Ethel Hughes, circa 1909. Photo courtesy of Brian Tremblay.

Unpredictable school schedules are not only a recent phenomena; they were common in the past, too. In particular, rural areas (such as those in today’s Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park) were susceptible to schooling disruptions due to inclement weather, inadequate funding, teacher unavailability, or insufficient student numbers.

Some upper-class Glenbow families in the early 1900s avoided rural schooling by employing governesses to supervise and educate their young children. Glenbow’s governesses included Ethel Hughes, Rachel Quanbury, and Emmeline Slack.

In 1909, twenty-year-old Ethel accompanied her brother’s fiancée from England to Glenbow. Ethel then found employment with the well-to-do de la Vergne family, looking after little Gertrude and Chester Junior. Just over a year later, Ethel married a Glenbow quarry worker and subsequently moved to his homestead.

Older governesses were more likely to maintain their unmarried status, as was the case with Rachel. She was in her 40s when the de la Vergnes hired her, and reportedly she remained with the family for years.

The wealthy Mrs. Vanderhoef also hired a middle-aged governess. Emmeline was in her 50s when she came to Glenbow in 1915 to look after young Gertrude Vanderhoef. Although Emmeline appears to have spent only a few years with the family, her bond with Mrs. Vanderhoef lasted the rest of their lives. The two women maintained correspondence and 87-year-old Emmeline sat by Mrs. Vanderhoef’s bedside for the last few weeks of her life, reminiscing about “the fun they had so many years ago” on the ranch at Glenbow. 

Schooling outside of the formal classroom is part of Glenbow history. It is also part of its present. The new educational facility, school programs, and summer camps are all part of Glenbow’s modern education program. Hopefully Glenbow Ranch will be just as memorable to today’s students and instructors as it was for the governesses, children and parents in Glenbow’s past.

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