baltimore
Lawrence collected this female
specimen in Saint John, New Brunswick, on
Mary Lawrence appears to
have been an exception. It seems that she continued teaching after her
marriage (and later, as a widow) until her retirement in 1927 – 46 years in
all. It also appears that John and Mary remained childless, and that John's
death predated Mary's by many years.
Although she donated many
interesting biological and cultural items to the Museum (including a mounted
caribou worth $40 in 1894, magic lantern slides of English church
architecture, a trilobite from the Gaspé peninsula, and Native Pueblo
artefacts formerly owned by her missionary acquaintance, Mrs. Jean Gertrude
Sayre,) Mary Lawrence's chief contribution to the Natural History Society
was her work on birds. With her presentations on bird calls and behaviour,
she was one of the first women ever to lecture at a regular meeting of the
Natural History Society. She also read papers before high-school and Ladies'
Auxiliary audiences, who appreciated her talent for writing "in beautiful
language, breath[ing] a refreshing out-of-door spirit."
Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., NBM 001092
common name: black-throated
collected this male specimen in southern New Brunswick on June 1st,
Using the Natural History
Society as both a resource and an outlet for her growing knowledge of birds,
Mary Lawrence collected over a dozen local specimens for the Museum. Like
the Lincoln's Sparrow she donated in 1908, Mary's specimens were probably
found dead in Saint John parks and surrounding areas. An active overseer of
the Junior Audubon Society
for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals, we can be quite
certain that Mary
played no part in the demise of her bird specimens.
We can further assume
that her hats were trimmed with ribbons and flowers – not with
Bulletin of the
Natural History Society of New Brunswick,
Review, November 1905.
Mullin. Monthly report for March 1882. Provincial Archives of New
of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick, 1894, 1907. New Brunswick
Museum Archives and Research Library,
Scrapbook of the
Natural History Society
of New Brunswick, 1862-96. New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research
Library, S129, F120 p 232.
16 November 1939; 9 April 1924.