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Mary Victorre (Hea) Lawrence 




New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., NBM 000966

Bombycilla cedrorum  (Vieillot, 1808)

common name: cedar waxwing

Lawrence collected this female specimen at Hampton, New Brunswick,

on June 6th, 1911.


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.


Prominent educationists of this era tended to view female teachers as transient members of the profession, less likely than men to make teaching their "life 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 both together."



New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., NBM 001153

Icterus galbula  (Linnaeus, 1758)

common name: Baltimore oriole

Lawrence collected this female specimen in Saint John, New Brunswick, on October 18th, 1907.

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."



 New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B.,  NBM 001092

Dendroica caerulescens  (J. F. Gmelin, 1789)

common name: black-throated blue warbler

Lawrence collected this male specimen in southern New Brunswick on June 1st, 1909.


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 feathered friends.







Bulletin of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick, 1908, 1910.


Educational Review, November 1905.


Inspector Eldon Mullin. Monthly report for March 1882. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.


Minutes of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick, 1894, 1907. New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library, S108, F37.


Scrapbook of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick, 1862-96. New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library, S129, F120 p 232.


Telegraph Journal, 16 November 1939; 9 April 1924.