Are Standard English Convention In Language And Writing Standards Elp Daughters in the City

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Daughters in the City

May the time soon come when none of our people will be found in Vancouver or any other large city except a few fellow missionaries. I am concerned about the Mennonite “proletariat” in town. May the Lord restore us to the quiet country life and help us to serve Him with simplicity… I must report some shadows, some who stumble and fall. Our two young friends fell as deep as a girl can go. A slippery slope in a big city is treacherous, especially when it’s a port city… I looked up (a young woman) and saw her reading a novel. In response to my question, he admitted that he had gone to the cinema, the cesspool of the city…. I can’t help but beg parents “don’t send your daughters to the city unless it’s in dire straits” (ProtocolNovember 1942).

Who were these “girls” in the city? Why did they give up their families and their cherished rural lifestyle? Despite Jacob Thiessen’s warning to the Mennonite Brethren at the November 1942 General Conference, it is clear from historical documents and personal accounts that hundreds of young Mennonite women came to Vancouver in the late 1920s to work as domestic servants in the homes of the wealthy. families. Most were teenagers – some as young as thirteen. They slept at bus stops, parks and train stations until they moved to their employer’s house. Some came directly from Russia, having survived the Revolution and Civil War. Some had families, distant relatives, and friends in rural areas, while others had no connections, jobs, or parents. These young women were the first to break through the barriers of urban life and significantly influence British Columbia’s settlement patterns. These women, along with their matrons, were considered the first urban missionaries in Canada.

The migration of women to the city was caused by the desperate financial need of their families and employment security. Mennonite women were highly prized and highly sought after by the British as servants. The demand for them greatly exceeded the supply. Domestic work was ideologically appropriate for unmarried women with the tolerance, standards of cleanliness, and purity of morals demanded by upper-class families. Although most Mennonite women did not speak English, their skin was white and could be taught to imitate “Englishness.” They were hardworking and their lifestyle was as clean as their floors.

Due to the large number of women moving to the city, it wasn’t long before they started living together. Women needed each other’s financial, moral and spiritual support. Interviews with Mennonite women working as domestic workers in Vancouver reveal that first Mädchenheim (Girls’ Home) began in the mid-1920s at 6363 Windsor Street. The women named the residence “Bethel House” and with the first matron, Sister Elizabeth Rabsch, modeled the newly formed community after the Winnipeg Home for Girls. Although the Mennonite Brethren Church was aware of the existence of the Home in Vancouver, the first recorded comment was not found until June 1931. BC Mennonite Brethren Conference Minutes state that “Many positive comments were made about the girls. home in Vancouver.”

One of the positive aspects of Bethel House was that it was funded by women. Although the wages were minimal, the women paid for heat, electricity, rent and telephone bills. The remaining wages were returned to their impoverished families, who had to pay a “travel debt” to the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Minutes of the November 1933 General Conference stated, “Up until now the girls have borne the operating expenses of the Home. The girls, who support their parents with their hard earned money, often find it a heavy burden. To find all the financial resources to maintain the Home. One woman recalled that , how their matron, Olga Berg, heated the house only on Thursday afternoons when all the young women came to the Home. Although Olga had arthritis and needed heat to ease her pain, she insisted on contributing to the maintenance of the Home in this way. responded with financial support for the outfits.They also appointed a minister to make monthly visits to the Home “with the care of the soul” (November 1933).

Through their frugal practices and the help of their church community, the women were able to save enough money to buy the house they had previously rented, build an addition, and buy an adjoining lot. In February 1937, a matron reported that “our oldest sister, aged 63, gave so much money that many others were ashamed.” But the house was very small and dilapidated. Because of this predicament, Bethel House in Vancouver moved to 595 East 49th Avenue in 1943. It served its function in this place: it was an employment agency, a hostel for orphans and refugee women, and a support center for hundreds of people. young Mennonite domestic workers.

Considering the influence these Mennonite women had on the city of Vancouver, it is important to understand the number of women associated with Bethel House. In May 1934, fifty-three women were registered. In 1936, their number reached eighty one. At its peak in 1956, three hundred and fifty Mennonite women matched with 1,700 employers. The Bethel house was also full of permanent residents. Matron Tina Lepp reported, “We now have ten girls without parents or homes” (June 1936). In another case, fifteen women were turned away for lack of space.

How could the house of Bethel meet all the needs of these women? The main responsibility was on the shoulders of the matrons, who considered it “service to God”. Matrons cooked for the residents, managed the Home’s finances, coordinated employers and employees, escorted young women to new jobs, and organized the maintenance of the Home. One matron remembers carrying wood and coal from the backyard to the basement and lighting the stove. The result was a warm house, but “the curtains collected so much coal dust … they always had to be washed.” Another matron gave eighty dollars from the foreign affairs she had donated to the Home treasury to make the payments. Many matrons shared the burden. Sister Rabsch, Olga Berg, Maria Thiessen, Katharina Lepp, Sara Wiens, Tina Goossen, Betty Esau, Susie Warkentin, Tina Krause, and Elsa Isaac reflected a clear sense of “calling” to their work. Many of them felt strongly about their function as missionaries in the “evil” city of Vancouver and called themselves servants of God.

Within this context, matrons provided protection for the young women under their care. The nature of the protections was twofold: they protected young women from workplace harassment and regulated their behavior within strict parameters of social and moral control. The motto of “Bethel House” describes this event well. The phrase “You God sees me” was a metaphor that convinced them of divine protection on the one hand, and an internal control device on the other. The slogan insured that “a girl from Coaldale will never wear a little cap over her sleeves” and “do nothing we wouldn’t do at home in Vancouver.”

This arrangement, guidance and protection took place mainly on Thursdays. It was the only “servants’ day off”. Girls came from all over the city with sack lunches. They would visit, share stories of their week, listen to sermons, and occasionally go on picnics. Board games were not allowed because they could cause loud laughter. The girls were supposed to be “Die stille im Lande” (the quiet ones in the country), but that didn’t stop them from strengthening their bond of sisterhood. One matron recalls: “Hard, backless wooden benches hung over every room. Some girls sat on the bed. There were hardly any chairs…but no one seemed to mind. This was where we belonged.” A fifteen-year-old boy worked in North Vancouver, and despite the long ferry and streetcar commute, he never missed a Thursday. The bond of sisterhood was strong and the isolation experienced by most of the women was overcome only by Thursday visits.

“We always had a nice haven to go to and share our burdens and experiences with all the other girls. We made many new friends, some of whom stayed with us for the rest of our lives. Thursday afternoons, the maids’ day off, were great times. At the end of the evening we would get on the bus together and go back to our jobs. .If a girl fell ill, they looked after her. […] The home has been a great blessing to hundreds of girls and will never be forgotten. We needed each other then Mädchenheim it was our oasis in the desert”

However, despite the strong bond among the women, the need for a large number of domestic workers, and the efficient operation of the Bethel House, it was closed. In 1961, a notice from the Mennonite Brethren Conference was presented to the resident matron. The closure notice gave the women a month to vacate the premises. The new Bethel House was to serve as a residence for university students. Matron remembered his suffering. “One month! After all these years! We still had 600 employers to match with workers.” But the matrons, residents and women workers associated with Bethel Home did not think of challenging the order. They embodied the values ​​of submission, keeping the peace, and obeying those who are within themselves. The packing and sorting of thirty years of memories began without question. Many valuable records, photographs and artifacts were lost or destroyed in the process. The final report of the General Conference in June 1961 stated: “At present our Madchenheim is not serving in any capacity.”

One woman’s poignant insight reveals the uncertainty surrounding the closure of a community that has functioned competently for more than three decades.

“Where could we go on our days off? We didn’t have money to go to restaurants. I remember when they closed. We were all lost. The house was supposed to be for young people now. Of course we girls were welcome. Go there, but we didn’t feel comfortable with them. I think they enjoyed our company too. bought. Now there were husbands and wives, boys and girls. I remember the first Thursday after closing. We came to Gunje. On Fraser Street. What were we to do? Where could we stay? The men thought it didn’t pay well anymore, not enough to pay the matron. But we told her we could have paid! Maybe because we were smarter, the young people needed more. until then.”

Many questions arise about the nature and necessity of this House, its influence, its audience, its methods of communication—how Mennonite women have been throughout history and how this has affected future generations of women.

However, despite the questions that remain unanswered, it is clear that a historically sensitive and strong unity among Mennonite women arose out of the shared experience of Bethel House. It is also clear that this “Girls’ House” phenomenon would confirm the historical role of Mennonite women as urban pioneers when entering the borders of an “evil” city.

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