Memorable Manitobans: Helen Neilson Brown (1866-1907)
Born at Galt, Ontario in 1866, she was the daughter of lumber merchant Alexander “Sandy” Brown and Margaret Neilson. She came to Manitoba with her parents in 1872, and received her education in Winnipeg. As a girl she was reputedly “one of the cleverest scholars to ever pass through the scholastic institutions of the province.”
She attended the Winnipeg Collegiate Institute, and received a scholarship in 1883. Brown passed the preliminary examinations for admission to the University of Manitoba in 1885, and was awarded an entrance scholarship to Manitoba College. However, the university council was then divided on the question of women’s participation in higher education, and a decision on her admission was deferred. Brown was never able to pursue her degree, but is nonetheless the first woman to qualify for admission to the University of Manitoba.
On 26 February 1886, Brown married William Forbes Perkins. The couple had three children: Margaret Rhea Perkins (1887- ), Forbes William Perkins (1891-1976), and Alexander Brown Perkins (1896-1964).
She died at Winnipeg on 9 June 1907 and was buried in the Brookside Cemetery.
“The Convocation,” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 6 June 1883, page 7.
“The University,” Winnipeg Daily Sun, 6 June 1885, page 4.
“University Council,” Manitoba Daily Free Press, 8 June 1885, page 4.
Obituary [Helen Neilson Perkins], Winnipeg Tribune, 10 June 1907, page 7.
“Clergy opposed to women university students in 1880s,” Winnipeg Free Press, 21 June 1971, page 25.
This page was prepared by Liliana Lopez.
Page revised: 27 December 2021