The Aberdeens

The Countess of Aberdeen was the driving force behind the three Canadian fancy dress balls of the 1890s. John Campbell Gordon (1847-1934), seventh Earl of Aberdeen, was the Governor General of Canada from 1893 to 1898. His wife, Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks (1857-1939), was an ardent social reformer. During her tenure in Canada, she founded the National Council of Women, the Victorian Order of Nurses and the May Court Clubs of Canada.

Lady Aberdeen had a preference for events that served a higher purpose than entertainment. For the first fancy dress ball she hosted, in Ottawa in 1896, she chose the theme of Canadian history. During a lengthy stay in Toronto as their term neared its end in 1897, she held another large ball, this one celebrating Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. In Montreal in 1898, the Aberdeens were guests of honour at a third historical fancy dress ball, which was modelled on the Ottawa event they had hosted two years earlier.