Roots

Since the 1880s, when they first started taking classes at Queen’s, women have worked with determination to gain higher education. They overcame initial resistance to their right to be students working for a degree. In the early 1900s women students banded together to live communally in various houses in Kingston. By 1926, early Alumnae built the first university residence, Ban Righ Hall.

They also built the tradition of Queen’s women working to “secure for those coming after them, access to all the resources of the University and the same benefits of communal life and study they themselves had known.”

The original and base funding for the work of the Ban Righ Foundation came from nearly 50 years of careful management of the women’s residences by the Ban Righ (Residence) Board and by the women students.

The Ban Righ Centre was founded in 1974 by women graduates of Queen’s University with monies earned and invested by alumnae who built and administered the women’s residences until the early 1970s.

Ribbon cutting, 1974

“ALL THAT IT STANDS FOR”

Some Notes on How Ban Righ Hall at Queen’s came to be and the Role of the Alumnae Therein

Preface

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote that it is sometimes happier to journey than to arrive. Doubtless that is often true but truth it is, too, that part of the joy of arrival is to look back upon the long and, at times, wearying road by which one has come to journey’s end. And so it was for those who, through a generation, had planned and worked for “The Residence” at Queen’s. All those who have come after would be denied sharing in that sense of high achievement were they not vouchsafed some brief remembrance of that more than twice told tale.

The crusade of Queen’s women to assure Women’s Residences at the University opened with the century itself. In 1900 three enthusiasts, Mrs. John Macgillivray, (Annie Campbell, B.A. and German Medallist, 1891, and wife of the Professor of German), Mrs. W. L. Goodwin (wife of the Dean of Science), and Miss Alice Chown, sister of “G. Y.”, feminist and internationalist, born a generation ahead of her times, – put to test the faith that was in them. They leased a furnished house (Mrs. Yates) at 64 William Street, and, there, proved the practicality of having a dozen women undergraduates, “living in residence”.

Their “pilot project” proved, they became the nucleus of a graduate committee which leased and furnished what was to be known for 23 years as the “Hen Coop”, – the Residence on Earl Street, where Clergy, Earl and William Streets bow to each other and then pursue their different ways. Principal Grant himself gave the first hundred dollars to this first Women’s Residence at Queen’s and persuaded the University to guarantee the rent.

By 1911, the venture had so made its way that the newly fledged graduates of that year met, after Convocation, and besought the Alumnae to organize formally for the purpose of assuring a Women’s Residence. Their action led to the merging of two different efforts, which had developed simultaneously and spontaneously, and, as can happen in such situations, with some danger of instantaneous combustion.

Parallel to the pioneer Kingston group, a representative Ottawa group had also been eagerly active in the same cause. Mrs. D. M. Gordon, the Principal’s wife, had proven a staunch friend of the Residence sponsors, and upon her death, in 1910, Miss A. E. Marty, M.A. 1894, Head of Moderns in Ottawa’s Lisgar Collegiate, and one of the most distinguished graduates working for Women’s Residences, and Miss Muriel Shortt, B.A., 1909, who, like every Queen’s woman, had been devoted to Mrs. Gordon, directly approached the Principal and, later, Trustees of the University, seeking approval for such a memorial to her.

Pre-War I

Formal endorsation of the board of Trustees, given on October 20, 1910, was the first official recognition by the University authorities of the women graduates’ proposals to undertake a project of such extent and importance as the erection of a pre-WAR-1914 $50,000 University building for women only.

Kingston and Ottawa graduates pooled plans and resources. With Mrs. John Macgillivray presiding at a meeting in Kingston on April 26, 1911, the Queen’s University Alumnae Association was created, with Miss Marty, President; Miss Mary L. Macdonnell, M.A. 1909, Kingston, as Secretary; and Miss Shortt, Convener of a Special Residence Committee, to raise this $50,000, estimated to provide housing for 50 girls. They persuaded the Trustees to buy the “old Stuart Street School” at the corner of University Avenue and Alice Street, as a site and set about their heavy, self-assumed task.

Within three years they had over 16,500. Then the Great War struck and, as always, war turned aside the ways of peace. The Queen’s women stinted nothing in their war work, but, incredibly, kept up their small but regular support to their Residence Fund, guarded and nurtured by that quietly great, kind, splendid woman of this University, Miss Marion Redden, B.A. 1903, Treasurer of the Fund from its first consolidation to the filing of its last report, November 6, 1926.

“Miss Redden” was a woman of statuesque build, warm understand-ding, rich humour, poise and imperturbability. Somewhat deaf, she con-fessed, on one occasion of sharp dispute in the Alumnae, that the degree of her handicap admittedly varied with “convenience and discretion”. The Residence Fund became her own particular personal responsibility, and to it she devoted a major part of her free time, her shrewd wise judgment and sense of responsible investment.

That Day in 1919

Quietly, but undoubtedly relishing the incredulous excitement her statement evoked, at the first post-war meeting of the Alumnae, October 11, 1919, Miss Redden reported $41,000 now in the Fund though “since 1914 it has been practically at a standstill”. Just as quietly, she urged “each member to do all in her power to help……..to build the Residence” for “that Residence must be built”.

Miss Redden sat down to thunderous applause. The members empowered the executive to proceed with building as soon as they could get the rest of the money needed.

There were blithe hopes of building “this year”. The Finance and Estates Committee of the Trustee Board were authorized to spend what-ever was necessary, in conjunction with the Alumnae, “to enable the erection and equipment of a residence”. The Q.U.A.A. President, Miss E. L. Mowat, the widely feared but warmly revered dean of the years at “Earl Street”, and Miss Marty, Chairman of the Residence Committee, (and now Queen’s first woman graduate LL.D.) authorized prelimary architectural plans. (It was later to transpire. neither they nor the Alumnae had any such authority for University buildings – a sin of commission costing the Fund $1500 when it had to pay.)

Then came bleak despair. So had costs mounted that $160,000 was required for the $50,000 Residence planned in 1914!

But worse was to come. The University announced a large post-war Endowment Campaign, with a Students’ Memorial Union part thereof. The Principal’s Report came out, with the implication that the union might have a Women’s Wing. The Dean of Women’s Report recommended $30,000 of University funds for a “French House” as a new women’s residence unit.

The Alumnae had been downcast and flagging. These rebuffs seemed to fire “the old guard” into action. Dr. Marty was another Boadicea at the October 16, 1920 executive meeting. She and Mrs. Macgillivray were dispatched to attack the Trustees in session at once, taking with them Mrs. Frank Yeigh, (Annie Laird, B.A. 1901, a veteran of Alumnae wars, frank, fearless, outspoken, determined as any Laird to see justice done). Judge Lavell of the Trustees had been well primed, his wife (Minnie Chambers, B.A. 1891, a past president of the Alumnae, unusually handsome and as capable as good-looking) having lobbied shamelessly in the good cause, as had the Ottawa graduates their representatives.

As Andrew Haydon, M.A. 1893 and the Alumnae’s best friend put it, “The Board was just a sitting duck when that storm struck.” The Trustees passed the resolution that was to become the birth certificate, as it were, of the Ban Righ Hall, on October 17, 1920. They agreed to match up to $80,000 the funds raised by the Q.U.A.A. for a Women’s Residence “in accord in general with the plans presented.”

Up! New Troops!

The old guard marched back to the Q.U.A.A. colours flying, bayonets fixed, to drive the $48,000 of the Fund to $80,000. But they demanded new recruits for, said Dr. Marty, “We have so long carried the heat of battle”. Her protégé and successor (she was now Inspector of Schools in Toronto) at Lisgar, Miss Jessie Muir, M.A. 1913, took over as president, on assurance that certain of the 1917 and 1918 graduates would rally to the cause. Miss Redden asked for an assistant and got Margaret Mackintosh, B.A. 1913.

Miss Muir, like Miss Redden, was a woman of fine impressive presence, clear-headed, poised, firm of decision, deliberate in execution. Margaret Mackintosh was Librarian and Chief of Research in the Dominion Department of Labour, mercurial in mind, unusually quick of apprehension and conscientious, with Miss Redden’s same sense of investment, and with the Covenanters’ loyality to any cause she followed. Dr. Marty put her hand on me, partly because I was travelling across country in my work in the national welfare field.

It was hard going for so many had already given so much. The Endowment Campaign was on and the women were the daughters of Martha, as usual, in its slogging labour. But by the 1921 meeting (November 5), the total was nearly $65,000, up $17,000 from 1920. Interest was running over $3000 per year, only one small bond ($500) below par, but $14,000 came in small, sacrificial givings, with an Alumnae Association of less than 250 paid-up members.

Came 1922, Professor Goodwin’s home, across from the Residence site, came into the market. The reinvigorated Q.U.A.A., ready to guarantee interest, urged the Trustees to buy it and add it to the existing residence units, until that future day when new units might be built (and this with the Residence Fund not yet complete!).

Ready to Build 1922. But!

November 4, 1922 found the annual meeting with nearly $73,000. Miss Mackintosh, however, reported that with interest and plans already under way among the women graduates, there was no doubt that the $80,000 would be reached within a few months. Another $820 came in during that happy and half-believing meeting.

Two motions were put through with emotion ill-concealed, Miss Mackintosh being allowed the privilege of moving both, Dr. Marty and I the seconders. One was to advise the Trustees, at once, in the common tongue “to get going: We have the cash”; the other to appoint an Alumnae Building Committee. Mrs. Macgillivray was asked to take that honour 22 years after her first effort to house women students. Miss Muir felt that she could not continue as president, with such time-consuming responsibilities, and the chair passed to me, having just come to Ottawa as Secretary to the Minister of Trade and Commerce.

The Chairman of the Trustee Board (Hon. W. F. Nickle, then Attorney General of Ontario) came down to confer with the President and Miss Mackintosh on the finances and arrangements for Trustee collaboration in building. A meeting of the Finance and Estates Committee was called for January 1923 to meet Q.U.A.A. officers. The Principal, Mr. Nickle, Judge Lavell and Mrs. J. A. Minnes were named to represent the Trustees re the Building.

Then trouble began. The Trustee memorandum of understanding was not acceptable to the Alumnae who, with their $80,000 in hand, refused to become auxiliary, advisory, or anything but active associates not only in building but in operating the Residence. Again the Alumnae stormed the musty meeting rooms of the Trustees in the Old Arts. at the 1922 spring Trustee meeting, Principal Taylor, now an Alumnae convert and champion, won acceptance of the “pact of mutual responsibility” (so it had been dubbed by an Alumna ). Until comparatively recently, the Alumnae cherished its clauses practically as articles of religion, without which they could hope for neither survival nor salvation in Residence matters. Briefly this resolution, fought through at one session until early in the next morning, in rather terse terms established that the University, and not the Q.U.A.A., would own the Women’s Residence and Union; and would, therefore, award the building contract. The University admitted its obligation to expend $80,000 on the project, but it was not to be considered a gift to the Q.U.A.A.; whereat the latter required that their $80,000 was to be recorded as a gift to the University.

Then came the battle royal.

The Trustees were satisfied that the Residence would be “a white elephant away over on University Avenue, with the rooming areas tradition-ally elsewhere”; “that money would be lost in operation, especially if the interest on the investment were considered.” The Registrar and Treasurer blandly proposed that the Q.U.A.A. should agree to underwrite annual deficits (which the Men’s Union were already blandly accruing at a discredit-able rate). The Alumnae, in cold rage, asked for a black and white record that “the Alumnae Association would not be expected to pay interest on the University’s contribution”, (“fantastic”, the President had snorted, “when you’ve just recorded you will own the works”), and argued that, with pro-per management, the Residence would yield a surplus.

The Trustees were so complacently amused at this that they readily agreed that “the surplus, if any, on the operation of the Residence and Union, would be retained by the University, principal and interest to be devoted entirely to Women’s Residence purposes as necessity or expediency may require”. (By 1939, this surplus was to exceed $100,000 and become the basis of a Q.U.A.A. request to add a new wing!!)

The other causus belli (and it was!) centered on the Alumnae Association being assured “a large share in the control of the management” of the Residence. Share in the management? Yes, but in “the control of” that management, No!

“Then, there’ll be no gift to the University of $80,000 to be as casually spent and as unprofitably diminished as some deficit develop-ing projects that a glance from these windows can cover”, the militant and unyielding Q.U.A.A. delegates retorted. The phrase was accepted as dawn’s early light gilded the Martello Tower, but its significance seems to have dimmed in the passing of the pioneers and the twilight of the gods.

This pact written into the University records, the architects were called to meet with the Q.U.A.A. Building Committee who decided to link the Residence with the University heating plant, but stood stedfastly – and how wisely – for building in stone, rather than brick, even it (it was Miss Muir who said it) “we have to quarry it ourselves with the help of Summer School”.

It was at this time that the architects’ “illegitimate” plans and fees had to be legalized, at a net loss of some $1000, for the new Committee changed the Residence “right round” to take advantage of the slope to the Lake for “sub-level” service units, and to give the Common Room a campus view, instead of a north “light” on Alice Street. They also insisted on a spacious “tower entrance” and a larger dining-room.

Hope Deferred 1923

The Residence was to begin! The corner-stone laying was set for the annual meeting of the Q.U.A.A. in November.

On a sweltering August 4, 1923, a joyous Committee was delighted with the new plans, then desolated to learn that these called for $190,000 without architects’ charges. The Q.U.A.A. absolutely refused to consider such a jump, and their members, shamelessly using engineer relatives and friends, gratis, studied and ordered changes in sad but terrible necessity. The estimates were cut to $160,000 for 57 roomers, 186 “grubbers”. A hard bargain was driven to carry the heating to the exterior walls for a 5% charge. Tenders were called, to be opened by the Trustees on November 9. But, determined to have that corner-stone laid on November 10, the Executive contracted with the Professor of Civil Engineering to drive down the corner pier to the rock and have the corner-stone precede the building!

Meantime, with that “control of management” in mind, Dr. Marty had been named to chair a Committee on “Residence Administration”. The critical items were the Alumnae determination that the Head of the Residence must also be a member of Faculty, with specified academic work; that there be a dietitian responsible to her; and, being Queen’s women, that the Residence be self-governing along lines to be worked out by Levana and the Dean; that Levana membership carry Union privileges.

Then came another “Invitation to the Waltz” to the Trustees, – that “the management and general supervision of the Residence be entrusted to a Committee appointed by the Executive Committee of the Q.U.A.A.” – but reporting to the Board of Trustees.

The Trustees shied like startled horses, and were not to be convinced on other than the major point of the Dean being on the Faculty, until the building was practically completed. (In the end the compromise was an Administration Committee actually appointed by the Trustees with nominees, respectively, of the Trustees and the Q.U.A.A. thereon.)

The Corner Stone “Set” November 10, 1923

Everything went forward. The tenders were opened on November 9, and the lowest found to be $190,000. Were we down-hearted? The Trustees shivered, the Alumnae went ahead with their annual meeting and the laying (just the setting, rather) of the corner-stone the next day. They had one of their stimulating civil wars on choosing a name and, in fact, agreed on Ban Righ Hall – “The Hall of the Wife of the King”, hence Queen’s Hall – only hours before the “christening”. “Banrighinn” had been extracted from the yell, like a rabbit from a hat, but since “Dinny Brannigan” ran the local theatre, Dr. Malcolm Macgillivray, the Gaelic authority of Queen’s, was called as counsel and “came up” with the Ban Righ Hall.

Undaunted by the tenders, the Q.U.A.A. named a Furnishings Committee and the Executive set out to explore building on “cost plus” or adjusting plans again and calling for new tenders.

And, greatly daring, the President and Mrs. Macgillivray made arrangements with the Kingston stone-cutters to quarry throughout the winter at 15 cents per hour less than seasonal rates, and store the stone on the site. (That was to save nearly $3000.)

The Building Committee spent hours cutting, cutting, cutting, concrete instead of steel, here, metal lathing, instead of full fire-proofing there, amenities going, necessities surviving. But to the proposal of skimping in the Common Room its oak panelling and fine windows they were sharply resistant. Tenders were again called with confidence.

It was “Heartbreak House” in the Trustee Committee Room on December 12, 1923 when the lowest (Dickie Construction) bid was found to be $15,000 in excess of available funds. The Trustees were adamant on not proceeding. The Q.U.A.A Executive could not convene until January 12, 1924. They decided to ask the Trustees to accept this tender, the Q.U.A.A. to accept the responsibility of raising the entire “additional sum” required, whatever it might be over the $160,000 joint Fund. They sought conference with the Finance and Estates Committee.

Alumnai “Bonded” 1924

Through two days of unavailing representation (already the crisis had brought in more money and the Alumnae’s $70,000 exceeded $85,000), the Q.U.A.A., in meetings on January 23rd and 24th, pleaded to be given a vote of confidence to proceed but were categorically refused. In desperation the President asked whether the Trustees would accept a legal bonding for $15,000 and allow the project to go ahead. This was agreed to, but the Alumnae resentment almost blew the Q.U.A.A. apart. The Ottawa and Kingston Alumnae were grimly bitter and resolved to “show them”, but the Toronto members were infuriated “at the idea”. Within two weeks, Ottawa friends, Andrew Haydon and George F. Henderson, each agreed to bond themselves to the full amount; five Ottawa Alumnae, over and above that, to another $5,000.

The Q.U.A.A. was again called and on February 15, at full strength, pleaded with the Trustee body “to be relieved of the onus of binding our honour by a legal bond”. Refused this one concession was asked, – 15 instead of 12 months to retire it, May 1, 1925. One Trustee, weakening, suggested the full Trustee Board might be approached to release it, at the next meeting. The President declined, her words recorded: “Proudly we’ve lived and proudly we’ll fall, if so be it that we are short of funds on the appointed day.” The Bond was filed, guaranteeing $34,000 where $15,000 had been asked.

One Trustee (Capt. Donnelly) felt so badly that he called Mrs. Macgillivray the next morning and gave her $200 (those were 1924 dollars!!). He was already carrying a heavy donation to the School of Mining. The oldest Trustee, Capt. Crawford, had been canvassed by Mrs. Macgillivray and given $100. He was now in hospital, on what proved to be his death bed. He sent for her and doubled his gift.

The contract was let, the building started and the Alumnae turned weary, to working over fields already long harrowed. The President, rallying workers, wrote “It’s a long heavy furrow into which we have driven the plough”.

Then began a last superb effort on the part of the stout-hearted Alumnae. Women who had never sought favours from anyone humbled themselves in seeking donations to Ban Righ Hall, now actually taking visible form. Courtesy, discourtesy, curt rebuff refusing even an interview, they en-countered. Hoping for large donations, they were driven back the old, old way – to the efforts and gifts of the Alumnae themselves, still numbering less than 300 active members.

Even the intrepid Mrs. Macgillivray’s letters to the President revealed falterings and misgivings, questioning whether we should have gone ahead. Mrs. Lavell, writing in distress, yet added, “but the hammers at work on University Avenue make music in our ears”.

The President wrote to Alumnae from coast to coast, got groups of them together, where they’d never met before, as in her own work she crossed Canada. Judge Lavell took pictures for press articles “for free”. The Kingston Alumnae got out a magnificent book of views for profitable sale.

The Alumnae had insisted that the University pay interest at 5% on their $80,000 into the Fund from the date of signing the contract, and proceeded to sell their own bonds, – tax-free Victory Bonds War I, above par – at private sale to save brokerage. One of Miss Redden’s letters moans that the bank charged $2.00 exchange on a large sale the President had made and covered only by 27¢ for 25¢ Exchange and War Stamp. So the President put up $1.82 more to save Ban Righ Funds. Ada Birch, all this time, the indefatigable Q.U.A.A. Secretary, wrote the President saying Miss Mowat was seriously ill, the Q.U.A.A. would like to send flowers, inquired – since there was still a little left over from campaign letter postage – could $3.00 be spared from that? Miss Birch herself wrote to leading U.S.A. and Canadian publications, and for two years, as she said, “sold newspapers and magazines”, turning all commission into the Fund.

Levana put on “mocassin dances” after intercollegiate games, Kingston Alumnae catered for almost everything needing food, put on lectures, with confidence, bought chintz and set about making curtains and bed-throws for Ban Righ for, now, Furnishings meant another $25,000 which the Trustees said must be carried by the Alumnae (who had decided by this time they’d get one or two women on that Trustee Board if they had to kill off two of the men, and were almost unanimous as to whom!)

Mrs. Macgillivray sought cheaper valves, taps, door locks, watching every item of the building; bargained with the Superintendent, supervising construction of another campus building, and, after an epic battle with the architects, got him, for $75.00 per month, added to the University retainer to act as building inspector for Ban Righ. She wrote to the President of the cost of the large refrigerator, the problem of chutes for the large blocks of ice to be delivered, and wistfully of the amazing new installation in the home of Kingston’s wealthiest woman – an electrical ice making refrigerator.

Ottawa, Montreal and New York Alumnae, who had always “gone in with the men”, formed Alumnae branches; the general Alumnae membership went over 300 for the first time – struggle was strengthening us. Everywhere the women graduates worked as never before. Ottawa surpassed itself, the men canvassed for the Residence and the Alumnae brought Julia Arthur in “Saint Joan” for one of the last events in the Capital’s historic Russell Theatre – and netted nearly $1300 in one performance. Mrs. O. D. Skelton, in error, sold Dr. Marty’s mink-trimmed hat for 50 cents at one of the branch’s colourful rummage sales!

In Toronto, Mrs. Frank Yeigh devised a clock, sold even “Minutes” for ten cents each – and raised close to $600. Montreal hostesses gave parties, shamelessly charged guest their meals and even sold them flowers from their gardens!

The $15,000 bond was discharged within a year, and the Trustees were asked to return it. It was borne in triumph to Ottawa, and at a gay Alumnae dinner returned to the bondsmen, Senator Haydon and Mr. Henderson, the Alumnae presenting the former with a room endowment in Ban Righ, in memory of his little daughter “Penny”.

Mr. Haydon had that year been named to the Senate; the Alumnae suggested, but never could establish, that the bachelor Prime Minister, Mr. King, could have been influenced by Mr. Haydon’s gallant generosity to the Queen’s women in their great need.

The Walls Rise: The Doors Open

Now the Alumnae seemed to have gathered irresistible momentum. The Trustees had bought not only the Goodwin House, but the Macdonnell Residence, in the shadow of Ban Righ. Building Ban Righ, the Q.U.A.A. – the Kingston Alumnae, of course, bearing the burden of the day – took the establishment of these two new houses, the winding up of the “Hen Coop” and The Avonmore all in their stride, and borrowed $15,000 for furnishing Ban Righ. The other $10,0000 needed the Alumnae were busy raising. This time, a subdued Trustee Board went on the Alumnae’s bank loan without blotting a letter.

The Furnishings Committee had been entrusted to Mrs. Donald Macphail, than whom there had never been a more beloved Alumna.

Of the class of 1888, she was Lulu Britton, one of the five almost legendary daughters of Judge Britton, himself a tradition in Upper Canada legal circles within his own life. Marrying “theologue” Donald Macphail, she had served indeed with him in rural charges from the Quinte to the Rockies and, when he went off to war as Chaplain with the Seaforths, the Alumnae had been able to persuade her to become Dean of The Avonmore. Even Capt. Macphail’s death in the torpedoing of the Llandovery Castle, failed to break her indomitable faith, hilarity of joyous spirit, or to lessen, in one whit, her selfless eagerness in generous service to others.

Mrs. Macphail on Furnishings and Mrs. Macgillivray on Building made the perfect combination to bring Ban Righ Hall to actuality. Used to “$750. and a Manse”, as she said, “$25,000 to furnish the Residence “was a millionaire’s endowment”. There were those who wanted to “splurge”. They were remorselessly repulsed – enough but not too much, comfortable but not luxurious, good but not ostentatious, – these were the requisites in what the Furnishings Committee bought, begged, or acquired. Ottawa was furnishing the china, – Mrs. Macphail wrote that egg cups could be omitted, “saving about 30 cents per setting” (she would joke) or about $60.00, “for all they’ll ever be used”.

Sir Robert Borden called; Mrs. Macphail showed him the Residence; collected the endowment of a room with Lady Borden’s name thereon.

And every salvageable item from the old Residences went into Macdonnell and Goodwin Houses. Over the Furnishings there was another civil war, and with Mrs. Macphail “voting violently with the minority” (she asking it be recorded) the dining room seating was changed from its refectory to more ordinary restaurant table seating. The Toronto branch had to do penance by getting $1500 for the Common Room Furnishings, which became the Q.U.A.A.’s own particular donation.

The Dining Hall was dedicated to the long and well-remembered Eliza Gordon, “The friend of every woman student”.

Came the dawn of hoped-for day in Emmanuel’s land. On Saturday, November 7, 1925, the Q.U.A.A. met in annual session. The Residence Administration policy was formally approved. Mrs. Macgillivray had no written Building Committee Report: she offered instead “the finished building as my final word” (adopted on standing vote). So that, had everything been supervised that, though the heating plant had been added, the final inclusive cost was $188,000.

Mrs. Maphail, reporting for “Furnishings”, offered Ban Righ Hall – (Macdonnell and Goodwin Houses as well) – two months in operation, as her chief exhibit, including the time that on September 21, 70 girls (of whom 30 had been expected) were served a delicious dinner in the dining hall though neither tables, chairs nor dishes had arrived. There were the Dean, the Hosue Manager, 62 girls, 9 house staff, in Ban Righ, – several in the two annexes, and with “grubbers” – altogether 186 being served in the Eliza Gordon Hall. Even though Furnishing had extended to shelves for storage and bins for coals, the expenditures had all been kept well within the estimate of $25,000. And so ended “the first and last report of the Furnishings Committee, Lulu B. Macphail”.

But before the cheering died away, the mellow Miss Redden submitted what was not the last Report of the Residence Fund. More had been raised than in any one year – and all paid out. There was the bank loan of $15,000 and against it $85.15 due from the Book of Views. The Fund was in deficit – for the first time – $14,914.82 Miss Redden slyly asked every Alumnae “to ponder well what she might do to help”.

The “Blessing” of Ban Righ Hall

And who wasn’t ready to help as, bursting with pride, the Alumnae marched to the Special Convocation on Monday, November 9, 1925, to award an honorary degree to Her Excellency, the Viscountess Byng of Vimy, wife of the Governor General, come to open Ban Righ Hall, with a golden key presen- ted by the Q.U.A.A. President, Mrs. Ross!

Queen’s yellow mums were everywhere. Where, a quarter century before, she had first besought Principal Grant to help in renting a small house for women students, Mrs. John Macgillivray transferred to the Trustees their interest in the completed Ban Righ Hall, $125,000, as a gift from the Alumnae Association.

Her words may well close the annals:

“When we look at the grey walls of Ban Righ Hall,

we confess to a pride in our achievement, a pride which

I think is entirely justifiable. The undertaking has

been long and arduous, but it is our hope and belief

that for countless generations of women students, the

Residence, and all that it stands for, may be a factor

in that intangible something which we call education.”

– – – –

Not quite the last words, though. The Alumnae had turned cheerfully to discharging the $15,000 still due on the Furnishings, while the University planned another Endowment Fund Campaign. But now the Alumnae voice was strong, their works proved. The Trustees sought their counsel and aid: both were forthcoming if the University would agree that women students were also persons to be housed and served. The outstanding bank loan was taken over by the University (the incredible Alumnae had already raised $3,045 more in less than 12 months), and, with $112.10 cash of its own in hand, Miss Redden reported, on November 6, 1926, simply:

“This statement closed the Residence Fund”.

But to the last, the Alumnae was the cause at her heart’s core, – a generous bequest of hers was marked for the Q.U.A.A.’s “very own use”.

* * * * * *

Queen’s people may well tell of their vision and their courage and the years not fail to remember their praise.

Charlotte Whitton, Arts ‘17

Click here to download All That it Stands For, the story of Ban Righ Hall!

The Founding Vision - Joanne Page, 1998

Drawing from the long tradition of academic quest on the part of Queen’s Women, and anticipating the present concept of continuing education, the founders of the Ban Righ Foundation created an agent of change and of reconciliation, in a single far-reaching throw.

They envisaged the Foundation as a place of intellectual vitality by way of individual accomplishment and mutual encouragement. From their residence experience, they knew that living together, even briefly during the day, promotes familiarity and stability. They held out, then, for the right location and chose a house rather than a series of offices. Perhaps most significantly, they resolved that the Foundation must evolve, as would the University and the profile of the returning student.

Three decades later, the University has indeed changed, as have women’s lives. The institution’s systems have become more regularized, its culture less personal. Tuition has risen. Women, now half the work force, understand universities as a vehicle for economic advancement as much as personal edification. At a time when social commitment to public education wavers, more women aspire to part-time and full-time admission. As the resources of the administration diminish, the student’s financial burden increases. And, however regrettable, obstacles remain for women returning to education.

The Foundation seeks to reconcile people with place and purpose. Because it is independently housed, because of its obvious and its unexpected links within the academy and the community, because of its history, because it is part of the University and yet it is different, a visiting scholar finds herself comfortably expounding, the new Faculty member voices her fears about tenure, the University staff member wades into a lunch-hour session, a graduate student reveals her research problems, the part-time student gets a toe-hold, a group of forty parents and children enjoy an uproarious supper. The common ground is vast and compelling: thinking, learning.

Striving to be greater than the sum of the parts, the Foundation remains willingly specific in mandate. It is the richness of the parts – the students and the community they create – which makes the Foundation work and enables the students to offer their individual contribution as well as simply attend classes. Programming is intentionally responsive and broad. Its processes are interconnected. Routine varies reflecting need. Discussions flourish. The individual is valued. It is the integration of these parts which enables the student to enter university life fully.

Providing a place for women within what can seem a large unknowable structure, the University demonstrates that the complex mix of goals and personal responsibilities which women students continue to bear is of equal importance to, say, an art collection or a skating rink. Students testify that such a place has been of monumental value, the difference between giving up and continuing.

The University, by definition, must shape the future through the lens of the academic community. The designers of the Foundation worked with the same lens focused on a human scale; the Foundation’s charge is to, when necessary, go after the future for one person. These are two parts of the whole, and a wise institution secures both.

As evidence of the visionary largess of Queen’s Women, the Foundation continues to urge students towards a deep and personal attachment to education. In partnership with the University, it is, by foresight and rarity, a resource and an investment which distinguishes Queen’s from other universities across the country.

History - Joanne Page 1999

The origins of the Ban Righ Foundation is a story its admirers love to tell. Contemporary Board of Trustee minutes give the bare bones; a Masters thesis by Marion Campbell rounds out the story and it’s a good one. There are the monies saved by successive women’s residence boards and fought for by the far-sighted women we now call the Founders; administrators of the day, with designs on the savings, either outwitted or persuaded, Senate debates – flurry and fury – over whether such a foundation for continuing education should be set up for women only. In the end, the determined women secured the money and set to work to create the Ban Righ Foundation.

The Founders worked from a blueprint that is as valid today as it was then: to be resolutely in the here and now, and think ahead.

These visionary of a practical persuasion were firm about everything, even location: they held out for a house, not the series of offices they were offered. What they had in mind was not domestic so much as utilitarian. They knew that a community forms more quickly, and possibly indelibly, when it has a roof over its head, walls and a kitchen. This has been the case since kitchen fires and tents.

Like the University, the Ban Righ Centre might be described as a place of encounters. The principal encounter is, of course, with learning. This encounter will be brief but lasting, when considered in the context of a lifetime.

Here’s how it works at the Ban Righ Centre. A person dropping in – say it’s you – doesn’t know what to expect, which is apt because it could go any one of thirty ways. You are greeted and get the house tour. Or, you are greeted and asked to join the conversation, perhaps the tumultuous argument, underway. Shortly someone will inquire about you – in an open-ended way so as not to put you on the spot – enough to let you indicate whether you are there for a break or in need of information, or of the myriad reasons a person might have.

The encounter begins. Where it leads is anybody’s guess. Possibly to assistance with the vast array of University services: where to go for what. Or, maybe you team up with another student to get through Statistics, and forge a friendship. Could be that the encounter becomes extended, that you take root for a year, two. What you seek in the way of peace and quiet, upstairs on a couch in the late afternoon, is a much-needed encounter with solitude, and the Ban Righ Centre is the only place in your complicated life where this is possible.

The encounters, if you think about it, range in tone and substance. People have declared that the Ban Righ Centre has saved their lives, Literally. For others, links established pulled them outward; or, friends acquired enabled the individual to push through defenses and fears, to launch herself: an awakening. Each encounter is always intensely personal.

Encounters with awkwardness, with aggravation, with civility, with wonder. Opportunity to comprehend the astonishment of an idea, the intricate workings of the mind. A chance to acquire the sturdy glory of a friend.

However much theories of education wax and wane, the brilliance of such encounters with learning will continue to illuminate. Perhaps when the next anniversary gets celebrated, these last few years will look like a time in which the Ban Righ Foundation encountered change and change was accommodated, a time when origins counted.