Canadian Methodist Women, 1766-1925
Marys, Marthas, Mothers in Israel
Publication Year: 2005
Canadian Methodist women, like women of all religious traditions, have expressed their faith in accordance with their denominational heritage. Canadian Methodist Women, 1766-1925: Marys, Marthas, Mothers in Israel analyzes the spiritual life and the varied activities of women whose faith helped shape the life of the Methodist Church and of Canadian society from the latter half of the eighteenth century until church union in 1925.
Based on extensive readings of periodicals, biographies, autobiographies, and the records of many women’s groups across Canada, as well as early histories of Methodism, Marilyn Färdig Whiteley tells the story of ordinary women who provided hospitality for itinerant preachers, taught Sunday school, played the melodeon, selected and supported women missionaries, and taught sewing to immigrant girls, thus expressing their faith according to their opportunities. In performing these tasks they sometimes expanded women’s roles well beyond their initial boundaries.
Focusing on religious practices, Canadian Methodist Women, 1766-1925 provides a broad perspective on the Methodist movement that helped shape nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Canadian society. The use and interpretation of many new or little-used sources will interest those wishing to learn more about the history of women in religion and in Canadian society.
Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Series: Studies in Women and Religion
Title Page, Copyright
This study is the result of a long journey. Several times along the way I responded to the sirens’ call, and detoured to accept an interesting invitation to do a paper or an article that lay a bit off my route, but always I returned to my chosen path refreshed, broadened, and enriched by my excursion. My search for research material took me ...
Introduction: Something in the Atmosphere
Christian faith, if it is anything more than creedal assent, is expressed in life. Yet this lived faith takes many forms. Different religious traditions offer different opportunities for women to express their spirituality. In one, a woman might join an altar guild, while in another she might lead a revival. Women both accept and create roles that are congruent ...
PART 1. The Legacy of the Itinerancy
CHAPTER 1. “Bed and candlestand, for any passing Elisha”: Hospitality and the Founding of Churches
IN 1839, the Methodist minister Joseph Stinson reflected on the arrival of Methodism in the Niagara peninsula area: “In the log hut, the shanty, and the silent grove, those self-denying men collected around them the hardy backwoodsmen and their children.”1 His focus was on the itinerant, the unselfish, heroic preacher who underwent many hardships ...
CHAPTER 2. Mistress of the Parsonage: The Role of the Itinerant’s Wife
The wives of most Protestant ministers shared many experiences. A minister’s wife frequently held a distinctive place in local society, and was looked upon not only by members of her husband’s congregation but often by herself, as being a helper to his ministry. One factor, however, set Methodist ministers’ wives apart from those of other denominations ...
PART 2. Evangelical Experience and the Means of Grace
CHAPTER 3. Bible, Closet, and Family Altar: The Private Means of Grace
At the close of 1856, Charles Lockhart visited his father in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia. He suggested that they hold some “Special Services” during his visit. “There is all of Thomas’s family unconverted.”1 And so in February of 1857, revival services were held in the Methodist church at Parrsboro. Among those attending was seventeen-year-old ...
CHAPTER 4. The Grace of Utterance: Class Meetings, Prayer Meetings, and Revivals
Annie Leake was converted at an evangelistic meeting in 1857, but this was not the first time that she had attended a series of revival services. For several years she had lived and worked in the household of her uncle, a Methodist minister, and three times during that period she had gone to evangelistic services in hopes of being converted. Each ...
PART 3. The Organizing Church
CHAPTER 5. "Gospel in bread and butter and afternoon tea”: Benevolence Work and Ladies’ Aids
In the early days of Methodism in Canada, old Methodists and new converts alike opened their dwellings to preaching and to the preachers who found in them their temporary homes. As circuits were established and societies grew, however, the very success of the movement spelled a change in the needs of the congregations. Jean Miller Schmidt ...
CHAPTER 6. Wide Spheres of Usefulness: Sunday Schools and Church Music
The institutional nature of Methodism altered as small societies meeting in homes grew into congregations with church buildings and parsonages, but there were other changes as well when Methodists organized. Originally the Wesleyan faith spread through the conversion of young people and adults, but members came to feel concern for the religious ...
PART 4. The Missionary Movement
CHAPTER 7. From Missionary-hens to “an entirely new line”: Women’s Support for Missions
In May of 1823, young Peter Jones and his half-sister Polly attended a Methodist camp meeting at Ancaster, near Hamilton. Peter was the son of a Mississauga First Nation mother and a government surveyor, who was himself the son of a Welsh emigrant. First Polly was converted. Then her prayers joined those of others, and soon they were answered ...
CHAPTER 8. “A broader culture, a wider experience”: The Work of the Missionary Society
In November of 1885, a group of about fifteen women headed by train to the meeting of the General Board of the new Woman’s Missionary Society to be held in Kingston. Afterwards, Elizabeth Sutherland Strachan wrote to her cousin, Martha Cartmell, in Japan, “At Belleville several of the M.E. Ladies came on board the train when Mrs. Carman overheard ...
PART 5. Responding to Change
In 1919, Nellie McClung accepted the invitation of the sub-executive of the Methodist Woman’s Missionary Society to give a series of addresses on its behalf.1 Her work appears to have been confined to Alberta, her home at that time, where she was already familiar as a speaker at annual meetings of the WMS branch.2 The national group, however, benefited ...
CHAPTER 10. Widening the Field: Responding to a New Era
AN awareness of the “foreigners in our cities” and in the countryside helped Canadian evangelicals in the realization that their Christian responsibility was not directed exclusively toward individual souls, but toward changing conditions within society. Yet the social gospel was directed toward other issues as well, including that of moral purity as ...
CHAPTER 11. All the Rights and Privileges: The Status of Women within the Church
An awareness of the “foreigners in our cities” and in the countryside helped Canadian evangelicals in the realization that their Christian responsibility was not directed exclusively toward individual souls, but toward changing conditions within society. Yet the social gospel was directed toward other issues as well, including that of moral purity as ...
Near the end of 1924, a Centenary Missionary Conference was held in Northern Alberta. Among the speakers was Margaret Sherlock Ash, a former WMS missionary in Victoria who was now a leader in the Alberta Branch WMS. The report on the event termed her address “a masterpiece,” saying that “our women have not missed the vision nor power ...