The four Sisters of St. Ann who
arrived in Victoria in 1858 are known as the “Pioneer Nuns”. As the first nuns
to arrive in present-day British Columbia, these were women of incredible
strength and resourcefulness. Expecting an isolated fur-trading fort, the
Sisters were surprised to find a Victoria transformed into a gold-obsessed “tent-city”.
Undaunted by neither their new environment nor the language barrier, the
Sisters immediately set to work opening a school, as well as caring for the
sick and orphaned. In time, they would establish St. Ann’s Academy as well as
St. Joseph’s Hospital. This website focuses on the first ten years of the
Sisters experience in Victoria, with an emphasis on their educational
achievements within a microhistorical context.
What is Microhistory?
Microhistory emerged in Europe in
the 1960s/70s as an alternative to the traditional macro-historical approach. Up
until then, most historical accounts had been focused on large-scale events
with the emphasis on political and economic change. Microhistory moves away
from the centre to the margins, aiming to uncover “the conditions of everyday
life as experienced by the common people.” By focusing on the individual, one
can use a single person’s story to understand the larger historical context. To
quote John Lutz, microhistory is the asking of big questions in small places.