Sarah Anne Curzon

Plot C, Section 14, Lot 13
Mount Pleasant Cemetery

Sarah Anne Curzon was a poet, a journalist, an editor, and a playwright. Born in Birmingham, England around 1833, she was the daughter of George Philips Vincent, a glass manufacturer of the provincial English middle class; she enjoyed a ladies-school education and private tutoring. In 1858 she married Robert Curzon and between 1862 and 1864 immigrated to Toronto. Curzon was an original member of Canada’s first feminist organisation, the Toronto Women’s Literary Club, and recording secretary of the Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association. She was associate editor of the Toronto temperance weekly The Canada Citizen, which boasted the first women’s page to cover emancipation and women’s access to university education. Curzon was also an advocate of Imperial Federation and, together with Lady Matilda Edgar, founded the first Canadian Women’s Historical Society in 1895. In 1884 she was forced to step down from her position at The Canada Citizen as a result of complications related to Bright’s disease, an illness from which she eventually died. Curzon is best known for her two closet dramas. The most ambitious of these, Laura Secord: The Heroine of 1812 (1887), was the first self-declared feminist play written in Canada. According to its preface, the play’s purpose was “to rescue from oblivion the name of a brave woman, and set it in its proper place among the heroes of Canadian history.” It was also written as an intervention into the debate over veterans’ pensions and to solicit recognition for the contribution Laura Secord made to the War of 1812. Its publication aroused such interest that it was responsible for a deluge of articles and entries on Secord that filled Canadian histories and school textbooks at the turn of the 20th century. The Sweet Girl Graduate (1882), written at the behest of John Wilson Bengough, editor of the satirical reformist weekly Grip, is a one-act vignette that entered into the debate on women’s right to post-secondary education. Its main character, who dresses up as a man to attend university, may have inspired the attempt by Emma Stanton Mellish, a half year after its publication, to apply to Trinity College under a male appellation. The play ends with a plea for the cause of women’s rights, immortalising the 1882 Toronto Literary Club’s petition to the provincial legislature to admit women to the University of Toronto. Although financial stability eluded Curzon, she was a stalwart and prominent supporter of women’s rights and among the first women’s rights activists and supporters of liberal feminism. She died in Toronto on November 6, 1898. Her daughter went on to become one of the first women to graduate with a bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto.

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