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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An opportunity for service : women of the Anglican mission to the Japanese in Canada, 1903-1957 James, Cathy L.


The present thesis is a study of the women involved in the Anglican mission to the Japanese Canadians between 1903 and 1957. Drawing on a variety of primary source documents housed in the Anglican church archives in Toronto and Vancouver, as well as information gathered in interviews with three former missionaries, the study aims to determine who these women were, what their work consisted of, their reasons for choosing to work among Japanese Canadians, and what effects their efforts had, not specifically on the intended recipients, but on the women themselves. The thesis argues that much of the success of the mission, as measured by the number of Japanese Canadians who utilized its facilities and programmes, is due to the high level of involvement of local women. Until the World War II evacuation of Japanese Canadians from the coast of British Columbia, the mission's main facilities were located in Vancouver. In 1917 a male-dominated governing board took over the work, and attempted to 'professionalize' the mission during the interwar period. Still, of the over fifty middle-class Anglo-Canadian women, the majority were drawn from the local community, and a further seventeen Japanese Canadian women, originally from the mission's clientele, became involved in the work. A number of these women were employed as lay workers, and those who had the requisite training were engaged as professional missionaries, but more than half of the workers worked as volunteers. Work in the mission offered an attractive outlet through which these women channelled their energy, skills, and humanitarian propensities. It allowed Anglo-Canadian women to take on a public role while upholding contemporary notions concerning appropriate behaviour for their sex, "race" and class, while the Japanese Canadian workers gained the acceptance and esteem of their Occidental colleagues, and access to a respectable occupation at a time when they had few options to choose from. Thus by creating and largely maintaining the mission, a number of Anglican women, working within the confines of the maternal feminist ideology, built a sphere for themselves which encouraged their personal growth.

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