Catherine E. Sheldon-Williams (1868-1949)
Prominent Female Organizer & Educator
An original settler of Cannington Manor, Catherine’s first teaching position was at Wolseley. She came to Regina in 1920. She served on the Regina Collegiate Board for 20 years and also on the public school board. She pioneered the development of the Outpost Correspondence School which enabled rural students, who did not have access to a high school, to continue their education past grade eight. This “Grand Lady of Saskatchewan Education” has left a truly proud legacy. She was known as “The Lady on the Bicycle”.
Catherine was born in Hampshire, England, about 40 miles from London, and completed her education there before coming to Saskatchewan in 1889. Like many British immigrants, she and her family homesteaded near Cannington Manor, south of Moosomin, Sask. However, the arduous life of a homesteader with her widowed mother held little appeal to her and when she moved to Wolseley, Sask., she took a teaching position. After teaching for a number of years at the Wolseley Normal School, she was placed in charge of the Boys’ Industrial School in Wolseley and served in that position for five years. In 1920, when the school was moved from Wolseley to Regina, she accompanied the move and later joined the Department of Education. She became a leading educationalist and pre-eminent citizen.
While with the Department of Education, she wrote the book, Our Flag, which was used to acquaint children with the meaning of the Union Jack. She also organized the Outpost Correspondence School, which allowed rural students without access to a high school to continue their education. The Outpost School was the forerunner of the Saskatchewan Correspondence School. Her involvement with the Outpost School continued until 1929. She had three hundred pupils and she, the only teacher. She transformed work into adventure and duty into privilege.
In 1921, she became the third woman to hold public office in Regina when she was elected to the Regina Collegiate Board, a position which she effectively fulfilled. For the next 20 years, she served on the board during which time she headed the polls twice with the largest number of votes, and was re-elected three times by acclamation. In 1935, through her efforts to obtain closer cooperation between public school and collegiate boards, she was elected to the public school board and served on both boards for four years. She retired from active service on the boards in 1941.
A pioneering Saskatchewan educationalist and veteran Regina woman of public
affairs, she was often remembered as the “Lady on the Bicycle” because, in pursuit of her duties, she always rode her bike which she named “Eustache”. She is also known as the “Grand Lady of Saskatchewan Education”. Nevertheless, she will always be remembered as one of the province’s most hard-working and progressive leaders. Sheldon-Williams Collegiate is named in her honour, and a public school scholarship commemorates her work.