The Women of Alexander College

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Women and children at the entrance to Alexander College, 1947. UA PC 9 no. 25 (3).

During the years immediately after WWII, enrollment tripled at the University of New Brunswick as returning veterans took advantage of the Canadian government's pledge to offer returning soldiers the opportunity for a free university education. All but four of these veterans were men. The four women veterans, Kathleen Gough, Frances Graham, Margaret McElveny, and F. Isabel (Johnston) Learmouth, all took classes with the men but the university made no special living arrangements for them. Unlike their male counterparts, they were not eligible to live at Alexander College, a collection of converted army huts and buildings on what is now the Fredericton Exhibition grounds that UNB leased to accommodate the veterans and serve as classrooms, labs, and housing.

UNB's President, Milton Gregg decided that Alexander College should have its own Dean, hiring Major D. Kermode Parr who, along with his wife, moved into a hut onsite. Mrs. Parr was actively involved in the social life of the College and took a particular interest in the veterans' wives, who described her as "kindly" and "almost parental." Mrs. Parr was the Matron Superintendent of the UNB Hospital located on the College grounds, which opened in 1946. Mrs. Black, the wife of a veteran, served as the resident nurse. According to Mrs. Parr, the hospital dealt with "things from porcupine quills to sprained ankles" and always anticipated an increase in patients after a college dance.

As there were so few women veterans at UNB, the most visible women at Alexander College were the wives of the veterans. These women worked to help support their families and tended to the rapidly increasing number of children and babies living at the College. As the walls of the apartments were thin, it was a constant challenge to keep the children quiet so that the men could study. D. Kermode Parr acknowledged the women's struggles in his "((@Ballade of Veteran Students' Wives))", published in May 1950 in the Ottawa Citizen.


  • The Brunswickan (Alexander Edition), vol. 65, no. 24, 14 June 1946, p. 1.
  • The Brunswickan, "UNB Hospital Opened at Alex", vol. 66, no. 10, 29 November 1946, p. 1.
  • Montague, Susan. A Pictorial History of the University of New Brunswick. Fredericton: University of New Brunswick, 1992, p. 124-25.
  • UA Case 127; Section 3; Phyllis Maybee, "The Grocery Store, Alexander College. (A View from the Cracker Barrel!)", 1984.

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