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Allisonian Firsts: Mary Electa Adams

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

Mary Electa Adams

First female Preceptress of the Mount Allison Female Academy, 1854

Portrait of Mary Electa Adams in the 1890s with inscription that reads

Mary Electa Adams, [189-?]

Mount Allison University Archives, Picture Collection, 2007.07/254. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

Mary Electa Adams was born in Westbury, Lower Canada (Quebec), on 10 November 1823, the daughter of Rufus and Maria (Hubbard) Adams. She grew up in Adamsville, Upper Canada (now Acton, Ontario), and was educated in a school run by her mother. She completed her studies in Montpelier, Vermont, and at the Cobourg Ladies’ Seminary in Ontario. Thereafter, she taught at the Adelaide Academy (Toronto), the Picton Academy, and Albion Academy (Albion, Michigan).

In 1854, she was hired as the first Preceptress of the Female Academy at Mount Allison (later the Mount Allison Ladies' College). She established a rigorous program of study that ultimately led to Mount Allison University being the first institution in Canada to offer bachelor’s degrees to women. She next led the Wesleyan Ladies’ College (Hamilton, Ontario), established the Brookhurst Academy (Cobourg, Ontario), and finished her fifty-year career at the Ontario Ladies’ College (Whitby, Ontario). Mary Electa Adams was widely recognized as an advocate for women’s education and worked tirelessly throughout her life to further this goal. She died in Toronto, Ontario, on 5 November 1898.

Related materials

You can find more information about Mary Electa Adams and peruse the contents of her sous-fonds (accession no. 5001) on our Descriptions Database. You can also access Adams' diaries, poetry, notes, and watercolour painting by planning a visit to the archives.