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Home - introductions to the site
Search - a searchable database of letters/essays/etc.
Genealogy - short biographical information of each family member
Photographs - various images pertaining to the McQuesten family
Thesis - essays on the McQuestens and lifewriting by Mary Anderson
Timelines - a chronological list of events in the McQuesten family and corresponding historical events

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Jun 9 2007


When will we see another such
As Ruby, polished jewel of
A brood that forged its wealth from love
And mined its future through her touch?

The grace of self-denial set
Its gem in her slight gentle frame,
And all her income homeward came
For siblings' needs and household debt.

If not for her would there have grown
The gardens brother Thomas brought?
The harvests which his vision wrought
From sparkling Ruby's seeds were sown.

For her no change of name, nor ring,
For her there was no life with Ross;
Yet she did not complain of loss,
Betrayed no sign of suffering.

While cheerful in adversity
She shed her light too short a time;
A nagging cough sliced through her prime
And cast her tragic history.

But keep alive her memory;
Her paintings brush and warm the heart,
Her sense of duty adds its part;
Take courage from her legacy.

by G.W. Down

Margaret Edna McQuesten

Your portrait draws me to you--
that wild blonde hair, constricted
into pompadour and ringlets
frames a fine-boned face,
presents a perfect image to the world.
But tragedy shoadows your eyes,
poses you, sets you apart;
one more victim of Victorian privilege.

They called you 'Oddy,' or Edna,
when they spoke of you at all.
I nickname you Sandy,
see you laughing free,
skipping barefoot
across the spreading lawns;
the walls of Whitehern
the first to shut you up.

So bright for your age,
too eager to strain against
tight and fundamantal bonds
that gagged and choked you--
you, an intellect in a family
shrouded by too many cobwebs;
a family that loved you
through all the bewilderment.

Only fifty when you died,
locked away in a Guelph asylum,
when the attic no longer sufficed.
Medical gurus of the day
took your womb, part of your brain,
to 'cure your hysterics,'
left you hollow as an ivory box--
until you just closed up.

I will remember you as a faerie child,
an Isadora who never needed shoes
for dancing.

by Becky Alexander


1 For more on Ruby McQuesten see her brief Bio. by clicking on "Family" and then on her picture. Also see W6135 footnote, W9058, W5622, and others by word search.

2 For more on Edna McQuesten see her brief Bio. by clicking on "Family" and then on her picture. Also see W2511, W5382, WW5426, W5478, W5430, W5297 and footnotes, and others by word search.

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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
Please direct questions and comments to Mary Anderson, Ph.D.

Hamilton Public Library This site was created in partnership with and is hosted by the Hamilton Public Library. Canada's Digital Collections This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections initiative, Industry Canada.