UCW History - Celebrating 50 Years of Service in 2012!

Women have played a very important part in the settling of the west and of the church. Mission work was being done in Alberta many years before the United Church was formed in 1925. When Elizabeth Barrett arrived at Whitefish Lake in 1875, she was not the first woman of the Methodist Church in what is now Alberta. That distinction belongs to two Aboriginal women. Margaret Sinclair, wife of missionary assistant Benjamin Sinclair and Jessie Mamanuwartum, wife of missionary Henry Steinhauer. Also about 1875 George McDougall's wife Elizabeth and their daughters had worked at Victoria Mission. Soon teachers, nurses and community workers of the Woman's Missionary Society established orphanages, schools and hospitals in this developing region. The Presbyterian women supported societies for both foreign and home missions. They established Red Deer College for Girls in 1910 and two school homes in Vegreville in 1911. The college was moved to Edmonton and renamed the "Westminster Ladies College". A hospital was established in Vegreville by the WHMS. The Ladies Aid and the Woman's Missionary Society were also formed at this time. Another important event in the life of the church was the ordination of Lydia Gruchy. Though Lydia Gruchy graduated first in her Saskatchewan  theological class, it was ten years before the United Church agreed to ordain her in 1936.

In 1953, General Council of The United Church of Canada established a committee to study women's work in the Church. The goals were to establish a united women's organization and to further full  partnership of women and men in the church. The subsequent commission on the work of women in the church was of course, chaired by a man. Final approval was given to this organization , the United Church Women, at the General Council meeting held in Edmonton in 1960. The UCW officially came into being January 1, 1962. This brought together the Women's Auxiliary, the Women's Missionary Society and the Women's Federation. The 1960 General Council also took action to ensure that women could "share in a much more meaningful way in all the work of the church" by allowing them finally to participate in boards at all levels.   The first Conference UCW President was Chris McElroy of Edmonton.  At the National level, 300,000 women joined as charter members. Today, there are only about 38,000 members.

The purpose for this new organization became "To unite women of the congregation for the total mission of the church and to provide a medium through which we may  express our loyalty and devotion to Jesus Christ in Christian witness, study, fellowship and service".  Thus the UCW assumed all the tasks in the church, community and around the world previously the mandate of the WMS and WA and the Women's Federation. Society has changed since then and UCW has kept up with the times. Instead of collecting and sending mission barrels of clothing overseas , the UCW members have become very loyal supporters of the Mission and Service Fund, contributing since 1962 over $120 million dollars. Our numbers have dwindled but new women's groups under the umbrella of The Women's Ministry Network have started up in many churches.  As we celebrate this wonderful milestone of 50 years, we continue our loving service, always challenged  to find new ways to meet the needs of a changing society and world.

The Alberta and Northwest Conference UCW is holding their 50th anniversary celebrations on April 13 - 15, 2012 at the Stettler United Church, Stettler, AB. Our guest speakers are Rev. Dr. Fran Hare, retired minister and Janet McDonald, Executive Director of Naramata  Barb Myers, Diaconal Minister is the Music Leader. We are also having 8 workshops. The cost to register is $50.00.

The National UCW 50th anniversary celebrations are being held on July 23 - 27, 2012 at Redeemer University College, Ancaster, ON. 15 workshops are being held as well as tours of the area. The guest speaker at the Banquet is the Moderator of The United Church, Mardi Tindal.

 The National UCW executive is supporting a 50th anniversary project. It is the Morogoro Women's Training Centre in Tanzania. We are trying to raise 50 thousand dollars for this project. The program will train 25 women at each course and the cost is $17, 600 US. This covers travel, accommodation and food, a medical kit and a solar LED lighting system for each participant as well as the cost of instructors and materials. Maternal health is a huge problem in Africa. 50 percent of all maternal deaths happen in Africa. African woman are staggering 100 time more likely to die during childbirth than any place else in the world.  Around 1,500 maternal deaths happen each and every day. Within Tanzania 80 % of child births do not happen in a hospital or clinic and are attended by traditional birth assistants with no formal training. Many of the traditional birth assistants are also involved in genital mutilation of girls and young women even though this is against Tanzanian law.  The Christian Council of Tanzania teaches communities about human rights and the dangers of this danger and advocates to end female genital mutilation. This program is currently supported by the United Church of Canada and the Canadian International Development Agency.