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The Work of Their Hands

Mennonite Women’s Societies in Canada

By Gloria L. Neufeld Redekop
Series Studies in Women and Religion Hide Details
Paperback : 9780889202702, 192 pages, October 1996
Ebook (PDF) : 9780889206373, 192 pages, January 2006


Impelled by a call to share their gifts through service, Russian Mennonite women immigrating to Canada organized their own church societies (Vereine) as avenues of mission and spiritual strengthening. For women who were restricted from leadership positions within the church, these societies became the primary avenue of church involvement. Through them they contributed vast amounts of energy, time and financial resources to the mission activity of the church. The societies thus became a context in which women could speak, pray and creatively give expression to their own understanding of the biblical message.
Using primary sources such as reports, letters, minutes, etc., as well as society histories, interviews and survey data, Redekop charts the development of these societies, from the establishment of the earliest ones in the 1870s to their flowering in the fifties and sixties and their decline in the eighties and nineties.
The Work of Their Hands elucidates the context in which Mennonite women lived their identity as Christian women, one considered appropriate by themselves and the institutional church. It also shows how changes to the societies, including declining membership and a shift in their primary focus from sewing and baking to one of spiritual fellowship, reflect the changing roles of women within the church, the home and the wider society.
The Work of Their Hands is an important book in the history of Mennonite women’s spirituality and will be a valuable resource for religious studies, women’s studies and Canadian history.


This well-documented book helps to uncover the women's societies of two Russian Mennonite Conferences in Canada–the Conference of Mennonites in Canada and the Canadian Mennonite Brethren....A brief review can not adequately convey the rich and rewarding content of this book. In addition to her research in scholarly works and archival sources, Redekop utilized a questionnaire, a copy of which appears in the appendix. A more than satisfactory return of these forms enabled her to put human faces on her narrative and to fulfill her intent to 'tell the story of Mennonite women's societies from the point of view of Mennonite women.'

- Doris Pieroth, Nova Religio