Back to School 1919 vs 2019

Hart House laying of the cornerstone, 1919.

The opening of Hart House and the laying of the cornerstone for the Soldiers’ Tower. The Globe, November 12, 1919

Hart House and the University of Toronto were very different places 100 years ago.

 The war had ended and a message from then-President R.A. Falconer welcomed back the “unprecedented number” of enrolled students (all 3,356 of them) including many men and women returning from the war. He said, “It means not only that those who on account of the war have lost time are eager to resume their work, but also that the importance of education has laid hold upon the people, and the experience of recent years has taught them that the prosperity of a country, in the long run, will depend upon the quality and character of its educated people.”[1]

In 1919, the Hart House founders prayed, that “the members of Hart House may discover within its walls the true education that is to be found in good fellowship.”[2] One hundred years later, it’s nice to know that these sentiments have endured.

However, not every tradition deserves to last. Many have struggled, and continue to struggle, to make certain that some things are left in the past. When Vincent Massey formally presented Hart House to the University at 11:30 am on November 11, 1919, his vision was for Hart House to be restricted to men only. It wasn’t until 1972 that Hart House opened its doors to women. Perhaps we were slow to learn, but learn we did.

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