Honouring Anna Leonowens
November 14, 2012

Robbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Winston Churchill, Samuel Cunard, Joseph Howe.

What’s common denominator among these names? They’re all men, for one thing, and they’re all honored with statues in downtown Halifax.

“With so few of our female role models commemorated in this city—let's face it, none have been honored in this way—it’s time Halifax and Nova Scotia recognized the serious contributions women have made to our city and province,” says Linda Hutchison, director of University Relations, NSCAD University.

NSCAD, Armbrae Academy and the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts resolve to change that. At a reception recently to celebrate the founding of all three institutions 125 years ago, a campaign to create a piece of public art in recognition of Anna Leonowens was launched.

Anna Leonowens is famous as the governess to the King of Siam’s 67 children—a story immortalized on Broadway and in the movies as The King and I. But in Halifax, her influence is still felt today as one of the founders not only of the Victoria School of Art and Design (now NSCAD University), but also the Halifax Ladies’ College and Conservatory of Music, now Armbrae Academy and the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts. All three venerable Halifax institutions are celebrating their 125th anniversaries in 2012.

“What a remarkable person she was. She believed passionately in the value of education and the arts and most people agree the Victoria School—named to honor Queen Victoria’s 50th year on the throne—was her idea,” says Ms. Hutchison.

“A writer, humanist and 19th century feminist, she is truly fitting of recognition—a woman who worked tirelessly for the causes of social betterment, education and the fine arts.”

A committee is now being formed to begin the proposal process and explore funding opportunities.

Anna Leonowen's great grandson Louis Leonowens and great great granddaughter Lucy Leonowens pose with Anna's portrait during 125th anniversary celebrations at NSCAD in September. (Steve Farmer Photo)