Series 4 - Anna Dawson Harrington

Notes and sketches regarding coal lands Marriage Certificate, B. J. Harrington and Anna Dawson Notebook, 1873-1882 List of Papers written by B. J. Harrington Poem, In Memoriam G. M. D. Newspaper clippings Notes on biography of John William Dawson Early Life at McGill Told by a Professor's Wife, 1867-1907 Diary, 1865 Miscellany, 1867-1910
Results 1 to 10 of 1010 Show all

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Anna Dawson Harrington

General material designation

Parallel title

Other title information

Title statements of responsibility

Title notes

  • Source of title proper: Title from the content of series.

Level of description


Reference code

CA MUA MG 1022-4

Edition area

Edition statement

Edition statement of responsibility

Class of material specific details area

Statement of scale (cartographic)

Statement of projection (cartographic)

Statement of coordinates (cartographic)

Statement of scale (architectural)

Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


Physical description area

Physical description

40 cm of textual records

Publisher's series area

Title proper of publisher's series

Parallel titles of publisher's series

Other title information of publisher's series

Statement of responsibility relating to publisher's series

Numbering within publisher's series

Note on publisher's series

Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Anna Lois Dawson, born in 1851 while her father was superintendent of schools in Nova Scotia, was the eldest daughter of John William Dawson, principal of McGill University from 1855 to 1893. She was schooled in 1861-1862 at the Establishment for the Education of Young Ladies in Montreal where she learned drawing from Mrs. and Miss Tate and in 1863, at Mrs. Simpson’s Ladies School; drawing and painting were interests considered appropriate for young ladies at the time and she excelled at them, earning first prize at the midsummer exam in 1867. She continued her art lessons in 1873 with a Mr. Bird at an art school in Toronto. She accompanied her mother and father on his first and only sabbatical in 1884 when they travelled to Italy, Egypt, and the Holy Land. In 1876 she married Bernard James Harrington (1848-1907), a chemistry professor at McGill who was a former student of her father’s. Anna bore nine children: Eric, Edith, William, Bernard, Ruth, Clare, Constance, Conrad and Lois. Two of them died young: Eric at age 17 and Edith at age eleven, and much of her time and energy was devoted to care of sickly Eric. Her youngest daughter, Lois Winslow-Spragge, became the first art teacher at Miss Edgar's and Miss Cramp's School for Girls. While her husband stayed in town in the summer, Anna went with the children to Little Metis where they had a cottage next to the Dawson’s house, Birkenshaw. During these summers, she made many sketches and watercolor paintings, giving each a date and title. Many of her landscapes, painted from 1869 to 1914, are in the McCord Museum now.

The rest of the year, the family lived in Walbrae Place adjacent to the McGill campus in a house built for them by her father, until 1893 when her father purchased the house at 293 University (now 3641) and also bought the house next door for the Harringtons. The two families were very close and after Sir William’s death in 1899, a passage was built between the two houses for better communication. She lived there till her death in 1917.

She helped her father with his correspondence especially in his later years and illustrated many of his geological books. After his death, in 1900 she jotted down five pages of notes of memories of her father (among the Anna Dawson Harrington papers in the McGill University Archives, MG 1022, container 64) hoping to enliven the manuscript of his rather impersonal autobiography. However, her younger brother Rankine was determined to publish it as written and it appeared the following year entitled “Fifty years of work in Canada: scientific and educational,” with his editing, sparking a family feud between Rankine and Anna, who was supported by her older brother George. This dispute is well documented in the family’s correspondence preserved in the Dawson Family Fonds in the McGill University Archives.

Custodial history

Series consists chiefly of records from accessions 0000-0976 and 0000-1010, deposited by Lois Winslow-Spragge, 1970.

Scope and content

Anna Dawson Harrington's papers consist chiefly of incoming correspondence, including: 1.5 cm of letters from J. W. Dawson, 1868-1896; 3 cm from Margaret Mercer Dawson, 1870-1902; 10 cm from George Mercer Dawson, 1865-1901; 7 items from William Bell Dawson, 1868-1876; 5 items from Rankine Dawson, 1871-1899; 15 items from Eva Dawson Atkin, 1880-1896; 13 cm from her husband B. J. Harrington, 1876-1906; 2 cm from her children, 1892-1913; 1 cm of congratulatory letters at the time of her marriage, 1875-1876; 13 letters from friends and associates, 1867-1911; 4 cm of letters of sympathy on the death of her husband, 1907; 2 cm of letters concerning subscriptions for his portrait, a girlhood diary, 1866-1871 and some notes for biographies of J. W. Dawson and George Mercer Dawson. Earlier years contain substantial correspondence from her brother George during his education in London and early travels with the International Border Survey and then the Geological Survey of Canada. Substantial family correspondence with her children during their youth and her husband Bernard relates to domestic matters, such as the household, new house, the children's health and activities, with frequent passing mention of finances.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


Files of letters are arranged chronologically, with individual letters being generally arranged chronologically within files (with exceptions). Undated letters are filed together, as are non-correspondence materials.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

Associated materials

Related materials


General note

Boxes 61-63

Alternative identifier(s)

Standard number area

Standard number

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Control area

Description record identifier

Institution identifier

Rules or conventions


Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Language of description

Script of description


Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related places

Related genres