picture of Tot Tanner
Hattie Patterson Tanner
1899 - 1963

Her Life in Pictures.

by Jim Low

Every person is special.  Each is unique.  This is the story of one special person: Hattie Patterson Tanner, simply known as "Tot" to her parents, siblings and friends, and as "Aunt Tot" to her nephews and nieces.  She was the Great Aunt to the author of this web site and was a "Great" Aunt in more than one sense.

Tot was born 1899 December 28 at Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and was the youngest of the nine children of Richard Tanner and Marinda (Minnie) Anna Reed.  One brother, Robert Dalgleish Tanner, died before she was born.  Her middle name "Patterson" comes from the family name of her grandmother Isabella Aird's first husband Henry Patterson, and Tot had a number of half-first cousins with that surname.  She was the only one in the family born in Ottawa.  Her mother Minnie was born in Lowell, Massachusetts.  Her father and all of her siblings were born in Cornwall, Ontario.  Her parents moved to Ottawa about 1898 when her father became employed in a Montreal Stationary company where he was the Ottawa representative.

In her teenage years, Tot became the family's camera person, and passed on to the family a large number of pictures.  Although she had people take pictures of her, there are a large number of family pictures without her, since she was usually behind the camera.

Tot was 14 and in Ottawa Collegiate Institute (now Lisgar Collegiate) when her father died in 1915.  Her mother died in 1919 when Tot was 19 and still living at home.  One of her teachers, Mr. "Beakie" Thoms not only taught her nephew J. Reed Low, but also her great-nephew Jim Low (author of this site) at Glebe Collegiate.

During her teenage years, she became one of the earliest members of the Girl Guides of Canada and was involved with that organisation and activities, becoming an active leader.  When the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) made his first visit to Canada in 1919, Tot was his escort on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Tot and Prince of Wales picture
Tot at age 19, in Girl Guide Uniform, escorting the Prince of Wales on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, in 1919.
The occasion was for the Prince to lay the foundation stone of the new Peace Tower.

Tot remained with the Girl Guides at least until she entered the Montreal General Hospital School of Nursing in 1922.  Tot and her older sister, Grace, took nursing at the same time at the same hospital.  Eventually, Tot worked in Ottawa for Doctors in private practice and ended her career working many years for Dr. Fisher, until a few years before her death from cancer of the pancreas 1963 July 31.

Being the youngest member of the family, Tot appeared to be much more outgoing than her older siblings.  During her years with the Girl Guides, she enjoyed camping.  She became a world traveller at a time when few in the Tanner family ventured far from home, unless migrating to a new location permanently as part of employment. Of her many trips, only a few records remain.  She drove a Model T Ford to the Maritimes in the 1920's, persuading her oldest sister Grace to join her on the adventure.  I recall Aunt Grace telling me about this and she said it was the only time she ever drove a car and was terrified, but that Tot made her do it.  I recall Aunt Tot as always friendly and on-the-go.  She talked a lot about her activities and recall sitting though hours of her slide shows of her trips in the late 1950s.  I observed that the major difference of Aunt Tot from her older sisters was that she believed in outside activities and to have fun with other people.  The other Aunts were busy, but only "doing proper things" with the church, worthy causes, knitting and staying close to family.  Tot was involved in similar activities -- but did much more.  The other aunts certainly were strongly opposed to drinking, but I had a feeling Aunt Tot enjoyed an occasional sip of wine with friends on her journeys.  She certainly did dabble in gambling, as in her 1930 trip journal she admits to losing $1.00 on the horse races!

She made at least two trips on cruise ships to the Caribbean: in 1930 and 1937.  She made two trips to Europe: to the Brussels World Fair in 1958 and then in 1959 visited the British Isles and travelled throughout western Europe.  She was involved with the UNESCO
conference and International Woman's Congress during the 1959 trip.  While she took many pictures with an expensive camera, only three of her 500 pictures of the 1959 trip show her.  I have been unable to locate any pictures of her 1958 trip.  All of these trip pictures are on middle-format slides (21/4 x 21/4 size).

While Tot never married, she was actively involved with a large family.  As was expected in those days, a woman could follow a career or marry -- but not both.  She, like Aunt Grace, chose a career in nursing.  But she and Aunt Grace were unwilling to give up the joys of a family.  From the 1930s until her death in 1963 she lived with her sisters Grace and Mina, with her sister Isabella (Isobel) joining them later after Isobel was widowed.  For many years from the late 1930s until the early 1950s, they lived at 29 Grosvenor Avenue, Ottawa. Tot was involved by assisting with the raising of six nephews and nieces: Reed Low, Alan Kirkpatrick, Gordon Kirkpatrick, Muriel Kirkpatrick,  Lillian Tanner, and Ruth Tanner.

At times, I wish that I had been born forty years earlier.  Like Tot, I enjoy camping and regular travels far from home, while always returning home.  Also like Tot, family is important to me.  We would have enjoyed our camping and world travels together and still be intimately involved with the extended family.

During the last year of her life, Aunt Tot was bedridden as cancer of the pancreas took it's toll.  During her last three months, I was living in the same household in Ottawa as Aunt Tot and her sisters Grace and Mina while I was on a training course. I was present in the house at the time of her death. I recall how much I was going to miss Aunt Tot.  She died much too young at age 63 on 1963 July 31.

Tot over time




Tot's Family in 1894 and 1900
Tanner Family in 1894 before Tot was born.
Back: Richard Tanner [father], Joseph Edward Tanner.  Centre: Edith Reed Tanner, Marinda (Minnie) Anna Reed [mother], William Aird Tanner, Anna Grace Tanner.  Front: Robert Dalgleish Tanner (died a few months after picture), Mary Isabella Tanner.
The younger Tanner children in 1900.
Richard Taylor Tanner, Mina Pilcher Tanner, Edith Reed Tanner holding Hattie Patterson (Tot) Tanner.

Tot's Family in 1951
  1.  Rev Johnson (nw-in-law)
  2.  Mina Tanner/Low (sister)
  3.  Tom Rutherford (nw-in-law)
  4.  Gordon Kirkpatrick (nephew)
  5.  Jim Low (g-nephew)
  6.  (unknown: Friend of Gordon?)
  7.  Ruth Tanner/Johnson (niece)
  8.  Reed Low (nephew)
  9.  Ethel Flinn/Low (nc-in-law)
10.  Alan Kirkpatrick (nephew)
11.  Alex Low
12.  Gay Collingwood/Rutherford
13.  Barbara Rosenthal/Kirkpatrick
14.  Martin Bannister (nw-in-law)
15.  Isobel Tanner/Collingwood
16.  Bill Rutherford (g-nephew)
17.  Penny Low (g-niece)
18.  Muriel Kirkpatrick/Bannister
19.  Reed Kirkpatrick (g-nephew)
20.  Bruce Rutherford (g-nephew)
21.  Grace Tanner (sister)

 This was a family gathering at 29 Grosvenor Avenue in Ottawa just
 after Christmas of 1951.  Tot had many more family members who
 were not there at the time.  As was typical of family pictures, Tot
 was not in it, since she took the picture.

Tot at Work and Play with Family and Friends
These pictures show Tot with family and friends over the years. Hattie Patterson Tanner is identified by her nickname Tot.  For other family members full names are given and for married women, their maiden names are always given.  Common nicknames are given in brackets.  Anna Grace Tanner was known by her middle name "Grace."  Richard Taylor Tanner was variously called "Taylor" and "Dick."  In the case of friends, names are given as known.  In many cases, the years given are estimates.  Pictures are probably taken in or near Ottawa, except where noted otherwise.

1908.  This is the only known picture of Tot with all of her living siblings.  Front: Joseph Edward Tanner, Richard Taylor Tanner, Tot.  Middle: Mina Pitcher Tanner, Anna Grace Tanner.  Back: Edith Reed Tanner, William Aird Tanner, Mary Isabella (Isobel) Tanner.
1910.  Mina Pilcher Tanner, Tot.

1910.  Tot, Richard Taylor Tanner. 1911.  Tot, Richard Taylor Tanner, Mina Pilcher Tanner. 1911.  Tot, Richard Taylor Tanner. 1912.  Edith Reed Tanner, Mary Isabella (Isobel) Tanner, Tot, Anna Grace Tanner, Mina Pilcher Tanner.

1915.  Tot.  This is the only picture of Tot with a camera, although she took most family pictures after this date.
1915.  Probably class picture of Tot. Tot in near centre-back, with light headband.
1916.  Tot holding nephew James Reed Low (Reed is father of the author of this site).

1917.  Tot, Anna Grace Tanner, Mina Pilcher Tanner.
1918 Sept. 1.  Tot.
1920.  Tot.

1920.   Tot, unknown.
1920.  Tot.
1921.  Tot with nephew James Reed Low.

1922.  Tot on right.
1922.  Nursing Class at Montreal General Hospital. Tot standing at right end of second row.
1923.  Montreal General Hospital.  Tot back centre.

1923.  Montreal General Hospital.  Tot at far right.
1923.  Montreal General Hospital.  Tot standing second from left.
1925.  Probably in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  George Edward (Ted) Reed [2nd cousin of Tot], Tot.

1930 Caribbean cruise.  Emily, Tot.
1930 Caribbean cruise.  I. Figueroa, Tot, 1930 Caribbean cruise.  Emily, Tot.

1930 Caribbean cruise.   Bermuda taxi.  Tot in foreground. 1930 Caribbean cruise.  Jamaica.  Tot. 1930 Caribbean cruise.  Kingston Jamaica.  Tot, Emily.

1930 Caribbean cruise.  Kingston Jamaica.  Tot, Emily. 1935.  Tot back at work between cruises.
1937 Caribbean cruise.  Tot 3rd from left.

1937 Caribbean cruise.  Tot. 1937 Caribbean cruise.  Tot 3rd from left. 1938.  Probably in Saskatchewan.  Joseph Edward Tanner, Mary Isabella (Isobel) Tanner, Tot, William Aird Tanner.

1939.  Tot, Anna Grace Tanner, Iva Lillian (Lee) Tanner [niece], Mina Pilcher Tanner, Muriel Anne Kirkpatrick [niece], Ethel Emily Flinn [niece-in-law and mother of author of this site], Lois Ruth Tanner [niece]. 1939.  Alexander Cloudsley Low [brother-in-law], Mina Pilcher Tanner, Anna Grace Tanner, Richard Taylor Tanner, Tot, Paul Chester Kirkpatrick [brother-in-law].

1941.  Tot Tanner holding great-nephew James William Alexander Low (author of this site).
1950.  Anna Grace Tanner, Tot, Alexander Cloudsley Low, Mina Pilcher Tanner, Mary Isabella (Isobel) Tanner.
1950.  Tot, unknown.

1950. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Reed/Pilcher gravestone.  (Helen Roberta Moorhead), Tot, Anna Grace Tanner.
1950.  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Tot, George Edward (Ted) Reed, Helen Roberta Moorhead, Anna Grace Tanner.

1955.  Tot, unknown, Mary Isabella (Isobel) Tanner.
1955.  unknown, Tot.
1956.  Tot 2nd from right at back.

1957.  Front: Tot, Mina Pilcher Tanner, Richard Taylor Tanner, Anna Grace Tanner.  Back:  Lois Ruth Tanner, Margaret Isobel Tanner.
1957.  Tot, Mina Pilcher Tanner, Mary Isobel Tanner, Anna Grace Tanner.
1958.  Tot at work in office of Dr. Fisher.

1959 Europe tour.  unknown, Tot
1959 Europe tour.  Tot.
1961.  Mina Pilcher Tanner, Anna Grace Tanner, Tot.

More information can be found on the following pages, by clicking on these links:

Tot Documents
Tot's Trip Journal of 1930
Tot's Trip Journal of 1959
Tot's Nursing School Album 1921-1924
Tot's Slides 1959 - 1960

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