In 1901, Emma Scott Raff founded ‘The School of Literature and Expression’ in a small room above offices in downtown Toronto. As principal, she emphasized the importance of the dramatic arts and transferred her passion for theatre, classic literature, and drama to her students. One such student was Margaret Eaton, wife of Timothy Eaton, who founded the historic Eaton Company. The Eaton family became the school's chief benefactor, and eventually the school was renamed ‘The Margaret Eaton School of Literature and Expression'. The Margaret Eaton School played a pioneering role in the development of theatre and physical education in Canada, and was also one of the few schools in Canada addressing the need for advanced education for women in the early twentieth century.
In 1915, the curriculum expanded to embrace physical education as well as dramatic art. Facing low enrolment, the Department of Dramatic Art eventually disbanded in 1926. From 1926 onward, the Margaret Eaton School specialized in physical education, attracting pupils from across Canada. The Margaret Eaton School offered a rigorous, well-rounded curriculum of English, languages, music, dance, biology, anatomy, physiology, psychology, sociology, as well as many sports, including archery, badminton, basketball, canoeing, fencing, field hockey, figure skating, gymnastics, lacrosse, skiing, swimming, and track. Over 450 students graduated from the school, with many going on to direct YWCA programs, establish summer camps, and teach physical education in high schools, colleges, and universities.
The Margaret Eaton School played a critical role in the development of women's physical education in Canada in the early 1900's. Finding that a university degree was essential to many positions in physical education, the Margaret Eaton School eventually amalgamated into the University of Toronto, making possible the beginning of a Bachelor's program in Physical Education at the University – the first in Canada.
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