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Allisonian Firsts: Margaret (Harris) Fraser

A virtual exhibition celebrating the bold Allisonians who became the "firsts" in their field.

Margaret (Harris) Fraser

First certificate in Arts & Crafts from Mount Allison University, 1912

Portrait of Margaret Harris.

Margaret (Harris) Fraser, [ca. 1912?]

Courtesy of Jane Tisdale at the Owen's Art Gallery. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Margaret (Harris) Fraser was born in Pictou, Nova Scotia, in 1888. She was the daughter of Emma Ives Harris (1850-1933) and Joseph Simpson Harris (1852-1934). She came to Mount Allison University in January 1911. While in attendance, she was a member of the Allisonia staff, President of the Society of Ladies' College Seniors, and took an active part in sports on campus as captain of the women's basketball team. In 1912 she became the first graduate in Arts and Crafts (later called Applied Arts) at Mount Allison University. As part of her degree, she took courses in wood-carving, leather and metalwork, modelling, and drawing and design. Upon graduating, her classmates wrote:

"She aimed at graduation in the Arts and Crafts course, and herein she succeeded. She was the first graduate in this department of the work, and in the spring of 1912, a brilliant Exhibition showed to the world what might be accomplished when natural ability and that tenacity of purpose ... are combined." [1]

Natural ability seemingly ran in the family. Margaret's sister, Christian (Harris) McKiel (1889-1978), was also in attendance between 1908 and 1911. In 1913, Christian returned to Mount Allison to teach in the Fine Arts department, and later became head of the Department of Applied Arts.

Following graduation, Margaret went to New York where her sister was living at the time. There she established occupational projects for the benefit of War veterans. She married William Phare Fraser of Pictou, Nova Scotia, and the couple had three children: James (1922-2020) (Class of 1942), Joseph (1923-1941), and Margaret (1925-2017). All three of her children attended the Mount Allison institutions. Her son Joseph tragically lost his life in the residence fire that took the lives of four students on the night of December 16, 1941.


[1] Allisonia, vol. X, no. 1, December 1912.