Account of Entry to U.N.B.
- Mary K. Tibbits

The higher education of women was one of the questions of the day in the early eighties. Wellesley College opened in 1876 as did Smith College. Cornell had been co-educational for some years. In England both Oxford and Cambridge decided that women should have the same opportunities as men if they wished to study.

Miss Jane Gregory, vice-principal of the Fredericton High School, took leave of absence in 1883 or 1884 and studied for a term at Wellesley. A Miss Narraway was working for her A.B. degree at Mount Allison, and my dear Mother ambitious for her eldest child, decided that I was to go to College. In the autumn of 1884 we journeyed to Boston and visited Wellesley College, Boston University, and the Harvard Annex which later became Radcliffe College. The heads of all these institutions told Mother that I was too young. College girls must be at least sixteen. During the next summer, by chance, I began reading the "Statutes of New Brunswick." I took special interest in the section on the University. I read that any person might attend lectures and work for a degree who "passed the matriculation examination, paid the dues and signed the declaration."

Several girls had written the matriculation examination at the end of their high school course. This was before the days of the diploma or certificate. Bertha Chase and I meant to take that matriculation examination in September to round off our high school days. [Mother and I] thought that if I were legally a person it would be sensible to go to college in Fredericton.

Mr. William Nelson, a leading lawyer in that day, assured me that I was a person; so, when the matriculation returns showed my name in second place, tied with the young man who won the Charlotte County scholarship, I made a respectful request to President Harrison to be allowed to enter the University. He called a meeting of the Senate and that body refused my request. I acquiesed in their decision and resumed my study of Greek with Bliss Carman as tutor.

During the ensuing session of the Legislature the grant for the University came up for discussion. Mr. John Valentine Ellis, member for Saint John, opposed the grant, because the University had refused admission to a duly qualified student - one Mary K. Tibbits. Shortly after that the Senate met and sent me word that I might attend lectures.

It was quite impossible to make up half a year's work so I was obliged to wait until the following September before I began my college course. I had lost a whole year, but it had been a very happy year, and I entered college a year older and (possibly) a year wiser.

During my first year I was the only girl student; the next year others came and we had our own little sitting-room on the second floor.

The University then had a three years' course - so in June 1889 I became the first woman B.A. of the U.N.B.

(Hathaway Vertical File #983)

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