Memorable Manitobans: Eleanor Eliza Cripps Kennedy (1825-1913)
Born in London, England on 2 November 1825, she was the wife of the famous Red River pioneer and Arctic explorer, Captain William Kennedy (married 1859). They had one son and one daughter. They came to the Red River Settlement in 1861 then went on to Oak Point on Lake Manitoba to work under auspices of Canadian Church Missionary Society. After a winter strenuously spent in teaching and ministering, the couple settled with her husband's relatives in the Parish of St. Andrew’s, Manitoba, having been deterred from returning to England by the outbreak of a Sioux massacre in Minnesota.
She was a talented painter and musician. A notebook of original botanical paintings of English and Manitoba plants survives in the library of the Manitoba Museum. Her ability as a musician and singer is indicated by the fact that Canon Grisdale, later Bishop of Qu’Appelle, referred to her as “our only prima donna.” She taught music at Miss Davis’ School in St. Andrew’s, and was the organist and choir-leader at St. Andrew’s Church on the Red.
Nicknamed “the Duchess” she was a leading figure in the Red River Settlement in charitable works, notable among these was an early attempt to establish a hospital. In the 1860s, when her husband was ill, she supported her family by importing the latest styles from Paris and London which she sold from a shop on the home property at St. Andrew’s. In 1870 she complained she was being falsely accused of being a supporter of Louis Riel.
After the death of Captain Kennedy in 1890, she moved to Virden in 1891 where she died on 4 October 1913. There are papers at the Archives of Manitoba.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.
Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Manitoba Library Association, 1971.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 6 April 2017