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Telegraph-Journal, 31 January 1947

Grace Wallace Leavitt

 

Grace Wallace Leavitt

(d. 30 January 1947)

 

Another long-time member of the Natural History Society's Ladies' Auxiliary, Miss Grace W. Leavitt served as its Vice President as early as 1907, its Treasurer in 1910, and its Honourary President in 1943, twelve years after the Auxiliary had been given full status as an independent organization. Her involvement with the NHS in the early 1900s was multifaceted, owing to her membership in another organization: the Saint John Council of Women, a larger body to which the Ladies' Auxiliary was loosely connected, and to which it made reports and paid nominal dues. The Council of Women embraced various humanitarian causes, raising money for the Children's Milk Fund, finding homes for "unfortunate" girls, championing women's suffrage, lobbying for food and health inspection, censuring objectionable printed material and advocating better laws for the protection of women and children. Grace was a charter member and Treasurer of this organization for 15 years. The Women's Canadian Club, Saint John Playgrounds Association, New Brunswick Protestant Orphans' Home, Women's Hospital Aid and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind also benefited from Grace Leavitt's dedication.

 
 

New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., 41458

painting: "Andrew James Robertson and Jessie Thomson" c. 1830

Scottish, artist unknown

oil on canvas, 124 x 103.5 cm

gift of Grace W. Leavitt, 1941

 

Miss Leavitt wore another hat which, like Mrs. Mary Lawrence's, would not have been ornamented with birds and feathers, notwithstanding the fashion of the day. She was a member of the local branch of the National Association of Audubon Societies, dedicated to the protection and study of birds. With roots in an early conservation movement, the Audubon Society and its Junior Club endeavoured to educate New Brunswickers (young and old) about bird habits and taxonomy. By doing so, they expected to cultivate a spirit of empathy for their "feathered neighbours," whose lives and limbs were continually threatened by the ladies' millinery industry and school-boy cruelty. Adult members devised birding field trips, reflectoscope presentations and bird-house building contests for the junior members, requiring the children to pledge themselves to protecting the safety of all birds. In 1917, the inaugural year of Saint John's Audubon Society, Grace Leavitt offered a prize for the best birdhouse builder who could write the most interesting story about
 

New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, N.B., 5602

box, c. 1875

Mi'kmaq, maker unknown

birchbark with natural and dyed porcupine quill and wood, 20 x 24.5 x 19 cm

gift of Grace W. Leavitt, 1915

 
his or her birdhouse and its occupants. Junior members were also educated in the virtues of good manners extended to both friend and fowl. Branch president, Mrs. Ellis proposed that junior members should

 

"learn how to move a vote of thanks to the lecturer and other little marks of courtesy which, she smilingly told them, made real ladies and gentlemen and will incidentally make them gentler in their association with bird life."

 

"Blessed with good health beyond the common measure," Grace Leavitt attributed her robustness to the habit of taking regular outdoor exercise six days a week for 25 years! She was a graceful and accomplished figure skater, whose "dancing on the ice and fancy skating always attracted admiring attention."

 

Grace Leavitt's donations to the Museum included a noteworthy number of Aboriginal items, chiefly basketry and quill work. These were locally made by unidentified craftspeople; most certainly Aboriginal women.

 

 

 

Sources

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Audubon Society Records. New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library. A212; A213; S129, F137.

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Daily Telegraph, 15 October 1907.

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http://magazine.audubon.org/features0412/hats.html 

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Natural History Society of New Brunswick fonds. New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library. S128A, F113.

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New Brunswick Museum Archives and Research Library online database.

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Telegraph Journal 31 January 1947, Evening Times-Globe 31 January 1947.