UNB Associated Alumnae

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The Ladies Society

In the aftermath of the cancelled Conversazione of 1893, it was obvious to the women students of UNB that they had to look after their own interests. That same year, barred from membership in the Literary and Debating Society, they formed the Ladies Society. The Ladies Society was dedicated to "all affairs that concern college girls as a whole." The society, which later became the Alumnae Society, was open to all women students of UNB. The women raised funds for such things as improvements to the Ladies Reading Room and created a variety of groups for the benefit of the female students. The Ladies Debating Society and the YWCA were two of these groups that greatly enhanced the experience of college life for the women students.


  • University of New Brunswick. President's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women. "Of More than Academic Interest": Women at UNB... Fredericton: UNB, 1990. p. 89.

The Ladies' Reading Room

The first women students entered UNB in the late 1880s. As there was no women's residence on campus, it was decided that a room should be set aside for their exclusive use. In 1887, UNB provided a room on the second floor of the Old Arts Building, which was designated as the Ladies' Reading Room. It was used as a place to study or socialize between classes and as a place for the various women's clubs and societies to hold meetings. Despite its name, the Ladies' Reading Room contained no books, hardly any furniture, and was described as being in a "most ridiculous condition." The meagerness of the room's contents provoked a response from the male students who wrote that, "We do not believe in co-education, but since we have been inflicted with the evil, the rooms granted to the young ladies should bear an appearance more in keeping with the fair occupants."

The Ladies' Society decided to raise money to pay for improvements to the room. A number of prominent citizens, including the Lieutenant-Governor, contributed money which made the reading room "homelike and comfortable." In 1899, Eva M. Downey, one of the 15 co-eds enrolled at UNB, described the reading room as "very comfortably furnished with a table, sofa, easy chairs, rocking chairs etc. We owe this to the girls here in '96. We would like to add a writing desk, a few more pictures, and some mantel ornaments and we may see our way clear to do so this year. We also feel that we need a piano: but, as there are so few of us, we fear we will never be able to buy one."

In 1947, Elizabeth A. Baird, Secretary of the Alumnae Society, wrote to UNB President Milton Gregg, asking that more bathroom facilities be provided as one tiny bathroom was inadequate for the 95 women students and the 10-12 female faculty and staff members. The Reading Room continued to be used by the women of UNB well into the 1950s.


  • University Monthly, vol. 18, no. 6, March 1899, p. 155.
  • University Monthly, vol. 8, no. 4, January 1889, p. 49-50.
  • University Monthly, vol. 16, no. 1, October 1898, p. 22.
  • Presidents' Papers (UA RG 136); Series 5; Sub-series 1; File 93, Box 3; Letter from Elizabeth A. Baird to Milton Gregg, 2 January 1947.
  • Montague, Susan. A Pictorial History of the University of New Brunswick. Fredericton: University of New Brunswick, 1992, pp. 51.
  • Lloyd, Hugh and Wade, Scott. Behind the Hill. Fredericton: Students' Representative Council, the Associated Alumni and the Senate of the University of New Brunswick, 1967.

The Alumnae Society

As the male dominated Alumni Society at UNB was not concerned with the needs or interests of the women students, past or present, the women decided to found their own society. The Alumnae Society was established in 1910 and incorporated in 1919. The society was intended to "promote directly and indirectly the educational and financial interests of the University, especially as such interests relate or are related to the lady graduates." As women were barred from social events for graduates--such as reunion dinners--until 1923, it was hoped that the society would also "give origin to that strong bond of union heretoafter lacking and so essential between graduates and their Alma Mater."


  • University Monthly, vol. 29, no. 8, June 1910, p. 219.
  • Montague, Susan. A Pictorial History of the University of New Brunswick. Fredericton: University of New Brunswick, 1992, p. 61.
  • University Monthly, vol. 29, no. 6, April 1910, p. 150-151.


From the very beginning, the Alumnae Society was firmly committed to providing scholarships for female students. In the years after their initial admittance to UNB, women students won a disproportionate number of the prizes and honours awarded by the university. In 1893, the year after a woman, Ellen Peake, first won the Douglas Gold Medal, the wording of the eligibility for the L.A. Wilmot scholarship, which had read 'to any deserving matriculant', was suddenly altered to read 'men only.' This was particularly daunting as so few prizes and scholarships were given by the university at the time. As the past had proven that university prizes were not guaranteed to be open to women, at the very first meeting of the society, held on 1 June 1910, the members decided to "award a prize of $30 in gold to the girl making the highest average in the ordinary examinations of the sophomore year." The first winner of the Alumnae Scholarship was Anna Kelly. The Alumnae Society's commitment to providing financial assistance to women students at UNB continues to this day, when each year the Associated Alumnae gives away $20,000 in scholarships.


  • University of New Brunswick. President's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women. "Of More than Academic Interest": Women at UNB... Fredericton: UNB, 1990. p. 89.

A Women's Residence

Although the male students had long been able to live on campus, the women students had no such option. In the absence of a university residence for women, the female students, whose families did not reside in Fredericton, were forced to live in boarding houses. Parents were often hesitant to allow their daughters to live in such an unchaperoned manner. The Alumnae Society believed that the availability of a supervised women's residence would allow more women to attend UNB. Accordingly, the society had long identified a women's residence as one of their highest priorities. In 1914, the issue was first raised at the annual meeting of the society. A Residence Fund was established and added to over the years by various means including the proceeds from rummage sales and "...from a special performance of Sorrell & Son." This small but hard-earned fund was increased by donations, including the $3000 bequeathment in 1945 by UNB Alumna Ellen Peake (BA 1892, MA 1930), and a donation of $25,000 in 1947 by W.W. Boyce for the purchase of a property upon which to build a residence for the women students of UNB and the provincial Normal School. The following year the president of the Alumnae Society, Muriel Farris Baird, asked Lord Beaverbrook to see the project to fruition. He responded by giving the Society a house, located at 811 Charlotte Street and once owned by the Bank of Montreal, with the condition that they collect "the necessary funds for altering and equipping the building." The Society members mounted a feverish campaign to raise enough money and equipment in time, and the residence was opened in the fall of 1949.


  • Hansen, Linda Squiers. "Those Certain Women": A History of the Associated Alumnae, UNB. Fredericton: Associated Alumnae of UNB, 1982. p. 33, 35-37.
  • UA RG 110; Series 3; File 7, Box 3.
  • UA RG 110; Series 1; Sub-series 2; File 25, Box 1.

Maggie Jean Chestnut House

The new women's residence, the Maggie Jean Chestnut House, was named in honour of the daughter of the first Alumnae Society's president, Annie (Tibbits) Chestnut, and was officially opened on 28 October 1949. A morning coffee party, hosted by Lord Beaverbrook and Alumnae Society President Muriel (Farris) Baird, was held in the lounge of the new residence. Those in attendance included members of the University Senate, His Worship H.S. Wright, the Mayor of Fredericton, and Hon. James Brittain, the Minister of Education for New Brunswick. In the Evening an "At Home" was held from 7:30 to 10:00 and more than 200 members of the public had the opportunity to tour the building and enjoy coffee and cakes served by members of the Alumnae Society.

The society managed the residence until 1952, when they decided to transfer responsibility to the university. On October 1957 during Convocation week, a "hand-lettered, illuminated scroll" was unveiled in the Maggie Jean Chestnut Residence. The scroll, which explained the building's history, read:

"This property was a gift from ((@Chancellors|Lord Beaverbrook)) to the Associated Alumnae of the University of New Brunswick. The main house was altered and equipped by the Alumnae and friends and at His Lordship's request was named in memory of Maggie Jean Chestnut, a graduate and a member of the university senate. It was opened as a girls' residence in September, 1949."

UNB President Colin B. Mackay and Lord Beaverbrook spoke at the ceremony, both expressing the same sentiment that "(w)e are definitely interested in having more and more girls at UNB," and "the more residences, the more girls, - and that is what we want."

Concern over the safety of the electrical wiring led to the unexpected closure of the building in 1999. After undergoing an extensive renovation, "Maggie Jean", as it is familiarly called, now houses UNB's Renaissance College.


  • The Brunswickan, vol. 132, no. 20, 19 February 1999, p. 1.
  • UNB Scrapbooks (UA RG 100), 9 October 1957.
  • Alumni News, vol. 4, no. 1, January 1950, p. 7.
  • "Women's residence officially opened." Daily Gleaner, vol. 28, October 1949.
  • "Hundreds attended opening last night." Daily Gleaner, vol. 29, October 1949.
  • Hansen, Linda Squiers. "Those Certain Women": A History of the Associated Alumnae, UNB. Fredericton: Associated Alumnae of UNB, 1982. p. 38.

Lady Dunn Hall

In the spring of 1961, Mrs. H.G. Chestnut (the former Annie I. Tibbits, Class of 1896) turned the sod as the initial step in the construction of the first on-campus residence for female students. The residence was to be named for Mary K. Tibbits, UNB's first woman graduate, but on the day of the cornerstone laying ceremony, UNB President Colin B. Mackay surprised those in attendance by naming it Lady Dunn Hall. Mackay had been instructed by Lord Beaverbrook at the last minute to change the name to honour Sir James Dunn's widow, even though Mackay "had agreed with the associated Alumnae that it should and would be named after Tibbits."

Prior to the opening of the building in 1963, approximately 50 female students were housed downtown at the Beaverbrook Hotel, the entire 7th floor being reserved for their use. In 1970, an addition was made to the residence, and this time the new wing was named for Mary Tibbits.


  • Alumni News, vol. 15, no. 2, Summer 1961, p. 11.
  • Alumni News, vol. 16, no. 3, Fall 1962, p. 11.
  • Downey, James. "Beaverbrook's Choice: The appointment of Colin B. Mackay as President of UNB." Alumni News, vol. 11, no. 3, Spring 2003, p. 18.

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