Grace Helen Mowat was born on 31 January 1875 on an old Loyalist farm in Beech Hill, near St. Andrews, New Brunswick. She was the only child of strong Loyalist parents, George and Isabella (Campbell) Mowat. Mowat attended the Charlotte County Grammar School and was then sent to England in 1893 to study art for two years at Richmond School. When she returned from England, she travelled to New York City to study at the Women’s Art School at Cooper Union Institute. After Mowat received her training, she taught at the Halifax Ladies’ College of Art in Nova Scotia. However, she soon moved back to St. Andrews to look after her father after her mother’s death.
Mowat was an extremely active member in the community of St. Andrews. While she lived there, she became interested in activities like spinning, weaving, rug hooking, and pottery. Those interests resulted in the establishment of Charlotte County Cottage Craft. This business encouraged women of the county to hand-weave, hand-spin, embroider, and do other crafts that incorporated original designs of nature and familiar farm scenes. These products were sold for profit in places as far away as Montreal. Mowat is remembered as a founder of the Charlotte County Cottage Craft movement that still flourishes in St. Andrews.
She also founded the Music, Art and Drama Club that is also still running today in St. Andrews. In this club, she pursued her interests in the history of St. Andrews. Her own family history played an important role in her writing. In one of her best works, The Diverting History of a Loyalist Town: A Portrait of St. Andrews (1932), Mowat traces the development of St. Andrews up until 1932, when the Canadian Pacific Railway established St. Andrews as a summer resort. Her other books include New Brunswick (1932), Funny Fables of Fundy: and Other Poems for Children (1928), The Tories' King: George III and the Seeds of the Revolution (1976), A Story of Cottage Craft (1958), The House that Hurricane Jack Built (1954), and Broken Barrier: A Romance of Staten Island and the Province of New Brunswick (1951).
Mowat’s writing ranges from humorous rhymes and verses to poems and fables. Her fiction is rooted in the town of St. Andrews; her characters are based on actual people she encountered, and the events are based on incidents she experienced.
In 1951, Mowat was acknowledged by the University of New Brunswick for her contributions and achievements and was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws during UNB’s 122nd Encaenia. She passed away in her hometown of St. Andrews in February 1964.
Mallory Pinnock, Winter 2008
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Mowat, Grace. Broken Barrier: A Romance of Staten Island and the Province of New Brunswick. Fredericton, NB: University Press of New Brunswick, 1951.
---. The Diverting History of a Loyalist Town: A Portrait of St. Andrews, New Brunswick. Fredericton, NB: Charlotte County Cottage Craft, 1932.
---. Funny Fables of Fundy: And Other Poems for Children. Illus. Grace Mowat. Ottawa, ON: Ru-Mi-Lou, 1928.
---. The House that Hurricane Jack Built. Fredericton, NB: Brunswick Press, 1954.
---. A Story of Cottage Craft. St. Andrews, NB: n.p., 1958.
---. The Tories' King: George III and the Seeds of the Revolution. Charlotte County Historical SocietyPublication 76-1. St. Stephen, NB: Print ’N Press, 1976.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
Cattley, Robert E.D. Honoris Causa: The Effervescences of a University Orator. Fredericton, NB: UNB Associated Alumnae, 1968.
Charlotte County Historical Society. Grace Helen Mowat Collection. Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, ref. # MC2259. Sept. 1993.
“Dr. Grace Helen Mowat.” Archives and Special Collections, Harriet Irving Library, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, NB. A-Case 39.
“Dr. Grace Helen Mowat Passes in 90th Year.” Telegraph Journal [Saint John, NB] 24 Feb. 1964.
“Miss Mowat Expands Her Range of Interests.” The St. Croix Courier [Charlotte Country, NB] 21 June 1989.
“Mowat Acknowledged as Pioneer in the Crafts.” The St. Croix Courier [Charlotte County, NB] 14 June 1989.
National Gallery of Canada. New Brunswick Authors/Ecrivains du Nouveau-Brunswick. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1984.
Prominent People of the Maritime Provinces in Business and Professional Life. Montreal: Canadian Publicity Co., 1922.