The Sisters of Saint Ann were founded in mid-nineteenth century Quebec, under the direction of their Mother Foundress, Venerable Marie Anne Blondin. Four Sisters and a laywoman, Marie Mainville made the long journey to Vancouver Island in 1858, to set up a school in Victoria, before British Columbia had become a province. They became the inspiration for over 100 years of spirituality, art, history, teaching and charity.
The people who lived, worked, worshipped and studied at St. Ann's Academy came for diverse reasons. Some of the students were sent to study, by parents overseas or government administrators. Many of the girls chose the school for themselves, because of the type of environment and the quality of education the school provided. Novices took their vows in the chapel, after realizing they had a vocation, the call to a religious life. The Sisters came to fulfil the mission of their Order, which was to teach at the school and to heal, at St. Joseph's Hospital, across the street from the Convent. They created a place, so that their goals as people could have a setting.
The women of St. Ann's were strong, and faced their tasks, whether it was the scrubbing of a staircase or the consoling of a home-sick little girl, with a sense of purpose and self-determination. One student who attended the Academy during the 1940s and 50s said, "I never knew what Women's Liberation was about, because we always had that". In spite of social pressures from the outside world, and even the Catholic Church itself, the Sisters remained devoted to their beliefs and convictions. They taught the girls that they were not restricted, simply because they would one day be women in a male-dominated society.
Student life was busy and students lived under strict rules. Every school has its obstacles to overcome, and there were certainly many pupils who were not content at St. Ann's, but through the years, intelligent, creative people, who made important contributions to their communities, emerged from the gates of the Academy. It is tempting to view history through rose-coloured glasses, but it is also important to have role models, who, to the best of their abilities, spend their lives helping others. The details, mistakes and funny stories of daily life in this section are intended to give a sense of what these people were like, and what they believed in.
Mother Marie Providence, who arrived in 1859, often said:
A woman's influence is not limited.
Life will be what women truly wish it to be.