Economics of Fashion - Mabel B. Garrett

Mabel B. Garrett


Mabel B. Garrett (1882-1946)

Mabel Beatrix Dunham was the daughter of James Sherwood Dunham, a house carpenter, and Emmaline Moore. Mabel was born on 15 January 1882 in Brockville, Ontario. She was the third child amongst six girls and one boy: Emma Jane (b.1876), Florence Janet (b.1878), Mabel (b.1882), Violet Vivian (b.1886), Myrtle Geneva (b.1889), Frances Gwendyln (b.1891) and Lawrence James (b.1894).

When Mabel was 10 years old, she lost two of her sisters. Emma Jane died at the age of 15 and Myrtle died age 3, both in 1892.

In 1901, at age 19, Mabel was still living with her parents in Brockville and she was employed as a milliner. Clearly her interest in fashion had early beginnings. She went on to study textiles and design and became an instructor at the Pratt Institute, Columbia University, in Brooklyn, NY.

Mabel was married to John Stephenson Garrett, a machinist. They were married on 10 September 1903 in Brockville, Ontario. Together they had six children: James Stephenson Garrett (1904-1958), John Dunham Garrett (1906-1958), George Sherwood Garrett (1908-1916), William Frederick Garrett (1912-?), Margaret Garrett (1914-1914) and Florence Emmaline Garrett (1916-2006).

For a five year period, Mabel’s life was filled with grief. On 11 April 1914, she went into premature labour and gave birth to her first daughter, Margaret Garrett; she lived only a few hours. Almost two years later, on 28 March 1916, Mabel’s 7 ½ year old son, George Sherwood, dies of meningitis. Then in 1919, Mabel’s only brother Lawrence, the baby of the family, World War I lieutenant and newlywed, died test flying an aircraft in Buffalo, NY; he was 25.

Mabel taught at the Pratt Institute throughout most of the 1920's, and in 1927, she applied to become a Naturalized Citizen of the United States. At the time of the application, Mabel and her family were living at 152 Steuben Street, Brooklyn, NY.

However, by 1929, Mabel and her family moved to Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada, where Mabel began teaching Home Economics at Mount Allison Ladies College.

The UPEI Provenance Collection includes the book Economics of Fashion by Paul H. Nystrom. Inside the cover is a bookplate which reads:

Mount Allison Ladies College
Awarded to Jean McClure
For Proficiency in Clothing I
Mabel B. Garrett

The writing on the bookplate is Mabel’s; her signature can be found on her US Naturalization records. The bookplate, itself, was designed by Christian Harris, an alumni and subsequent art instructor at Mount Allison Ladies College. According to the 1933-1934 Mount Allison Ladies College Catalogue, Jean McClure received the book as a book prize for being top of her class in Clothing I.

In 1936, the Ladies College was re-organized into Mount Allison University. Mabel continued to teach in the Home Economics Department of the University until her death in 1946.

Mabel died in March 1946. Her obituary was written in The Ottawa Journal, 19 March 1946:

Mrs. Mabel Garrett, of the faculty of Mount Allison University, well know in university circles in Eastern Canada, died suddenly on Sunday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. J.T. Kerr, in Duparquet, Que. Mrs. Garrett went to Mount Allison University, in 1921, after some years as head of designing, textiles and household science at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn N.Y. For a number of years at Mount Allison she was a member of the Summer Faculty at Hampton Institute, where she took Summer courses. Well know as a writer for American women’s magazines, she was also sought after to address women’s clubs. Mrs. Garrett was the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. James Sherwood. She is survived by her husband John Stevenson Garrett; three sons, James S. Garrett, John Dunham Garrett, BA, holder of the George Medal, Toronto; FO William Frederick Garrett, recently returned from overseas; her daughter, Mrs. Kerr; two sisters, Mrs. John M. Edwards, Ottawa, Mrs. T.A. Weaver, Toronto, and several grandchildren. The body will be taken to Toronto for cremation and the service will be held in Brockville on Wednesday. Burial will be in the family plot in Oakwood Cemetery.

There is no known picture of Mabel, but a US-Canada Border Crossing document from 1922, and her application for US citizenship describe what she looked like. Mabel was between 5ft, 7.5- 5ft, 8.5 inches tall, fair in complexion with grey hair and blue eyes.


1891 Census of Canada. Census Place: Brockville City North Ward, Brockville, Ontario; Roll: T-6327; Family No: 282

1901 Census of Canada. Census Place: Brockville (Town/Ville) East/est (Ward/Quartier), Brockville (town/ville), Ontario; Page: 11; Family No: 120

1911 Census of Canada. Census Place: Brockville (Town/Ville) East/est (Ward/Quartier), Brockville (town/ville), Ontario; Page: 4; Family No: 46

1933-1934 Mount Allison Ladies College Catalogue.

All Things Useful and Artistic: Applied Arts at Mount Allison University, 1906-1960, Owens Art Gallery, 2015, p.61.

Florence Emmaline (Garret) Kerr, Obituary. Accessed 28 September 2016.

“James Sherwood Dunham”, Find A Grave Memorial# 82876847, created by glenstreet, Accessed September 30, 2016.

Mrs. Mabel Garrett, Obituary. The Ottawa Journal, Tuesday, 19 March 1946, Accessed September 30, 2016.

Naturalization Records. National Archives at New York City, New York, New York. Record Group Number: RG 21

Ontario, Canada, Births, 1912.Archives of Ontario; Series: MS929; Reel: 227

Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1914. Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 198

Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1916. Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 221

Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; National Archives Microfilm Publication: M1482; Roll: 3; Record Group Number: 85

Soldiers of the First World War (1914-1918). Record Group 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4930 - 35. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Registrations of Marriages, 1869-1928; Archives of Ontario; Series: MS932; Reel:110


Research assistance provided by David Mawhinney, University Archivist at Mount Allison University.

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