It has been 10 weeks of Feminist Friday posts. I am completely grateful for the positive response our community has shown.
From private messages with ideas to my coworkers placing random post-it notes on my desk, I Thank you.
This week’s post a quick “clue” or glimpse into an upcoming fundraising event Three Oaks will be hosting.
Mary Elizabeth (Wright) Schuster 1835-1922 – Pioneer, Social Worker
A forgotten name from our city’s past. Unable to locate any photographs or sketches of this remarkable woman – I would be elated to meet a descendant of this women to learn more information about her.
Mary Elizabeth Schuster recognized the oppression of a particular population living within the city. She was an advocate; she provided opportunity to those who otherwise may not have received it. From the write up in the book “Quinte Women of Distinction” published by the Canadian Federation of University Women Belleville and District (2002) – Mrs. Schuster respected the rights of all people. She was a woman ahead of her time. To put this into context. Mrs. Schuster lived during a time when women were supposed to live a highly restrictive life with their life centered around their husband and subsequently their children.
I can’t help but wonder if any of this Friday’s readers have heard of Mary Schuster. I can honestly say it wasn’t until recently that I became knowledgeable. When I came across Mary’s history within the city of Belleville I thought to how her work during the 19th (Victorian era) century was ground breaking, and against societies popular belief.
Mary was born in Napanee in 1835 and little information is available on her life prior to her marriage 1870 (Tweed) to Reverend Anselm Schuster.
Alongside her husband, they set up a non-denominational mission set up in a room at the corner of Wharf Street (now St. Paul Street ) and Church Street. This was a temporary location. According to the book “Quinte Women of Distinction” Together Mary and her husband Anselm Schuster (an ex-minister with the Bible Christian Church) took on the challenge of meeting the needs of the poor within the city of Belleville. The mission officially opened its doors on December 1, 1882. The mission work was done free of charge and no collection was taken. The mission set up a labour exchange and savings bank was organized to enable the poor to save, in summer for winter expenses.
When Mary’s husband died in 1885, she continued the work right up until the 1890’s. Mary did all the annual reports, operated a kindergarten to upgrade the experiences and vocabulary of the poor children with the aim to prepare the students t begin school on par with the other children. In addition she ran a soup kitchen, taught gardening and arranged outings. Mary visited the poor and sick and lead Sunday school classes. The book “Quinte Women of Distinction” states that in an age when respectable women read the police news secretly, Mrs. Shuster and her allies appeared regularly in court to intercede for the friendless and the forgotten”
Mary Schuster has been described a as pioneering, social welfare worker – helping women and children. She was an early child-hood educator. Mary Elizabeth Wright Schuster worked with those that were spurned by society and provided training to enable them to become employable.
The Mission itself ran until the 1930’s; its functions were gradually assumed by welfare and government agencies.
Not a photo of Mrs. Schuster; rather a depiction of a woman during the Victorian Era. I anticipate the opportunity to meet with a descendant of Mrs. Schuster to learn more about her life.