Muriel Bamford was a child of the manse, growing up in Northern Ontario. Missionaries were frequent guests in the Bamford home, and they made an impression on her.
A graduate of Wellesley Hospital nursing school (1941), she did industrial nursing during the war (at a munitions factory), and then in private duty while attending Toronto Bible College (1943-45).
Muriel enrolled at the United Church Training School and started classes in September 1945. She had some kind of overseas service in mind, but the stories of a worker in India inspired her to ask the Woman’s Missionary Society to appoint her there, for what turned out to be a term of 30 years.
Muriel arrived in India on January 24, 1947. For the first 3 years she studied Hindi and helped train students in Indore, where the largest United Church Mission Hospital was located. In 1950 she took a leave of absence to return home to Canada to nurse her mother through her death from cancer. Muriel was able to study Nursing Education and Administration at the University of Toronto during that leave. On a subsequent leave a few years later she went to the University of Western Ontario and completed her BScN.
Upon her return to India in 1951 Muriel was given a new assignment. The United church enterprise in India was large. In the 50s, the WMS alone had over 40 women working there. Muriel worked in one of the 7 United Church hospitals, 3 of which taught nursing. She ran the nursing school at the 85 bed Sharansthan hospital in Banswara. She wrote, “Our aim in Mission hospitals is two fold – to teach good nursing and to develop sound Christian character.” These goals reflect the colonial view of the day, something Muriel acknowledged later in life, but the work of educating Indians, including Indian women, to take over was important.These goals reflect the colonial view of the day, and while Muriel was firm in her ideas, she did acknowledge the church’s role in examining past mission. The work of educating Indians, including Indian women, to take over was important though, and Muriel was proud of it.
In one of her reports back to the church Muriel wrote, “Never was so much done for so many with so little”. Her description of the supplies and equipment reveal the creativity required of the staff to provide anywhere near modern medical care. Her 1959 report home laments the lack of a modern distiller to assist in making intravenous solutions. The copy of that report, now in the archives, belonged to Laura Long, a disjoined Deaconess from Manitoba. Penciled beside the less than subtle plea for a distiller is a note: “Birtle WMS” followed by a question mark. Did Laura see that the need was met? The connections between the WMS overseas staff and the women back in Canada was strong.
In 1975 Muriel came back to Canada. The need for Canadians to be in leadership in India was passing and both attitudes and financial support for mission work was changing. She nursed for 2 years at the Wrinch Memorial (United Church) Hospital in Hazelton, BC until funding cuts eliminated her position. Her last years of nursing were at the Purdy Pavilion in Vancouver.
After her retirement in 1983 she became an active member of Canadian Memorial United and lent her energy to many projects: she taught “Fun and Fitness” and raised money to support work in India. She was also active in supporting Vancouver School of Theology. In her final years declining health and memory affected her. At her funeral, her minister said, “The last visit I had with Muriel was in March when I saw that she was tired and failing, yet alert and patient. She was ever God’s faithful servant, facing her present life circumstances and death as it came.” She died peacefully in her 99th year.
This biography was written by Caryn Douglas in March 2018 drawing on material from her family, from the United Church of Canada and from the WMS “Missionaries Reporting” and funeral reflection by Susan DuMoulin.
For a printable pdf version click here
Alice Farquharson followed a common path for young women in the 1950s: after high school and Normal School (teacher’s college) she started a teaching career. She enjoyed teaching, but she felt God was calling her to use her skills in the church, so she enrolled at the Training School and started the program in 1958. Always a keen learner, Alice thrived. She particularly remembered a 6 week summer placement in Cornwall, Ontario, working along side Deaconess Mary Ellen Nettle in the heady days of CE in the baby boom world.
Something else was heady about that summer: she met John. By Christmas they were engaged and hopes of becoming a deaconess like Mary Ellen were dashed. Alice graduated from the Training School and she and John were married in July, 1960 just a month before the disjoining rule was ended. Alice, like many women at the time, either didn’t understand about the changes, or, understood that while the official rule was ended, the attitudes limiting Deaconesses were not going away that easily. In 1961 the headline on a second editorial by The Observer on the topic of married church workers, made their position crystal clear: “God’s highest calling for a woman is still to be a wife and mother”.
Instead of church work, Alice returned to teaching, until her first child was born. Alice enjoyed the lifestyle of being a farmer’s wife and a mother to her 4 children. She used the knowledge and skills of her training as an active volunteer, teaching Sunday School and leadership roles with the UCW, and in Kent and Middlesex Presbytery camps and programs.
In 1984 Alice accepted her first paid ministry position, as Christian Education staff in a congregation, a position she filled for 4 years before returning to teaching. In retirement she was very active in the activities of her church, and as late as 2015, in her 80s, she was hosting a summer Bible Study program.
In 2017, with assistance from her son, Alice asked the church to consider granting her some kind of recognition for her work. Her classmate and friend Joan Gugeler, had been set apart in 1959 but resigned from the Deaconess List in the 1970s because she wasn’t working in the church. Fifty years after first becoming a Deaconess, Joan sought reinstatement, which was granted in 2009. Maybe this was in Alice’s mind. London Conference responded however that because Alice had never been a Deaconess there was nothing that they would do.
Alice, a woman with a very strong faith, died after a short illness at the age of 85, ready, in her own words, “to meet Jesus”.
To learn more about disjoining (the marriage bar prohibiting married women to be Deaconesses) visit uccdeaconesshistory.ca
This biography was written by Caryn Douglas in March 2018 drawing on a profile written by Joan Golden as a student assignment at the Centre for Christian Studies, 2004.
Fortunately, the United Church Training School attracted no shortage of spunky women, and Kay MacLeod was one of them. She was born February 23, 1923 to Alex and Marion (Ross) MacLeod, one of 6 children. Catherine was grateful for her family. In her 80s she made a gift to the Centre for Christian Studies in their honour and she wrote, “They were top notch United Church folks, I can say with a smile.”
Kay ventured from her home in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia and graduated from the nursing school in Saint John, New Brunswick. In 1958, after several years of nursing, and saving her money, she headed west for a year at the United Church Training School in Toronto before beginning a 14 year nursing career at the United Church’s Archer Memorial Hospital in Lamont, Alberta. Kay was one 7 nurses in her class, most of them anticipating a career working in church hospitals. (see photo with names)
Lamont, now an easy 1 hour drive from Edmonton, was a frontier in 1912 when the Methodist church opened the hospital. It grew rapidly and by 1917 there were 45 beds. Kay was following in the footsteps of Vellettia Shuttleworth, the first Matron of the hospital who graduated from the Methodist National Training School in 1910. The second Matron, Sarah Slaughter, also attended the school, and was a Deaconesses when she assumed the role in 1913, a position she held until the nurses’ residence was opened and the nursing school begun in 1917. The hospital graduated nurses every year after that until 1972 when the Provincial government legislated the end of hospital based training. When Kay arrived on the scene, she witnessed the construction of a new 72 bed nurses residence, opened on February 8, 1960. That same year a physiology department was opened. In 1964, a 50 bed chronic care facility was added and in 1969 a 31 bed nursing home. Kay was there during an exciting time for the hospital and the community around it.
Sadly, Kay was also there when an accident between a train and school bus killed 17 people and seriously injured 24. It was an event that drew the hospital staff together.
As was the custom in all the church hospitals, the nurses employed by the Church were expected to carry Christian Education duties along-side their nursing. Kay worked with mid week groups of Explorers and CGIT and was involved with the local congregation.
Kay’s work in Alberta was ended in 1974, because as the single daughter, she was need back home to care for aging parents. She nursed at Cape Breton Hospital and Braemore Home before retiring.
Diaconal minister Laura Hunter captures Kay’s nature in this story: “I met her at First United in Sydney, in 2005, so she would have been in her early 80s at the time. Kay was maybe 5 feet tall in stature, but very tall in personality! She was wearing a navy-blue jumper over a white blouse and had running shoes on her feet, reminding me of her nursing background, practical and ready to be on the move. Under one arm she had a petition regarding a land claims dispute of the Lubicon Cree and over the other she had a bag of “Izzy dolls” to be used by soldiers stationed in Afghanistan in peace building with children. Soon she had organized a lunch for me to meet two friends, a woman recently immigrated from Korea and a respected grandmother from the nearby Indigenous community.”
When Kay was reconnected to the Centre for Christian Studies in the early 2000s she was delighted, and became an advocate and keen supporter. When the Principal, Caryn Douglas, came to visit her, she organized a presentation to the board of First United Church in Sydney, promoting the school and diaconal ministry. Kay was a networker and she facilitated good things happening. Her warm smile and simple presentation belied her strategic abilities!
Kay died December 21, 2016, at the age of 93.
This biography was written by Caryn Douglas in 2018, drawing on Kay’s obituary and personnel correspondence. Healing in the Wilderness A History of the United Church Mission Hospitals, by Bob Burrows was a source for the Lamont hospital history.
For a full biography of Elaine follow this link to United Church Deaconess History
Biography is in development.
Betty (Carkeek) Wing, was born April 27, 1926, growing up in Oshawa, Ontario. Her first, and enduring love, was music. She trained as a librarian, but when she found she enjoyed her volunteer church work more than her paid work, she responded to the call she felt within.
Betty’s church work was typical for the time: leading Explorers groups for girls, teaching Sunday school, attending youth groups. With involvement in the young adult programming offered by the wider church she was able to attend a number of Conferences. To read more visit UCC Deaconess History.