Chancellors' Circle of Benefactors wordmark
Painting of Lillian Massey Treble

Lillian Massey Treble

Lillian Massey Treble devoted much of her life to philanthropy. Her enduring legacy includes the neoclassical building that bears her name, and the academic foundations for education and research in nutritional science at the University of Toronto.

Lillian Massey Treble was a prominent figure during Toronto’s Gilded Age. Her father was Hart Massey, head of Massey-Harris Ltd., the largest maker of agricultural equipment in the British Empire.

The Masseys were leading philanthropists in Toronto, and Massey Treble followed her family tradition by supporting various social reform projects as well as causes for women.

She was very active in the inner-city work of the Metropolitan Church and the Toronto City Missionary Society. In 1894, she helped her father establish the Fred Victor Mission, dedicated to those living in poverty. Following her father’s death, Massey Treble and her two brothers assumed responsibility for the family’s charitable activities.

Like many at the time, Massey Treble believed that improving household conditions could alleviate numerous social ills. She started a kitchen garden at the Fred Victor Mission to help teach children the rudiments of housework. She also established sewing and cooking classes for women and girls from poor neighbourhoods.

After visiting domestic science schools abroad, Massey Treble returned home inspired to promote household science as an academic discipline in Canada. Her efforts resulted in the establishment of the Faculty of Household Science at U of T in 1902, the country’s first four-year degree program in the field. She also funded a magnificent new building for the school, which was completed in 1913.

While the Faculty of Household Science no longer exists, Lillian Massey Treble’s considerable legacy lives on. The Department of Nutritional Science in the Faculty of Medicine traces its history to the Faculty of Household Science. The neoclassical Lillian Massey Building, at the corner of Bloor Street and Queen’s Park Crescent, meanwhile, remains a U of T landmark and a testament to her generosity and service to the community.