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The Famous Five: Heroes for Today
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Social Gospel

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Reading: "Exhaustion Mistaken for Peace"

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Emily Murphy. . . most of us are coming to believe that it is vastly better to bring the Kingdom of God upon earth rather than to defer it for heavenly regions. Indeed, the one is actually supplementary to the other.

                                                            —Emily Murphy

Religious faith was a key element in the lives of the Famous 5 and many other Canadians of their day. In fact, each of these women advocated the application of Christian principles to society, and so were part of a larger movement that promoted what we know today as the Social Gospel. Using the teachings of Christ as their model, many believed that if the principles He taught were applied to society, all of society's problems would be remedied.

The Social Gospel was a major force in Canada from about the 1890s to the 1930s. It combined an idealistic view of human nature, with the belief that God was at work in social change, creating moral order and social justice. As a result, the Social Gospel was at the bottom of many reform movements, including the movements for:

  • Temperance and prohibition
  • Women's Suffrage
  • Social purity (against prostitution)
  • Defense of marriage and family
  • Health, housing, and educational reforms
  • Church reform

Although women's rights and suffrage were not high priorities for many men in the Social Gospel movement, the women—working in organizations like the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC)— found it to be a useful vehicle for achieving feminist reforms.

One of the reasons the Social Gospel movement was so powerful is that it brought together people from various walks of life, and united farm, labour, church, women's, and other reform groups.

Heritage Trail: Edmonton Bawdy House Raids of 1911-1914
In the decade between 1904 and 1914, Edmonton's population almost doubled each year. During this great boom period, masses of people moved into the city. As historian David Leonard explains, the boom times also threatened to turn Edmonton into a Ragtime Sodom and Gomorrah. Listen Now
 
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