In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

These injunctions are later echoed in Mary’s instructions to her children, as in her advice to Calvin to attain “a well furnished mind” (A31-4686). Thomas Baker also guided his daughter’s education and reading, and some of the books in the Whitehern library contain his inscriptions to Mary on the occasion of a birthday or Christmas. For instance, her father presented her with a Latin dictionary, inscribed: “To Mary Jane Baker, This copy of Waltshmidt ’s Dictionary is presented on her eleventh birthday, as a reward for diligent attention to her Classical Studies, October 10, 1860.” Several of these gifts were texts of Bible exegesis, such as the nine volumes by Albert Barnes on interpretations of the Old and New Testaments (1847-63). Mary, in turn, presented some of these books to her children, sometimes re-inscribed from her. Significant to the issue of women’s education in Ontario, Thomas Baker’s collection also contains supportive letters about the opening of women’s classes at McGill University and the Congregational College in 1884, following their affiliation one year earlier (3813; 3831). Mary Baker was also fortunate in that she married into a family that encouraged an enlightened attitude toward women’s education. Her father-in-law, Dr. Calvin McQuesten, had been involved in the establishment of the Wesleyan Ladies’ College in Hamilton in 1861, which, in spite of its name, granted a non-sectarian degree. He was vicepresident of the college until 1872 and president until his death in 1885. Mary’s family consisted of educated members who had graduated in the major professions: the military, the clergy, medicine, law, and teaching. She became keenly interested in these professions through her family and through the education and direction of her children’s lives. Mary Baker’s Marriage to Isaac B. McQuesten l My sweetest, I have been very impertinent so far, and I know and confess it. Darling what a happy, happy time it will be when you are not to be taken away from me nearly all the time, and I can be at liberty to pet you just as much and just as often as I wish. (2352) —Isaac McQuesten to Mary Baker, 20 March 1873 Mary Baker and Isaac Baldwin McQuesten met formally in 1869 and they were married four years later, on 18 June 1873.2 Mary had broken off their engagement at least once (the reason likely was Isaac’s habitual use of alcohol) and he wrote in contrition: “My darling, it will be a lifelong wonder to me that you could have ventured to renew an engagement so justly broken off with one…who gave you such sufficient cause to fell him, and that forever. However, sweet, it did me good” (2340). For the most part, Isaac’s letters are playful and teasing and express his longing for their marriage, and theirs was a loving marriage. Mary Baker’s Marriage to Isaac B. McQuesten 7 Mary was a strikingly beautiful young woman and, at the time of their marriage, Isaac was a handsome young lawyer with excellent prospects, the son of a prominent and wealthy Hamilton industrialist, Dr. Calvin McQuesten (1801-85). McQuesten had come to Canada from New England during the 1830s and established the first foundry in Hamilton. This was the beginning of the steel industry in Hamilton which eventually grew to become known as “the Birmingham of Canada.” Calvin McQuesten was very successful in his enterprises and, in 1857, at the age of fifty-six, he retired with a family fortune of $500,000 as well as real estate and other investments. He then indulged himself in his favourite avocation, evangelical Protestantism, and participated in the design and development of Presbyterian churches in Ontario and in other parts of North America (DHB 1:146-47). Becoming increasingly senile with age, he died in 1885 at eighty-four. Isaac graduated in law in 1873 and took control of the family finances until his father’s death in 1885, at which time he inherited Whitehern (then Willowbank) and moved in with his family. Mary promptly changed the home’s name to Whitehern. Unfortunately, Isaac had lost the family fortune by 1888 through bad management and poor health. Several factors contributed to Isaac’s decline, including a long-standing poor relationship with his stepmother, his father’s third wife, Elizabeth Fuller McQuesten. Isaac’s mother, Estimate Baldwin McQuesten (his father’s second wife), died when he was four years old, and Elizabeth...

pdf

Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.