Sister Mary Donald

There's a touching story behind a piece of hair art in the collection of the Chestico Museum, made to memorialize an important moment in one woman's life and the mother-daughter bond.

During the Victorian period, it was common practice to create mementos from human hair. Hair art typically was made as an act of rememberance – a memento mori for a lost loved one. Other examples of hair art signify a special bond, created as a keepsake for a close friend or family member. Such is the case with the hair art in the collection of the Chestico Museum. The hair has been fashioned into rosette shapes that form a cross. Underneath the cross is written:

Mother, perhaps ne’er more I’ll meet thee,
But let us hope to meet above,
In the blessed home of love.
Sr. M. Donald

Sr. M. Donald stands for Sister Mary Donald – the former Catherine Chisholm (1891-1931) of Port Hood. She was the daughter of Donald “The Miller” and Mary Chisholm. Before entering religious life, Catherine Chisholm was a teacher in a rural school. With her first salary she bought a tailored black skirt, fine silk waist, and a large hat. When she returned home for the weekend to attend mass at her home parish, her mother was quite scandalized by the extreme style. Her mother told her people would expect her to have more sense now that she was a teacher!

In 1915, Catherine entered St. Anne’s Novitiate in Lachine, Quebec. She made her final vows on January 23, 1918 and adopted the religious name of Sister Mary Donald. When she joined the order, it was necessary to cut her hair and that is how this memento came to be created.

Sister Mary Donald taught in Douglas Island, Alaska, from 1918 to 1920. She then taught at six schools in British Columbia. She also was a frequent visitor to patients in hospital, helping in any way she was able.

Sister Mary Donald died of an influenza-like illness on November 11, 1931 and is buried in Victoria, BC. The verse she wrote to her mother may have been prophetic. To our knowledge she never did see her mother again.



The approximate location of Catherine Chisolm's childhood home. ~ This is private property. Please do not trespass.