Historic: Manitoba CollegeThe Women’s Program, Manitoba College, 1920 – 1939
This material is excerpted from Training Deaconesses the Manitoba Way! Manitoba College’s Deaconess Training Program 1920 to 1939, by Sherri McConnell, 1998.
Winnipeg, Manitoba was home to a Deaconess training school. This made-in-Manitoba program began in 1920 through the Presbyterian Theological School, Manitoba College became a United Church program in 1925. The Women’s Department continued on until 1939, the year that Wesley College and Manitoba College officially merged into United College. At this time the Women’s Department disappears from historical documentation.
In 1908, the Thirty-fourth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada gathered in Winnipeg. After hearing the report from the Committee on an Order of Deaconesses, the court voted on and subsequently established a Deaconess Order. Ewart Missionary Training Home, in Toronto, had been established in 1897 under the auspices of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society to train women missionaries. With the new Order in place, the curriculum expanded to fit the needs of students training for Christian service in any sphere of the Presbyterian Church.
But Toronto was a long way from the west, although the reasons for establishing the program are not clear. Manitoba College was incorporated in 1874 as part of the Home Missions work the Presbyterian Church undertook in the decade following the 1869-1870 Riel Rebellion. From the early 1890s Manitoba College worked cooperatively with the Methodist Wesley College. In order to prevent duplication of services and in the spirit of ecumenical co-operation, Manitoba College stopped teaching arts to focus solely on Theology, and Wesley College shifted to primarily Arts in 1914.The interest of Principal John McKay in the deaconess movement is likely a factor in providing a School of Training for lay workers and Deaconesses, “with a view to preparation for church work of a practical kind”. (1918-1919 Calendar) By 1920-1921, the program was the “Women’s Department – for the training of women as home and foreign missionaries, social service workers, Deaconesses and church secretaries”.