Early in 1902 the British Government realized that the Anglo-Boer war could not go on much longer and that the country would need among other things teachers. Therefore they advertised in the newspapers across New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
In Canada over a thousand ladies applied and forty were chosen. Those chosen were under contract with the Colonial Office for service for one year. The stipend included free rations, household necessities, medical attendance, free passage (second class), to and from South Africa, via England, plus £100 in cash.
The Canadian Government supplemented this by paying for first class passage to Liverpool. Everyone knows that second class to the Cape is equal to first class on all the smaller boats.
The forty girls from Canada were divided into two parties of twenty each, sailing on different dates. Of the party of twenty, to which I belonged, not one returned at the end of the contract year, as we were so interested in our work. After that period we were paid by the particular colony in which we happened to be stationed, and our passage home was eventually paid for by the same colony. Of these twenty, one, Miss Sylvia Lee of Waterloo Quebec, fell victim to enteric fever, and was buried in the veld. Six have married in South Africa. Six have returned home. The remaining seven, so far as I know, are still engaged in their work of teaching. Of the other twenty girls I cannot speak definitely, as they were so widely scattered that we could not keep in touch with one another.
Concerning the work done by these forty girls we read in the Government Report of December 1902:
“ To the judicious selection on the part of the gentlemen at the head of the educational departments in several provinces is due the admirable result of the undertaking; the entire contingent, it is gratifying to know, having given complete satisfaction, both as regards its personnel and the accomplishment of its purpose. As the request, in itself, was a tribute to the systems of education in the Dominion, so the outcome may justly be regarded as a striking proof of their high standard of excellence and efficiency”
The complete list of the names is as follows:
1. Sailing from Halifax, with the Corinthian, April 12th 1902
Miss Katherine McClellan, Toronto, Ontario.
“ Margaret D. Scott, Hamilton, Ontario
“ Florence J. Wilkinson, Toronto, Ontario
“ Edna E. O’Brien, Nobleton, Ontario
“ Florence Randall, Ottawa, Ontario
“ Ruby M. Rothwell, Ottawa, Ontario.
“ Julia Urquhart, Ottawa, Ontario.
“ E. Maud Macfarlane, Peterboro’, Ontario.
“ Eleanor M. Yenney, Peterboro’, Ontario.
“ Berta Brydon, King, Ontario.
“ Libbie Rodger, Belwood, Ontario.
“ Sara E. Drysdale, Perth, Australia.
“ Mabel K. Coffey, Millington, Quebec.
“ Sarah L. Abbott, Montreal, Quebec.
“ Isabel Perry, Montreal, Quebec.
“ Davina Rodger, Belwood, Ontario.
“ Augusta E. Hoover, Toronto Junction, Ontario.
“ Georgia A. Grant, Newington, Ontario.
“ Annie Moulton, Gananoque, Ontario.
“ E. E. MacBurney, Montreal, Quebec.
2 Sailing from St John, with the Lake Ontario, April 19th 1902:
Miss C. Gertrude Arbuckle, Summerside, P.E. I.
“ Maude L. Bremner, Charlestown, P. E. I.
“ Grace Dutcher, Charlestown, P. E. I.
“ Agnes L. Carr, St John, N. B.
“ Annie I. Burns, St John, N. B.
“ Ida E. McLeod, Fredericton, N. B.
“ Winnifred Johnston, Fredericton, N. B.
“ Mabel V. Elliott, Newcastle, N. B.
“ Sophie M. Pickle, Bloomfield, N. B.
“ Jessie Fleet, Montreal, Que.
“ Sylvia B. Lee, Waterloo, Que.
“ Susanna Younghusband, Portage la Prairie, Man.
“ Edith A. Murray, Winnipeg, Man.
“ Ella D Crandall, Walton, N. S.
“ Ellen M. MacKensie, Stellarton, N. S.
“ Blanche MacDonald, Hopewell, N. S.
“ Margaret W. De Wolfe, Halifax, N. S.
“ Bertha B. Hebb, Bridgewater, N. S.
“ Emma Ellis, Truro, N. S.
“ E. Maud Graham, Owen Sound, Ontario.
I cannot speak too highly of the kindly way in which we were treated while under the Colonial office. In addition to the contract salary we were given a daily travelling allowance for incidental expenses; at Liverpool and London ladies were waiting to meet us; at Southampton, we had more ladies waiting to help us across the town to the docks.
Early in the morning June, the 1st , we arrived in Cape Town. On first landing we found the weather very cold, wet and windy. We were told that we had arrived in the middle of winter. There was much travelling between this office and another while we were allocated to our final destinations.
Our party was posted as follows;
Misses McLeod, Johnston, Ellis and Hebb at Vryburg, in Griqualand West:
Misses Bremner, Dutcher, De Wolfe and Lee at Bloemfontein, Orange River Colony;
Misses Elliott, Burns, Pickle and Fleet at Brandford, Orange River Colony;
Misses Younghusband, Crandall and Murray at Kroonstad, Orange River colony;
Misses MacKensie, MacDonald, Arbuckle and the writer at Norval’s Point, Cape Colony.
We arrived in Johannesburg on the morning of July 1st 1902. The six of us were heading for Kroonstad and Bloemfontein where we were billeted at the house of Mr Freeman-Cohens and his family. For ten days they treated us as members of their family. From here we were transported to our destinations. During the time that we were in South Africa we kept seeing each other as we were transferred to different areas, except for Miss Sylvia B. Lee, who died in the first twelve months.
Further research shows that Sylvia B. Lee traveled from Bloemfontein to Parys with a man and his family who were going to Parys to open a market garden. She arrived in Parys some time towards the end of August. She contracted enteric fever in February and died in March.