• Interview with Grace Irwin

    December 31 Recorded in 1993

    Grace Irwin Recalls her Mother's Involvement Teaching Newsboys

    Toronto District School Board, interviewed by Elizabeth Bell and Elizabeth Wilson

    Audio recording

    2012.X.043

    Interview with Grace Howland about her mother, a teacher at Phoebe Street School (now Ogden School).

    Audio Transcript

    “The story of the Hester How School’s founding under the good Mayor Howland and James L. Hughes, who discovered these vagrant and utterly helpless boys living in a coal shack, is another history. But before 1890 it became evident that a large group of semi-destitute children were still on the street. These were the Toronto newsboys, whose livelihood depended on their being out to sell the sometimes five or six editions of the papers that were published.  Accordingly, in 1890 a law was passed requiring every newsboy to have a special license. It was no hardship for the boy because he did not have to pay for it, but he did have to go to school for at least half a day. In order to make it possible for the school system not to be disrupted, an extra room was added. A teacher was sought to take 70 boys in two sections, morning and afternoon, teaching five days a week. When Mayor Howland told James L. Hughes to get the toughest teacher in Toronto for the first class, he had selected a little woman called Hester How. He cast about and found another five-feet-two, 104 pound woman, Martha Fortune, my mother, to tackle the equally horrendous task of teaching these newsboys.  This she did for four years with signed success. It was not always easy. The law had to be enforced in the case of newsboys whose parents were not anxious to have them off the street, even for half the day. But mother’s story is one of singular happiness in her teaching.”