Along with membership in provincial and national church organizations, women
have been part of church life in many other ways. Through to present women have
emerged not only as leaders within churches, but in many instances the
sustaining force. This has come through employment related work, as lay workers
or ministers. Even if they are not involved as professional ministers, women
often perform many of the administrative and maintenance duties in church
Women's church-based organizations, such as the Vonin Ladies Aid Society
active in the Icelandic Lutheran community at
Markerville, focus their energies
on maintenance of church buildings and related educational and service
activities. Women in the region have been central to the organization and
teaching of Sunday school for children and the range of church events and to
raise funds for church-related activities.
The Way of Hope:
The Vonin Ladies Aid Society by Dorothy Murray
Another way in which the AWMS and other women's church organizations, like
the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), became involved in the public
sphere was through social activism. In particular, they lobbied government for
prohibition, preservation of the Sabbath, religion in schools and laws regarding
moral issues and peace (although minimized during the World Wars).
many cases they were successful in their work. For example, in 1916, 61
per cent of the Alberta government voted in favor of prohibition and passed a
bill forbidding the consumption of alcoholic beverages. These social or moral
reform movements were often tied to women's rights movements. For instance, the WCTU also fought for women suffrage and its president Louise McKinney was one
the Famous 5 involved in the
"Persons" Case and the first woman to be appointed
to the Alberta Legislature. Women activists of the period often tied their
arguments concerning greater rights to women's role as guardians of Christian
morals in society. Therefore, in a sense, women used their religious values and
morals to gain greater prominence in the public or political sphere. However,
their social activism was still in keeping with women's traditional role as
mothers - responsible for cleaning up indecencies both within their own homes
and society - and, thus, at times, it has reinforced limits to women's roles.
- Owen, Michael. "Lighting the Pathways for New Canadians": Methodist and
United Church WMS Missions in Eastern Alberta, 1904-1940." Standing on New
Ground: Women in Alberta. Eds. Catherine Cavanaugh and Randi Warne. Edmonton:
University of Alberta Press, 1993.
- Thrift, Gayle. " 'Women of Prayer are Women of Power': Women's Missionary
Societies in Alberta, 1918-1939." Alberta History 1999 47(2): 10-17.