Kay Warren: A Worldly Woman
August 28th, 2019
This article was written by our summer archives technician, Jazmine Aldrich.
“It all began way back on December 21st 1935,” wrote Henrietta Kathleen Warren – or as many knew her, Kay – in her travel journal. The young Montrealer was eager to be on her way. “I had spent the day before in a feverish rush – as is usual. I’d left too much until the end – consequently it was 1:00am when I got to sleep.” Kay’s last-minute preparations nearly eighty-four years ago are a timeless echo of many travelers’ experiences today; her travels, however, were far from ordinary for the period.
In this account, Kay recalls her experiences travelling in Algeria. She departed from the Lycée des Jeunes Filles de Nîmes in France where she had begun work in the autumn of 1935; she was acting as a teaching assistant in English conversation in exchange for room and board. A graduate of McGill’s Royal Victoria College in Classical Studies and Education, she found the perfect opportunity to teach in Nîmes while simultaneously exploring the traces of Antiquity tucked away in the former Roman world.
From her locus in the South of France, she seized any opportunity to explore the country on day-trips and holidays. She travelled through Paris and watched “La Corrida” – Spanish-style bull fighting – in Nîmes. She also travelled through Cannes, Nice, Carcassonne, Gard, Grenoble, Versailles, and elsewhere in France. Based on her photographs and souvenirs, it seems as though her love of antiquity drew her to every ruin of the Classical world that she could reach, in France and abroad.
In Italy, she visited Rome, Venice, Pisa, Naples, Genoa, Milan, and Capri. She made a trip through Algeria, and visited Monaco, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Austria, and what was formerly Czechoslovakia. Little did she know that in a few short years, one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history would decimate many of the beautiful cities and marvelous old-world countryside that she was discovering.
Kay’s wanderlust in her twenties prepared her for a remarkable life as a wife, mother, and dedicated community member. In 1936, she returned to Canada to teach at Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s School in Westmount. She married Harry Milne in 1941 and following the Second World War, they settled in Magog to raise their two daughters, Catherine and Jean. Though the rest of her life is typically associated with her extensive community involvement, the travel bug would stay with Kay for the rest of her life: she visited Denmark in 1970 and England in 1977, among other trips within Canada and abroad. She preserved the memories of her travels in the postcards, journals, letters, brochures, and photographs, which now make up part of the Henrietta Kathleen Warren Milne collection at the Eastern Townships Resource Centre.