Lillian Isabel Peterson was born in Goderich, Ontario, in 1881, the daughter of Mary Isabel Langlois and Peter Alexander Peterson. She had an older brother, Guy, and younger sister, Beatrice (Redpath).

Her father was chief engineer of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and a number of smaller railways later incorporated into the CPR. He oversaw the construction of many railway bridges in Eastern Canada.

The family moved to Montreal when Lillian was a child and the Petersons lived in what became known as the Golden Square Mile at the base of Mount Royal. At that time her father commissioned Robert Harris to paint her portrait.*

Lillian, as befitting a young lady of her era, took up drawing. She studied first at Mrs. Mary Phillips’ Drawing School and continued under William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal. Other students included several of the Beaver Hall group and Charles Gagnon.

In her early 20’s Lillian lived in London with her brother Guy. There she studied art and showed her work in several exhibitions. Upon her return to Montreal Lillian she became engaged to Dr. Donald Alexander Hingston. He was the son of Lady Margaret and Sir William Hingston, senator, surgeon, former mayor of Montreal and president of the Montreal District and Savings Bank. Lady Hingston disapproved of the

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