The Compassion of Lady Aberdeen

As I prepare for the upcoming WBN event to celebrate the courageous women of Ottawa, I’ve been learning the stories of Lady Aberdeen, Lady Minto, Mother McGinty, Donalda Charron and more. You might recognize their names from our city’s history, but you might not know their personal stories. They are inspirational spirits, and so I’d like to share these women’s histories with you.

In many different ways, these women were full of intelligence and are perfect for expanding upon the theme of spiritual intelligence (SQ). Today I want to tell you just a little about Lady Aberdeen, wife of Lord Aberdeen who was Governor General in 1893.

Lady Aberdeen was an author, philanthropist, and teacher ( for a time, she was a Sunday School teacher against her father’s wishes), dedicating her life to the education of others, and supporting women’s interests.


This week’s SQ topic: Compassion

We’ve shared about compassion before on Sister Leadership, and Lady Aberdeen’s commitment to raising up others is an excellent example of that SQ characteristic. Living in Canada, she learned of women and children suffering through hardship and illness in remote locations across the country. Following a meeting in Halifax with the National Council of Women, she recorded in her diary,

…many of the members told pathetic stories of cases where young mothers and children had died, whilst husbands and fathers were travelling many weary miles for the medical and nursing aid which might have saved them…” [1]

And so taking advantaHer_Excellency_Lady_Aberdeen_(HS85-10-10178)ge of the 60th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s assent to the throne, Lady Aberdeen used the event to help create the  Victorian Order of Nurses, a “national health organization and registered charity offering a wide range of community health care solutions that meet the needs of Canadians from coast to coast,” [2] and became its first present in 1897, sending nurses across the country.

“In the towns they will go to those who cannot now afford the care of trained nurses and often die for lack of it…

    “On the prairies, in the forests, in mining districts – – everywhere throughout the country – – they will go hither and thither amongst our brave pioneers and bring help to these heroic people who are building up the future of this beautiful country amidst many hardships and privations…” [1]

SPIRITUALINTELLGlogo (2)Compassion is defined by the Merrian-Webster dictionary as  a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Compassion moves us forward by liberating us out of our thinking and feeling that sometimes glues us to the unresolved issues deep inside us. For instance, as we journey in life, transitioning life without our mothers can be heart wrenching experiences. How is it that the deaths of two friend’s mothers have awakened my deepest fear of losing my Mom? Happily, I am working on resolving my thinking and feeling about this reality. In the meantime, I take action and made a commitment to carve out a day every month to go out shopping with her. By taking this small gesture, I have brought more love, appreciation and compassion to my relationship with my Mom.

Lady Aberdeen had the social connections and the openness in her heart to bring support to those in need. The ability to feel and imagine another person’s experience is an important aspect of spiritual intelligence. Not only are you able to look outside of yourself, but you are so impacted that support comes more easily. Lady Aberdeen could have been repulsed by the stories and chosen to separate herself from the scenario. She was certainly in a position where should could have become insulated from the world’s suffering. But instead, she choose to change healthcare in Canada. If you want to learn more about Lady Aberdeen, the VON has an excellent history on their website.

And before we go, I want to leave you with a quote our researcher, Norma, found from Lady Aberdeen. It shows how important it is to be compassionate in life, and how that can help influence your world. In appreciation of her efforts, the Queen’s University at Kingston gave Lady Aberdeen  the degree of LL.D. Here is an extract from her speech when receiving that degree that gives insight into Lady her  aim and purpose in life:

“I urge the students of both sexes to remember that culture is only true culture when it affects the whole life, being and character. You may go through college winning prizes and distinctions, but yet go to your careers in the truest sense of the word—uneducated! We know we can obtain from our universities men and women of learning and attainments, but let us obtain also an influence which will leaven with a high transforming power the life of the whole country. For myself, I can only promise that your youngest doctor will do her utmost not to disgrace the name of the university to which she is so proud to belong.” [3]

She most certainly created a culture of compassion, and in doing so left a legacy of which Canadian men and women can be proud.

More from the celebration of courageous women in the weeks to come.

Till next week,


Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, certified in EQi 2.0 and EQ360, a master practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), has been coaching high-level women and men for over six years, and is now opening her expertise to those emerging in business. Camille pulls her blog topics from her unique coaching approach that combines her training as a EQi 2.0 and EQ360 certified facilitator with the dig-deeper tools of NLP.

Get in touch here if you’d like to talk with Cam about group or one-on-one coaching, and EQ assessments. With the miracle of Skype and telephones – distance is no issue!

1 Comment
  1. MC Lessard 7 years ago

    What a captivating bit of history Camille! Like you, I do believe that our spirituality forms an important part of who we are. The mere fact that our resilience greatly improves when we begin to develop it is a testament to its power. I look forward to reading more on SI or SQ.

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