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Motherwell, Catherine Gillespie (1866–1952)

Catherine Motherwell.
Saskatchewan Archives Board R-A4801

Kate (Catherine) Gillespie Motherwell gained prominence not merely as wife and partner of the Honourable W.R. Motherwell, but for involvement with First Nations people. Born in Ontario in 1866, she was a teacher when the Gillespie family moved to the Balcarres area (1889). Becoming interested in the First Nations, she accepted a position at Crowstand Mission school in 1894. In 1897 she took a nursing course and went to the Mistawasis Mission, where she was in charge of the day school, assisted by her father and sister. In 1901 she was appointed principal of File Hills boarding school in face of opposition from government officials because of her gender. She was later judged to have done excellent work by the standards of the day, working (with her sister, the matron) to prepare Indian youths to become farmers and farm wives, and doing missionary work. In 1908 she left her position to marry W.R. Motherwell, a widower with two children and provincial Minister of Agriculture (later federal Minister of Agriculture). In the ABERNETHY District, where the Motherwell farm, Lanark Place, was located, her involvements included Presbyterian missionary work. In 1940, the Motherwells retired there. After her husband’s death in 1943, she remained in Saskatchewan, where she died on July 6, 1952.

Ann Leger-Anderson

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Further Reading

Dobbin, L.L. 1961. “Mrs. Catherine Gillespie Motherwell, Pioneer Teacher and Missionary,” Saskatchewan History 14: 17–26.

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