A Commitment to the Education of Women
In 1894, when Havergal opened at 350 Jarvis Street, Toronto was experiencing tremendous growth. The population was 200,000. The first electric streetcar had been operating on Church Street for two years. Central heating was very much in vogue. Havergal, too, was growing rapidly. From 1894 to 1899, enrolment grew from 40 to 239 students, and continued to increase. During its first 30 years, the board made thirteen real estate purchases and undertook 3 major building projects. In 1926, the school relocated to its current location on the corner of Avenue Road and Lawrence Avenue.
In a booklet written by former Havergal student, teacher, and principal from 1952 to 1970, Catherine Steele, M.A., D.Litt. observes: "In the spring of 1894, a school for girls at 350 Jarvis Street was about to close its doors, and a group of men led by The Honourable H. Blake formed an organization for taking over the building and making it the home of what became Havergal College. The group of individuals who founded Havergal College had great faith in the future of Canada and wanted to provide a sound academic education for their daughters. Being members and strong followers of the Anglican Church of Canada they would have its beliefs and teachings in their school."
The school was committed to the education of women long before it was commonplace.
Havergal College was named after Frances Ridley Havergal who was born in 1836 and died in 1879. She was the youngest child of William Henry Havergal, Rector of Astley, Worcestershire, England. Her last name comes from an Old English word ‘havergal’ meaning a rushing stream or gill. She received her middle name as the goddaughter of a descendant of Bishop Ridley, one of the first martyrs of the Protestant faith during the reign of Queen Mary in 1555.
An outstanding woman of the early Victorian era, Frances Ridley Havergal was a composer, author and humanitarian. Her hymns were used by the Church of England and by nonconformist religions. They have survived repeated hymnbook revisions and appear in Anglican, United Church, and Presbyterian hymnals to this day. Due to her pursuit of work and studies, her dedication to missionary and Bible societies, and her positive attitude even in the face of sickness and pain, Frances Ridley Havergal was an excellent choice as the name of the new school.
Miss Ellen Mary Knox was the first Principal of the school. She was a graduate of Oxford University, a teacher of Cheltenham Ladies' College in England, a devout member of the church and Principal of Havergal College for thirty years. Ellen Knox led the school with determination and vision through its first thirty years and often posed the question to her students: "What are you going to do?" This question still resonates with today’s students as Havergal prepares young women to make a difference for good in the world.
Havergal has benefited from a long tradition of giving. The school with its changes and expansions has been, and continues to be, the fortunate recipient of substantial philanthropic support from generations of Havergal parents, Old Girls (alumnae), and other friends of the community. Following the move to the current campus in 1926, wings were added in 1959 and 1977. In 1999, parents, Old Girls and others in the Havergal community provided the funds to build a new Junior School, to upgrade existing facilities and to add a new Upper School wing, now know as The R. Samuel McLaughlin Wing, dedicated to the Humanities, the Sciences and Technology. More recently, members of the Havergal community contributed funds towards the building of the Athletic Centre and the Dr. Catherine Steele 1928 Archives, both of which opened in September 2006.
Havergal has a number of symbols. The Havergal Crest, comprised of maple leaves, laurel branches, a torch and a lamp of learning symbolizes the school motto of “passing on the torch of life” (Vitai Lampada Tradens). The marguerite was chosen as the school flower “because it grew so cheerily wherever its luck found it, and because it looked up so steadily at the light that its heart was pierced with purest gold, its petals the purest white.” (First Principal Ellen Knox)