Celebrating a Hometown Heroine:
and the story of
A Niagara native raised in St. David's, Ontario, Emma Currie epitomized the progressive, forward thinking women of the late 19th century, becoming active in the cultural and social life of her community and creating public opportunities for the intellectual pursuits of women. She and the other feminists of her era were active in the suffrage movement, and are credited with bringing a valuable new perspective to the interpretation of the past. Together they sought out significant individual women in Canada's past, and began the process of including them in the narrative of Canadian history.The very inclusion of women as significant actors in Canadian history represented an important achievement in this time. In addition to her role in promoting the intellectual and social life of women in Niagara, Emma Currie is credited with producing the first factual and definitive portrayal of Laura Secord, who for part of her life lived in Currie's home town of St. David's.
Emma Harvey married relatively late, but married well – as did her husband. In 1865, at the age of 36, she became the wife of James G. Currie, a prominent St. Catharines lawyer, landowner, and war veteran who was mayor of St. Catharines from 1859 to 1863, and again from 1869 to 1870. James Currie was elected to the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada in 1862, and became provincial Member of Parliament from 1871 to 1873.[i] [ii] The new Mrs. Currie enjoyed significant social status in her community, and interacted with other women of the upper middle classes in the growing city of St. Catharines.
Fellow Secord biographer Ruth McKenzie wrote, "Mrs. Currie's book is still the standard biography of Laura Secord. The author took great pains to assemble facts about the Ingersoll and Secord families and about Laura's own life. She dealt with Laura's walk objectively, avoiding emotional over-tones". As a result, the book is still extensively consulted today. Such was its popularity that a second, slightly expanded edition was published in St. Catharines in 1813, the year of Emma Currie's death.
After their marriage, Emma Currie lived with her husband at their home at 98 King Street, across the road from the present-day Farmer's Market and not far from the St. Catharines Courthouse building.
Her home was regrettably demolished in the 1970s to make way for the Corblock complex, but her mark on the community and on the collective conscience of our country remains indelible.
Emma Currie lived at 98 King Street, St. Catharines - an address that no longer exists. Her home was two doors beyond the figure standing on the sidewalk in the 1910 photograph, directly across from the entrance to the Farmer's Market and very near to the old Courthouse. The streetscape has changed quite dramatically between 1910 (left) and 2015 (right). Back in 1910, wooden utility poles lined both sides of the dirt-surfaced roadway. Many of the buildings that graced the southeast side of the street have since been demolished or replaced. Currie's home was razed in the 1970s to make way for the Corbloc commercial development.
[i] McKenzie, Ruth. 1971. Laura Secord - the Legend and the Lady. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto. 142 pp.
[ii] Dale, Clare A. 1992. Whose Servant I Am: Speakers of the Assemblies of the Province of Upper Canada, Canada and Ontario, 1792-1992. Toronto: Ontario Legislative Library. pp. 151–55.
[ii] James George Currie, MPP - Parliamentary History. Legislative Assembly of Ontario. http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/members/members_all_detail.do?locale=en&ID=776
[iii] Bird, Kym. 2011. "Curzon, Sarah Anne," Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig), Dominion Institute. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/en/article/sarah-anne-curzon/
[iv] Cabbagetown People. N.d. [Sarah Curzon] A Pioneer for women's Rights who made Laura Secord a Household Word. http://www.cabbagetownpeople.ca/Pages/13Curzon.htm...
[v] McKenzie, Ruth. 1971. Laura Secord - the Legend and the Lady. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto. 142 pp.
Above: Google Street View map showing the approximate former location of Emma and James Currie's home at what was then 98 King Street, now occupied by a commercial building.Their original address of '98 King Street' no longer exists on the municipal records for St. Catharines.
Above: Google map showing the approximate former location of Emma and James Currie's home at what was then 98 King Street, now occupied by a commercial building.The original address '98 King Street' no longer exists on the municipal records for St. Catharines.