In June 1922, young Marguerite Lindsay travelled from Montreal, Quebec to Cartwright, Labrador, for a summer of volunteer work. Two months later she went for an afternoon walk and disappeared.
Marguerite, aged 25, had volunteered as a teacher with The Grenfell Mission in Cartwright. The International Grenfell Mission is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1892 by British medical missionary Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell to provide healthcare, education, religious services, rehabilitation and other social services to the fisherman and coastal communities of northern Newfoundland and Labrador.1
She taught the older girls sports such as swimming and cricket and ran the recreation program at the Labrador Public School at Muddy Bay, 10 km from Cartwright. Miss Annette Stiles, an American and the other summer volunteer, worked as the school’s nutritionist and cook.
Marguerite was my grandfather’s baby sister. The youngest of six children born to Mary Heloise Bagg and Robert Lindsay, she grew up privileged in a prominent English Montreal family. Her brother, my grandfather, was an Anglican priest in Montreal.The Priest
An article in The Montreal Standard newspaper described Marguerite as being “popular in Boston, London and Montreal Society.” She attended a girls’ school near Boston and, in 1918, actively took part in The Sewing Circle (making quilts for charity) and The Vincent Club (supporting women’s health issues). Later she volunteered with the Canadian Red Cross in England during WW1. Her fine education and choice of social circles and volunteer work were evidence of not only her elite upbringing but her ingrained kindness towards others.
In June 1921, a year before her departure for Labrador, Marguerite returned home by ship after a three month visit to England. She was only 24 years old at that time and most likely already considered a spinster!
Her marriage prospects were not good, since after The Great War, there was an excess of females over males of about 5,500 in English Montreal alone. 2 The women’s rights movement had already made progress for women’s suffrage, education and entry into the workplace. Might these changes in society have encouraged Marguerite’s decision to pursue her teaching? Perhaps she learned about The Grenfell Mission itself during her last trip to England. But how on earth did she convince her protective parents to allow such an adventure? Did her brother (the priest) approve of the idea, support her calling and aid in her plea?
The two young volunteers, Marguerite and Annette, were under the direction of the Reverend Henry Gordon. He and his wife ran the school in Muddy Bay. Annette, perhaps a little homesick, described the area as “a bay surrounded by spruce-clad hills, resembling Lake George (New York), warmly sheltered from the Arctic winds.”3
Annette wrote an article depicting some of her experiences with Marguerite and the local people. It was published in an issue of the journal Among the Deep Sea Fishers. She described food demonstrations held for the adults and nature outings with the children in their collective care noting that “the children’s enthusiasm was very contagious – a great contrast to the boredom of some in more civilized places.” And then she continued:
Miss Lindsay was a very good swimmer and the older children loved her teaching them this as well as loving to work with her in the mornings … even on cold days they would beg to go in (the water) and the little ones would join in the chorus: “O! Miss, take I in swimmin’ too!”
It was a hot day on August 4, 1922, when Marguerite left her fellow teacher and friend in Cartwright possibly to go for a swim somewhere along the Sandwich Bay shores. She often took walks alone and was known to be a young lady very capable of taking care of herself. However, that evening when she hadn’t returned in time for the evening meal, a search party was organized immediately.
Miss Lindsay was missing!
(Updated by author – 2021-07-18)
1FindingGrenfell.ca – accessed October 19, 2019
2Westley, Margaret W. Remembrance of Grandeur–The Anglo-Protestant Elite of Montreal 1900-1950, p. 126
3 Stiles, Annette – “The Cartwright Expert Cook” – Among the Deep Sea Fishers, January 1923