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The Methodist Church and the “European Foreigners” of Winnipeg: The All People’s Mission, 1889-1914

by Professor G. N. Emery
University of Western Ontario

MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 28, 1971-72 Season

This article was published originally in MHS Transactions by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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In the late 1890s and early twentieth century Winnipeg was the gateway for a great immigration to the Canadian prairies. In the period 1891-1911 the prairie population increased five-fold to 1.3 million, and Winnipeg’s population rose from 26,000 to 136,000. This remarkable growth was expected to continue indefinitely into the future.

Canadian Methodists, inspired by their evangelical traditions and their aggressive nationalism, hoped that society in western Canada would perpetuate the Protestant, English-language culture which had developed in Ontario and other parts of eastern Canada. To their dismay each year saw hundreds of immigrants from continental Europe passing through Winnipeg to homes further west, while others stayed and added to a permanent and growing European population in the city’s north end. By 1911 nearly a fifth of the prairie population, including 19% of Winnipeg’s population, were of European origin.

To a large extent Methodists expected the state to surmount the rival languages, cultures and religious traditions of the newcomers. To “Canadianize” them, Methodists sought moral legislation and the compulsory attendance of the European children at English-language public schools. However, the state alone could not realize Methodist objectives. In addition to converting the “foreigners” into “good Canadian citizens,” Rev. James Woodsworth, the Church’s senior mission superintendent in western Canada, hoped to “teach them the principles of Christianity, as far as we understand the principles of Christ; and ultimately, as far as may be, attach them to the Methodist Church.” [1] Many Church leaders assumed that these religious goals were an integral part of the assimilation process. Accordingly, the Church developed two substantial mission complexes among the prairie Europeans prior to 1914, and the first was the All People’s mission in Winnipeg.

All People’s originated from local initiative rather than from the conscious policy of the Methodist Church. In 1889 Miss Dollie McGuire commenced Sunday school classes in McDougall Church for children of German and other nationalities. [2] By 1890 class attendance occasionally exceeded one hundred, in part because her magnetic personality surmounted language barriers and also because the parents of the children were grateful for the food and clothing which she distributed to needy families. Faced with the growing inadequacy of the McDougall Church facilities, and desirous of protecting the children from the ridicule that their strange dress attracted, Miss McGuire transferred her work to a series of temporary quarters. Each move took her closer to the C.P.R. station and Dominion immigration building where the European immigrants were disembarking. The last place rented was adjacent to a hotel bar and Methodist legend records that one bar patron wandered into a prayer meeting by mistake, stayed and was converted! Finally, “Dollie McGuire’s mission” acquired its own building in 1893 when the Methodist Sunday School Association of Winnipeg purchased the original McDougall Church and moved it to a rented lot just to the north of the C.P.R. station. The work would remain in this small frame structure until 1902, and the mission was given a new name to mark the occasion. From the Scriptural passage “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people,” [3] the last seven words were borrowed and printed on a sign in eight languages. The mission was to be more popularly known as “All People’s.”

A number of other dedicated individuals had become associated with the mission in the meantime, including Rev. T. E. Morden, who was originally from Ontario, and T. Eli Taylor, a native of Manitoba who was destined for the ministry. Like Miss McGuire, these men spoke nothing except English, but the staff was soon reinforced by three German-speaking teachers, and the additional workers permitted a greater variety of activities after 1893. The Sunday school classes were supplemented by prayer meetings three nights per week, house-to-house visitation, relief to the poor and sick, the distribution of English-language periodicals and help for the unemployed in finding jobs. Mothers’ meetings were held through one season, and a reading room with newspapers in several languages was made available for a time. These services were intended to meet the social needs of the immigrants and to attract a few of them to Methodism as well.

Most Winnipeg Methodists were still unaware of All People’s existence. However, the anticipated arrival of several thousand Austrian immigrants in 1898 drew attention to the European presence. The belief that these immigrants were merely the vanguard of a substantial European influx caused the officials of Zion Methodist Church to lament the weakness of Methodism in the vicinity of the C.P.R. station. Consequently, they recommended the construction of a large building to replace both All People’s and Zion Church. As Rev. T. E. Morden explained,

In the part of the city which is first seen by strangers arriving there, Methodism-is not well represented. Zion Church is out of sight, a block away from Main Street and hidden by buildings. ... All People’s is directly in front of the C.P.R. passenger station [but] it is a little unpretentious building which does not at all accord with the idea of Europeans who have heard of the Methodist Church as the largest Christian body in America. The question has now been raised whether it is not possible to ... erect ... a building of which the denomination need not be ashamed. The carrying out of this plan would mean the placing of a large church in the populous part of the city, where there are now numerous hotels, many temporary residents and a large proportion of citizens who are not of the wealthy class. The energy of the different denominations has, in the past, been directed away from this part of the city, every new church, with the exception of the small mission buildings having been erected some distance to the south. .. there is ... a danger of putting up too many small buildings where a smaller number of the better class would be a greater source of strength ... a large and respectable church, with an active membership meaning business, situated right in the main thoroughfare ... surrounded by the rush of travellers and immigrants, would have a field of usefulness well worth cultivating. [4]

Although Winnipeg was still a small city with fewer than 50,000 people, there was a certain naïveté in Morden’s position. The idea that a large, impressive church could win the people over (plus the assumption that they had heard of the Methodist Church) surely underestimated the challenge ahead in view of the different cultural traditions of the Europeans and the complex social and economic pressures which would confront them. Nor did Morden appreciate the depth of the problem when urging, “it is just at this stage that a little personal interest taken, and a friendly handshake given for Christ’s sake would tell for good for all time to come. [5]

Nevertheless, Winnipeg Methodists were now aware of the space limitations at All People’s and of the scarcity of workers who could speak a European language. Accordingly, the Winnipeg District asked the Manitoba and Northwest Conference to appoint one or more colporteurs for work among the immigrants. [6] Although this request was denied for lack of funds and sufficient information concerning the nature of the problem, the entire province was aroused by the arrival of 12,000 Galician immigrants in Winnipeg in November, 1898, coupled with the news that 7,000 Doukhobors were to follow. [7] Hence, in response to a second Winnipeg District request, the Conference made All People’s a Methodist mission in 1899 as a preliminary step towards developing work in the European districts of the city. Hitherto, All People’s had been a private mission which was supported by the Methodist churches of Winnipeg. It had not been an official Methodist mission because it lacked church members and was, therefore, outside the provisions of the Discipline. Mission workers overcame this regulation, which was designed for English-speaking populations, by banding together themselves. [8]

The mission grew steadily for the next eight years. From 1901 to 1903 activities were directed by Rev. R. L. Morrison, a medical missionary who won entree into many European homes by offering care for the sick. The purchase of the Maple Street Congregational Church in 1902 allowed All People’s to move into more spacious facilities and permitted an expansion of all departments of work. [9] In 1904 the Missionary Society constructed a second building, Bethlehem Slavic (or Stella Avenue) mission, and placed it under Rev. J. V. Kovar, an Austrian-born Protestant. [10] Kovar held services in German, Slavic and Bohemian, and another Austrian-born worker, Miss Kochella, held foreign-language Sunday school classes. The advantages of approaching the Europeans in their native tongues were further exploited in 1905 when a third Austrian Protestant, Frank Dojacek, was employed as a colporteur. By 1906 Rev. J. H. Morgan. the president of the Manitoba Conference, was sufficiently impressed with Dojacek’s ability to recommend him for “special ordination” - i.e., ordination without the normal college requirements. [11] Dojacek was certainly a conscientious worker. In addition to selling thousands of Bibles and religious tracts, often below cost, he advised immigrants about Canada, comforted those in difficult situations and occasionally provided lunch for destitute individuals. In the meantime, Kovar held cottage meetings in Polish and Austrian homes for some 220 adults, including 22 families and their boarders; an average of 48 European children attended the Bethlehem Slavic Sunday School; and another 41 Europeans attended night school at the mission. Kovar and Dojacek were active to the north of the city as well; bi-weekly religious services were scheduled at Beausejour and Brokenhead, and religious tracts were distributed to European homes in these areas. [12] By 1907 Methodist mission facilities were reaching some 400 Europeans of sixteen nationalities.

Unlike Bethlehem Slavic mission, the mission on Maple Street was largely concerned with British immigrants by 1905, due to the changing character of the surrounding population. [13] Nevertheless, Rev. Hamilton Wigle, an Ontario native who assumed charge of the older mission in 1905, was aware of a European problem. Although his adult congregation was British, only eight of the forty-five children in his Sunday school had English as their mother tongue. [14] When 215 little girls of sixteen nationalities participated in a special children’s service in January, 1906, Wigle reported that:

A striking feature of the program was a national representative chorus by thirteen girls of thirteen nationalities. It was most impressive to hear them singing in one tongue and one faith ... we need hardly draw the attention of our thinking readers that this children’s work means the Protestantizing and Canadianizing of 215 mothers and homes in the near future. [15]

The full extent of Wigle’s interest in the European work was revealed in his activities of the previous month. In a circular letter which was sent to every Methodist minister in the three prairie conferences, Wigle warned that “these people are soon to be a part of us, and we ought to be doing something to mould their religious life, and to bring them to the social, educational and religious status of our Canadian civilization.” [16] Accordingly, he proposed that the Methodist Church should train representatives of the various nationalities to work among their own people. All People’s was to be the spearhead of this program, but each minister was asked to tabulate the number of “foreigners” in his area and to secure young men from each nationality for training at Wesley College. Wigle firmly believed that the Europeans would respond better to preaching by their own people than by Canadians. The use of European preachers would also free Canadian-born missionaries, including Wigle, for the already undermanned English-speaking mission work.

By 1906 the Maple Street and Bethlehem Slavic missions were receiving $7,500 annually from the Methodist Missionary Society, the Woman’s Missionary Society and the Methodist churches of the city. [17] The return on this investment was limited. The Bethlehem Slavic mission found that lasting gains were elusive because its work was so transitory in nature. Europeans who were contacted soon moved elsewhere and were replaced by other migrants-a problem which Kovar discovered when 80% of the adults to whom he ministered proved to be boarders. Moreover, the Europeans were usually unreceptive to evangelical Protestantism even when it was offered to them in their native tongue. As Dojacek noted, “I can speak to the people but they do not like if I refer to their personal need of salvation. At once they say, ’I have and keep my own religion’.” [18] Much of Kovar’s progress was made among the few Europeans who were already Protestant; in 1906 he formed a separate mothers’ meeting for German Protestants whom he found easier to reach than Roman Catholic Poles and Lithuanians. [19] The two missions were also shown by statistics to have been merely scratching the surface of the city’s ethnic population. Although Bethlehem Slavic mission had 14 European church members and was reaching about 400 Europeans each week by 1906, there were more than 18,000 non-English-speaking people in the city. [20]

In 1907 the Bethlehem Slavic and Maple Street missions were consolidated under one superintendency. Hitherto the name “All People’s” had applied only to the older Maple Street mission, but it would now apply to both branches of the consolidated mission as well as to any new branches which were opened. These changes seemed to be of little importance at the time, but in retrospect they inaugurated a new era for Methodism in north Winnipeg. The first superintendency was given to Rev. J. S. Woodsworth, an unusual minister despite his very orthodox background.

Although born near Toronto in 1874, Woodsworth was raised in Manitoba, where his parents moved in 1882. Since his father was the mission superintendent for the western conferences, Woodsworth was expected to develop an orthodox Methodist faith. Years later, he recalled having been brought up within the Church to such an extent that he was never conscious of having been out of it. He lacked even the sinner’s traditional experience of conversion. However, his beliefs were badly shaken when his college years exposed him to the spirit of scientific enquiry and to the examination of the Scriptures in the light of historical and archeological discoveries, both of which suggested that much of the Bible was not literally true. Original sin, Christ’s atonement, the virgin birth, and the physical resurrection and ascension into Heaven were among the many doctrines - standard to Methodism and essential to the traditional concern for personal salvation - which he began to doubt. [21] Other young men pursued careers within the Church in spite of such problems of faith. However, like conservative Methodists, Woodsworth believed that Church doctrines had to be taken literally. Thus, after accepting ordination in 1900, the collapse of his early religious assumptions caused him to submit, unsuccessfully, letters of resignation from the ministry in 1902, 1907, and in 1913.

Nevertheless, Woodsworth was very much a product of his Church. Although his religion eventually became completely secularized, concern for the world to come was in retreat to some extent throughout Canadian Methodism. Moreover, Woodsworth was strongly influenced by Methodist traditions which aimed at bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. His ministry was devoted to the Christianization of the living conditions and economic relations of the cities in which he lived, and his social gospel philosophy was the logical outgrowth of Methodist perfectionism in relation to society. His Christian humanitarianism was brought to the fore in 1899 when a year at Oxford afforded him the chance to visit the slums of London, England. Appalled by what he saw, he was adamant that such conditions should not develop in the newer cities of Canada. [22] Appropriately, he became superintendent of All People’s at a time when Winnipeg was just becoming a city of size and when ethnic and urban problems were becoming more apparent than during the tenures of his predecessors at the mission. Woodsworth’s social gospel philosophy would mature in this environment, aided by wide reading on British and American urban difficulties and the methods used to overcome them.

Woodsworth’s intellectual transformation was incomplete when he first came to All People’s. He initially defined the purpose of his mission in fairly conventional terms, and he appeared to be little different from his predecessors. He shared the widespread Methodist belief that the immigrants from southern Europe were culturally and religiously inferior to the native Canadian and that their “conditions of living and standards of morality were not such as to qualify them for becoming good Canadian citizens without a good deal of educating and refining.” [23] The Europeans were the victims of a decadent, mediaeval environment in which ageless poverty, ethnic hatreds and ignorance had prevented the attainment of the North American level of civilization. Authoritarian, old-world churches accompanied the immigrants and sought to perpetuate their ignorance in order to exploit them. Woodsworth had merely to recall the treatment meted out to a Polish woman in Winnipeg by the Roman Catholic Church:

She said: “I went to confession a few times. The priest began to ask me some awful questions ... In the Church he points to a picture of the Virgin Mary and says ’There she stands, asking you to give her money. She wants to buy a new dress.’ ” There are people who believe that but Mrs. Vasafrshki is more enlightened ... [24]

A number of dangers followed from the European religious and educational weaknesses. Due to ignorance and inexperience with democracy, the immigrants threatened to pollute Canadian politics by selling their votes to corrupt Canadian ward bosses. [25] The threat to Canadian morality was sometimes more subtle. In the event that prolonged contact with the Europeans resulted in the broadening of Canadian ideals and the breaking down of Canadian bigotry, Woodsworth wondered if a consequence would be the lowering of Canadian moral standards. [26] Ironically, the priest-ridden Europeans even threatened the country with atheism. In Woodsworth’s view, loyalties to the old world churches were certain to weaken as the immigrants were exposed to “better education and free intercourse with English-speaking Protestants and the prevailing spirit of the new world”; in these circumstances there was “a danger that these people may do as they have done in the United States-break away from the bondage of Rome and yet not enter into the liberty of the children of God.” [27] The economic effects of the immigration were also important: the “foreigner’s” willingness to work for low wages undermined the living standards of the Canadian labourer and contributed to slum conditions. [28] Finally, the heterogeneous immigration militated against “that oneness of purpose without which true national life is impossible.” “How much more serious the question is with us,” he added, with the American experience in mind, “when we consider that we are not as yet a united nation, but that again and again in various forms we are forced to recognize the cleavage between French and English.” [29]

Woodsworth viewed seriously the religious aspects of the ethnic challenge. He reminded Methodist young people that “as Christians we owe them all that has purified and elevated and enriched our lives. We owe it to them to convince them that religion is not mere ecclesiasticism, nor faith superstition, nor worship ritualism.” Yet he was convinced that attempts to Protestantize the immigrant population in its entirety were doomed to failure. A mediaeval people could not suddenly embrace Methodist religious beliefs and forms. By race and temperament, the “foreigner” required the warmth and colour of his traditional ritualistic service, and he could only adjust to the “higher religion” on a gradual basis. [30] Thus Woodsworth charted a middle course for his mission: to expose the Europeans to Protestant religious assumptions without attempting to change their denominational affiliations. Protestants could, however, give aid and sympathy to a number of independent churches among the immigrants which had broken free of the parent institutions in Europe. Woodsworth warmly endorsed the Presbyterian subsidization of the Independent Greek Orthodox Church, an off-shoot of the Greek Orthodox Church which claimed 60,000 adherents in western Canada. [31] Although the form of its service resembled that of its parents, Woodsworth detected a spirit of reformation in the content, and the adherents were “Ignorant-yes, but eager for knowledge. Superstitious, yes-but breaking the bonds that have held them for centuries. Peasants-yes, but a people who are becoming Canadian citizens.” [32]

Possibly it was Woodsworth’s scepticism about the benefits of direct proselytizing which brought about the resignation of the three Austrian workers within the first two years of his superintendency. His views most certainly contributed to arrangements between his Church and the Polish Independent Church in 1908. The latter was an American off-shoot of the Roman Catholic Church which had a membership of 200,000 by 1904 when its first Canadian congregation was founded in Winnipeg. Methodists noted that its form of service was similar to that of the Roman Catholic Church; nevertheless, the Pope’s authority was not recognized, the content of the service was evangelical and the Poles were encouraged to read and interpret the Bible for themselves. [33] The Winnipeg congregation was dogged by misfortune. After a series of dishonest or inept priests, a financial crisis in 1908 forced the sale of the Polish Independent church building. Magnanimously, the Methodists stepped into the breach, bought the building and allowed the Poles to continue using it.

Woodsworth later maintained that this gesture was an isolated action and not part of a general scheme to develop closer ties with the Polish Independents. [34] However, some evidence suggests that Methodist hopes were more ambitious. Prior to the purchase of the Polish building, two young Poles were awarded scholarships of $150 to attend Wesley College. One of them, Mr. Baligrodski, conducted religious services and served as an interpreter at All People’s in 1907. After the purchase, Methodist Sunday school classes, mothers’ meetings and evangelical services were held in the Polish building in the hopes that Poles would attend. [35] Finally, the hopes engendered by these beginnings inspired students at Wesley College to send one of their number, Edmund Chambers, to Poland for two years in order to learn the language and customs of the people. In 1910 similar hopes sent Arthur Rose to Poland and brought Paul Kupka, a Polish Protestant, to All People’s. Thus Woodsworth’s recollection of the past would seem to have been faulty. He could hardly have been unaware of his colleagues’ hopes that the Polish Independent Church would become a halfway house to Protestantism. Moreover, statements by Woodsworth in 1907 and 1908 indicate a receptiveness to an agreement similar to that between the Presbyterian and Independent Greek Orthodox Churches.

Any hopes for a closer connection with the Poles were soon frustrated. The Methodist Church was the initiator of the 1908 arrangements, and the Poles merely made the best of a bad situation by accepting them. Predictably, the Poles strove to end their dependence upon Methodist aid, and they succeeded in buying back their building in 1912. Thus ended a unique four year experiment in which Methodist activities made virtually no impression upon the Polish population. [36] In theory the venture was not entirely a failure. Chambers, Kupka and Rose benefited from a residue of good will, and Methodists could take some satisfaction in having helped one of the independent churches which they felt were emancipating European immigrants from the institutions of the old world.

Most of the progress in the specifically religious side of the work at All People’s was made in the Sunday Schools. By 1908 classes at All People’s had enrolled 375 children, most of whom were European. [37] Nevertheless, Methodist achievements remained meagre in terms of Winnipeg’s total European population. and other Protestant denominations were doing even less. By 1912 All People’s shared the north end with four other Protestant missions (two Presbyterian, one Anglican and one Baptist), but the latter were recent creations and operated on a much smaller scale than All People’s. [38]

In the meantime, Woodsworth had lost interest in the purely religious objectives of his mission. Towards the end of 1909 his concern for the world to come finally died, and he became completely orientated to the task of Christianizing life on earth. “We want more to save our age than our nervous dying souls,” Woodsworth pleaded to an audience in Fort William, and he challenged the Church to secularize the religious aspects of its work. [39] In consequence the entire mission became less evangelical and less denominational than it might have been under another leader.

His secular drift was understandable in view of his daily exposure to north end social problems. From mission workers, outside observers and his own experience, Woodsworth learned of hundreds of families which were living in filthy, over-crowded quarters. In 1908 Rev. S. P. Rose, the pastor of Broadway Methodist Church in Winnipeg, selected thirty “specimen cases” which he felt would “bring the blush to the face of a young person.” “Our first visit,” he wrote, is to a woman of twenty-eight, by no means repulsive and not in appearance bad. She is morally sound asleep. She is separated from her husband, and has two children, infants, which are not his. Three beds, one table, one bench, two chairs, a stove, which draws badly, a few dishes, never too clean, constitute the furniture. A barrel, with a generous supply of liquor, is prominently in evidence. Smoke fills the house all the time. Eight boarders, all men, share this miserable accommodation with this woman and her two sickly children. Nine adults, three beds, and two rooms! And probably these men will help to determine at the next general election, who shall be Canada’s first minister! [40]

Religion was obviously only one part of the social background which led to such conditions. The Europeans were content with low living standards because of their peasant social origins, and they allowed their children to quit school at an early age because they were illiterate and lacked respect for education. As Woodsworth noted, immigrant shortcomings as citizens were also attributable to social and economic forces which were incidental to urbanization and over which the immigrants had little control. [41] High land values caused high rents which, in turn, placed decent accommodation beyond the means of the average newcomer. The Europeans were also affected by seasonal unemployment when winter ended the construction season. Small children were neglected because their mothers were forced to find jobs, and older children were taken from school because their parents were victims of poverty in its broadest sense: they could only obtain the essentials of life by having every member of the family working. Even the environment victimized the immigrant; the absence of decent recreational facilities contributed to his degradation via the pool room, the bar and the street. Finally, the children fell into harm’s way because their assimilation was too sudden and of the wrong kind. As Woodsworth explained,

Their parents are often hard-working devout people, who seem utterly at a loss to know how to account for their children’s misbehaviour ... The children within a few months of their arrival in this country have acquired a very fair knowledge of the English language, have dressed themselves in clothing which conforms to the latest Canadian fashions, and have plunged as far as possible into Canadian life. They soon come to regard their parents as old-fashioned and stupid, in fact as despised foreigners, with whom in their hearts they feel very much ashamed to be connected. The mother and father ... cling to the old home customs and the old home dress and the old home religion. To the boys and girls these are conclusive evidence that they are hopelessly stupid ... they resolve to strike out along their own lines. The low wages paid to the father necessitate the children going early to work ... Having made their money, they feel they have a right to spend it just as they please. The moving picture show and the dance hall, the pool room and the bar room are the most attractive places of resort. [42]

Woodsworth was careful not to make too much of the living conditions in the immigrant sections of the city. In 1908 he doubted that “the danger in the city is great at the present time. We haven’t the ’pauper class’ of the old land.” [43] The poor were mostly newcomers who had come to Canada within the previous three or tour years. Their poverty was temporary and would cease once they had paid their transportation expenses and had saved up enough to bring out their families. Moreover, like unemployment, overcrowded living conditions were to some extent a seasonal problem. What worried Woodsworth was the future. Conscious of what had happened in the older cities of Britain and the United States, he was worried that the temporary conditions in Winnipeg might become permanent. Although the immigrants were accepting substandard living conditions in order to win a foothold in Canadian life, some might fail to win a foothold and would reside in the north end tenement houses permanently. At that point, slums would begin. [44]

In an attempt to prevent slum conditions from taking root, All People’s developed a broad, non-denominational and humanitarian program to facilitate the healthy assimilation of the immigrant. By giving the European a knowledge of Canadian values and the English language, mission workers could increase his economic potential and make him a better citizen in the process. The state could not help the immigrant in all these ways. As the Manitoba Free Press noted, municipal authorities could enforce regulations against overcrowding, but only the churches could give the “foreigners” the higher Canadian values which would cure substandard social habits for good. [45] The educational and welfare services of the churches were also needed because the state was slow to provide these things. [46] Similarly, the churches could show areas in which state action was required in the future.

Under Woodsworth’s tutelage, secular activities at All People’s came to reach hundreds of people. In 1908 the mission reported that 138 children and 200 homes were contacted through the kindergarten work, 300 girls were enrolled in sewing and kitchen garden classes, 100 persons were learning English at night classes, 70 women were attending mothers’ meetings and other Europeans were reached through house-to-house visitation. [47] Although many of these activities antedated his superintendency, Woodsworth tried to give them new purpose. In contrast to the Fred Victor Mission in Toronto, where secular services were used as “bait for the gospel hook,” [48] Woodsworth intended them solely to improve social conditions in Winnipeg.

The permanent staff at All People’s numbered eleven in 1908, including two ordained men, two candidates for the ministry, three deaconesses and four kindergarten workers. Volunteers from Wesley College and from city churches supplemented the mission’s work force. The physical plant was still small. Neither the Maple Street nor the Bethlehem Slavic buildings were equipped for institutional work, and the former was now concerned almost exclusively with British immigrants. However, the European work was bolstered by the erection of two institutional buildings in 1909, one on Stella Avenue and the other on Sutherland Avenue. Each contained a swimming tank, a reading room, a library and gymnasium equipment, and was intended to provide an alternative to unsavory recreational outlets. [49]

In the autumn of 1909 Woodsworth began renting the Grand Theatre on Sunday afternoons for “People’s Forum” meetings. Save for hymns and the occasional address which appealed to Christianity in its broadest sense, these gatherings were devoid of religious content. Instead the forums presented guest speakers and discussions on a variety of scientific, economic and social questions which were of general public interest, and social activities were scheduled for the evenings. Examples of lecture topics were “the social segregation of vice,” “popular astronomy,” “the single tax,” “direct legislation,” “Shakespeare and his view of life,” and the “new social revolution.” Woodsworth intended a two-fold objective for these meetings: to break down the exclusiveness of the Europeans by bringing different nationalities together and to furnish moral instruction for people who were not reached by regular channels of the church. To judge by newspaper reports, the “People’s Forum” was a great success. Up to 1,200 persons, mostly English-speaking, attended the afternoon sessions. An average of 800 persons attended social functions in the evenings, many of whom were Europeans. [50]

Woodsworth’s greatest satisfaction probably came from the “settlement houses” which were established in 1912. Taken from British and American models, the settlement houses provided homes in the immigrant districts for “average” Canadians who were to set an example of how to live. Settlement workers were required to keep their homes attractive and were to devote one evening per week to social work. In this way, the houses would become islands of Canadian influence. To some extent, this purpose was served by Woodsworth’s own home, but the first real social settlement was North End House, which was begun in 1912 for the female staff of All People’s. Sutherland Court, a home for Wesley College students, was opened a few months later. [51]

Notwithstanding Woodsworth’s energies and accomplishments, All People’s was not entirely an extension of his ideas and ambitions. Although he provided the mission with a non-denominational, secular image, the older evangelical tradition survived beneath the surface. The following statement expressed Rev. Edmund Chamber’s ideas as to the purpose of the mission:

... there is social work needed, to acquaint [the foreigners] with their duties and privileges as citizens of a democratic country; on the other hand, there is a deeper and more important effort to be made to change the heart and point them to the glorious liberty of the children of God.

... confident in the power and prayers of His people, we can go forward knowing that His Kingdom will come in the hearts and lives of man as well as in their social environment.

With these objectives, Chambers held lodging house meetings and lantern services in a personal war against formalism and indifference. [52] Evangelical hopes also lay behind the settlement houses. Concerning Sutherland Court, Rev. William Somerville wrote that “instead of trying to cover a lot of ground as in the past, workers will go out after individuals-and will send converts out after others.” [53] Somerville was also critical of the secular format of the “People’s Forum” meetings; in a letter to Rev. James Allen in Toronto, he asked;

... what do you think of the way Rev. J. A. Woodsworth is spending his Sundays and the time and money of the Methodist people[?].

I have no desire to undervalue the work of Bro. Woodsworth for he has good organizing ability, nor am I anxious to go heresy hunting ... But I say All People’s Mission has better work to do, and I hope you will see to it that mere amusement will not be held out as the chief work for a Sunday evening. [54]

Finally, Rev. Arthur Rose argued that the mission should be concerned exclusively with evangelical work. Observing that the Poles and other ethnic groups were hardened against assimilation because of German and Russian efforts to de-nationalize them in the old country, he concluded that this knowledge should somewhat change our tactics in mission work. We have preached too much, through the press at least, the Gospel of Canadian citizenship. The result has been that these people, driven to us by denationalizing forces, have scented danger and have avoided us. We must therefore preach salvation to Polish people, and we shall find that not only will they more readily accept our teaching, but [they] will sooner become Canadian citizens and better ones. [55]

Despite the quiet survival of the evangelical tradition, Woodsworth continued to expand the horizons of the secular side of mission work. With the discovery that north end social problems were far too large for All People’s alone, he became a leading advocate of greater co-operation among the various charitable .institutions of the city. A central case file was recommended in order to eliminate overlapping. By combining resources, the charitable institutions could also aid the unemployed by establishing a labour bureau and by providing odd jobs at a wood yard and laundry. Woodsworth’s hopes were largely realized in 1910. The “Associated Charities” was formed to co-ordinate the activities of some fifty organizations, and it was considered by Woodsworth to be the best agency of its kind in Canada. The same year witnessed the formation of Woodsworth’s “League of Social Service Workers” which held weekly meetings to discuss specific cases, common problems and methods of work. [56]

Unfortunately, even in combination, the charities were no match for the immigration problem as long as the C.P.R. and other transportation companies continued to “dump” people into the country. “We are,” warned Woodsworth, “reaping and will reap for years the results of the reckless importation of thousands of poor, diseased, degraded and incapable immigrants.” Hence, while he was not “one of those who would attempt to stop immigration,” he nevertheless urged “that for the future welfare of Canada we do not permit people to come at a greater rate than we can care for them.” [57] Woodsworth also demanded more state action on behalf of the immigrants who had already come to Canada. The various levels of gov-

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from Ashdown to Rev. James Allen, the General Secretary of the Department of Home Missions, in 1909:

You are aware by figures the condition of affairs in the city of Winnipeg. I do not think you yourself or any of the Church authorities in the East realize fully what it means ... The amount expended here is altogether out of proportion to the necessities of the occasion, if we are to do what we should both as citizens and as Christians ... There was a meeting a short time ago in reference to the Stella St. mission ... the building will go on but it is only one building out of half a dozen that might go on ... Kindly remember that, if the heathen or the non-civilized are worth looking after in their own countries, surely the same must be true of them when they come to our land where their presence may be such a corrupting influence. [63]

Appropriately, municipal and provincial authorities acted on a number of social questions during Woodsworth’s superintendency. In December, 1912, Woodsworth commented favourably on the work of the Health Department and Park Board of Winnipeg, and he endorsed progressive steps such as the formation of a city planning commission, the extension of library facilities, the provision of city-supervised playgrounds, the purchase of public utilities by the city, the construction of correctional homes for juveniles and the passage of workmen’s compensation legislation by the province. [64]

Yet Woodsworth remained dissatisfied. Hundreds of families were subsisting on $50.00 per month when twice that amount was essential for a decent living standard. Bars, cheap theatres and brothels still flourished and caused many of the evils which All People’s was fighting. For want of an adequate child labour law, immigrant parents were keeping young children home from school to do housework. [65] Most serious of all was the lack of a compulsory school law for Manitoba. Concerning the constitutional entanglements which obstructed the necessary legislation, an anguished Woodsworth told the Manitoba Free Press “that a legal knot must never tie the wheels of progress. Law exists for the good of the people. The right thing can never be ultra vires.” He was further distressed at legal loopholes which permitted foreign-language instruction in the public school system. [66]

In June, 1913, Rev. J. S. Woodsworth resigned from his post at All People’s convinced that social reformers could not capture the Church in the battle for the city. [67] Although his own mission had become an effective instrument for social reform, the Church at large struck him as being curiously out of date. Twentieth century man could sin in ways of which Moses never dreamed, and, as one of his staff remarked, “the church speaks in no uncertain terms about a man whiffing a cigar; but she never condemns a man who clears a couple of thousand dollars in a couple of hours transferring a piece of property” - even though inflated land values were a prime cause of overcrowding and high rents. [68] Even when the Church spoke out on social problems, it seemed to lack influence over the membership. Woodsworth wondered aloud whether Christianity was merely “a beautiful idealism but absolutely unfitted to the rough and tumble of everyday life.” Given Methodist inaction on north end social problems he was not surprised that the Europeans were always on the “other side” in local option contests. [69] Notwithstanding the views of Ashdown, Hutchinson and others, the attitudes of other prominent Winnipeg laymen gave weight to Woodsworth’s pessimism about Methodist support for his work. In 1909, speaking to the Church’s commission on European missions in western Canada, George Moody, a Winnipeg barrister, declared that:

We have a large task in establishing our own mission work. Every mission grows into a big church and contributes liberally. The foreigners do not ... I feel it would be foolish to go into the foreign, Chinese or any other work ... while we have our own people neglected as they are, English speaking people who would rapidly develop into a great religious centre. I think it would be madness to sink money into such work and leave our own undone ... I say as a citizen and a resident I would not touch these foreign people. [70]

Nor did Thomas Ryan, a large wholesaler of boots and shoes and a former mayor of Winnipeg, show sensitivity to local problems when he pledged $30,000 to the Church’s Mission Plant and Extension Fund on the condition that the amount be spent entirely in China; Manlius Bull, a Winnipeg soap manufacturer, did the same for his pledge of $15,000. [71] Most laymen gave little to missions of any kind. Finally, Woodsworth’s doubts as to the relevance of his Church to social problems were confirmed in February, 1913, when the Winnipeg Trades and Labour Council, on which Woodsworth represented the churches, declined to name a representative to the Moral and Social Reform Council. The latter organization was, the labourers charged, the captive of the Winnipeg Ministerial Association which was, in turn, the tool of the capitalist classes. [72]

In 1913 a heroic secular career lay ahead of Woodsworth but he also left behind a considerable contribution. Under his superintendency, All People’s had become Canadian Protestantism’s major foray among the Europeans of Winnipeg. The mission operated on an annual budget of $25,000 in 1913, [73] of which 75% was spent on the European work. It is evident that All People’s worked effectively for social reform. Unfortunately, despite its consumption of human and financial resources which were badly needed elsewhere, the mission contributed little to the spread of Methodist religious values and to the Church’s growth as an institution.

As it happened, Woodsworth’s exodus from All People’s marked the end of an era for the mission. The following year witnessed the outbreak of war in Europe, a decline in the revenues of the Missionary Society and a period of retrenchment for the Church. Mercifully for Methodist social goals a major problem, the European immigration, was temporarily ended as well.


1. Home Mission Reports, United Church Archives, Toronto (U.C.A.) Rev. James Woodsworth to Rev. James Allen, December 1, 1908.

2. Christian Guardian, July 26, 1899. The early years of All People’s were recounted in an article by Rev. T. E. Morden.

3. Isaiah 5:7.

4. Christian Guardian, April 13, 1898.

5. Ibid., April 20, 1898.

6. Minutes, Manitoba and Northwest Conference (U.C.A.), 1898, p. 86. A colporteur was an unordained worker who was usually conversant in foreign languages. His job was to visit from house to house in foreign districts, distributing foreign language religious tracts and proselytizing. The tracts were supplied by the British and Foreign Bible Society and consisted of translations of Scripture.

7. Christian Guardian, November 23, 1898.

8. Ibid., July 26, 1899.

9. Annual Report, Missionary Society, (U.C.A.) 1901-02, p. xcvii.

10. Ibid., 1903-04, p. cviii.

11. Sutherland Papers (U.C.A.) Rev. J. H. Morgan to Rev. Alexander Sutherland, February 23, 1906 and July 23, 1906.

12. Ibid., Frank Dojacek’s monthly report, received March 31, 1905; Ibid., Rev. J. V. Kovar to Rev. Alexander Sutherland, February 21, 1906; Missionary Outlook, July, 1960; Missionary Bulletin, 1907, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 27-30. Woodsworth Papers, Public Archives of Canada (P.C.A.), Vol. 28, Superintendent’s Report, All People’s, 1907.

13. Woodsworth Papers, Vol. 29, clipping from Methodist Sunday School publication, the Banner, 1911.

14. Ibid., Vol. 28, Superintendent’s Report, All People’s, 1907.

15. Christian Guardian, January 3, 1906.

16. Sutherland Papers, Rev. Hamilton Wigle to Rev. Alexander Sutherland, December 16, 1905.

17. Computed from Annual Report, Woman’s Missionary Society, 1906-07, and Annual Report, Missionary Society of the Methodist Church, 1906-07, p. cxiii.

18. Sutherland Papers, Frank Dojacek to Rev. Alexander Sutherland, March 31, 1905.

19. Ibid., Rev. J. V. Kovar to Rev. Alexander Sutherland, February 21, 1906. In this letter, Kovar mentioned receiving calls from two Protestant Bohemian congregations in Saskatchewan. Perhaps this accounts for the resignation of the three Austrian workers between 1907 and 1908.

20. Annual Report, Missionary Society, 1906-07, p. cxiii; J. S. Woodsworth, Strangers Within Our Gates, Loc. Cit., p. 259. Bethlehem Slavic mission had a membership of fourteen, presumably consisting of Kovar and the Protestant-born Europeans. The Maple Street mission had sixty church members, but these were probably British immigrants.

21. Woodsworth Papers, 1907, Vol. I, Woodsworth’s letter of resignation.

22. J. S. Woodsworth, My Neighbour, Loc. Cit., p. 69. See also Grace Maclnnis, J. S. Woodsworth (Toronto, 1953), p. 38.

23. Toronto Globe, March 14, 1910. Henceforth, newspapers which are cited, other than the Christian Guardian, are taken from scrapbooks in the Woodsworth Papers.

24. Christian Guardian, September 18, 1907.

25. Missionary Outlook, June, 1912.

26. J. S. Woodsworth, “Some Aspects of the Immigration Problem,” The Young Women of Canada, December, 1909, pp. 147-8; this article may be found in Woodsworth Papers, Vol. 28.

27. J. S. Woodsworth, My Neighbour, Loc. Cit., p. 167. Missionary Bulletin, 1908, Vol. 5, No. 1, p. 153.

28. J. S. Woodsworth, Strangers Within Our Gates, Loc. Cit., p. 222.

29. Missionary Outlook, June, 1912; J. S. Woodsworth, “Some Aspects of the Immigration Problem,” Op. Cit., p. 147.

30. Epworth Era, Toronto, July, 1911; Christian Guardian, December 18, 1907; Ibid., April 1, 1908.

31. Christian Guardian, December 18, 1907.

32. Ibid., March 25, 1908.

33. Ibid., June 30, 1909; Annual Report, Missionary Society, 1908-09, p. 54.

34. Toronto Globe, April 13, 1910.

35. Allen Papers, (U.C.A.) Rev. James Allen to Rev. James Woodsworth, November 28, 1907; Missionary Bulletin, 1907, Vol. 4, No. 2, p. 426. Christian Guardian, June 30, 1909; Woodsworth Papers, “Organized Helpfulness,” Annual Report All People’s Mission, 1911-1912, pp. 21-2.

36. Manitoba Free Press, February 24, 1912; Woodsworth Papers, “Practical Christianity,” Annual Report, All People’s Mission, 1910-11, pp. 9-10; “Organized Helpfulness,” Op. Cit., pp. 21-2.

37. Annual Report, Missionary Society, 1907-08, pp. 64-5.

38. Woodsworth Papers, “Organized Helpfulness,” Op. Cit., pp. 9-10.

39. Fort William Herald, June 16, 1910.

40. Christian Guardian, August 19, 1908.

41. J. S. Woodsworth, My Neighbour, Loc. Cit., pp. 99-111; Manitoba Free Press March 12, 1909.

42. Missionary Outlook, July 1913.

43. Winnipeg Evening Telegram, December 8, 1908.

44. Manitoba Free Press, May 1, 1909. (Article by “J. A.”); Ibid., November 11, 1909; Ibid., May 20, 1909. (Article in the Woodsworth Papers written by someone other than Woodsworth.)

45. Ibid., April 3, 1909. (Article in the Woodsworth Papers written by someone other than Woodsworth.)

46. The Voice, Winnipeg, June 11, 1909. (Article by Woodsworth, written under the pseudonym of “Pastor Newbottle.”

47. Annual Report, Missionary Society. 1907-08, pp. 63-66.

48. J. S. Woodsworth, My Neighbour, Loc. Cit., pp. 310-321.

49. Missionary Bulletin, 1908, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 197-99. Woodsworth Papers, “Practical Christianity,” Loc. Cit., p. 3 & p. 5; J. S. Woodsworth, My Neighbour, Op. Cit., pp. 322-32.

50. Winnipeg North Ender, September 29, 1910; Ibid., March 23, 1912; Manitoba Free Press, May 27, 1911.

51. Manitoba Free Press, February 24, 1912, article by “Kilmeny”; Winnipeg North Ender, September 26, 1912.

52. Woodsworth Papers, “Practical Christianity,” Loc. Cit., pp. 10-11. Ibid., “Organized Helpfulness,” Loc. Cit., pp. 21-22.

53. Winnipeg Tribune, September 5, 1912.

54. Allen Papers, Rev. William Somerville, Cypress River, Manitoba, to Rev. James Allen, November 28, 1911.

55. Missionary Bulletin, 1911, Vol. 7, No. 3, p. 512.

56. Manitoba Free Press, December 4, 1907; Ibid., January 20, 1910; J. S. Woodsworth, My Neighbour, Loc. Cit., Chapter X.

57. Manitoba Free Press, March 12, 1909; Ibid., January 25, 1913.

58. Ibid., March 26, 1909; Winnipeg Telegram, December 4, 1909.

59. The Voice, Winnipeg, June 25, 1909; Manitoba Free Press, December 4, 1907.

60. J. S. Woodsworth, “Some Aspects of the Immigration Problem,” Loc Cit., p. 149.

61. Manitoba Free Press, March 12, 1909.

62. Derived from articles in the Christian Guardian; see also Home Mission Reports, Proceedings of the Commission on Foreign Missions in Western Canada, Winnipeg, August 28, 1909.

63. Home Mission Reports, J. H. Ashdown to Rev. James Allen, April 20, 1909.

64. Manitoba Free Press, December 30, 1912.

65. Ibid., December, n.d., 1911; this information was provided by T. Blatchford Ball, a young British probationer, who worked among British immigrants near All People’s; Ibid., March 21, 1910.

66. Manitoba Free Press, February 3, 1908; Ibid., August 2, 1912.

67. The Voice, Winnipeg, June 11, 1909.

68. Ibid., October 8, 1909, article by W. Metcalfe, who worked among the British immigrants.

69. Ibid., September, 29, 1911. Christian Guardian, April 13, 1910.

70. Home Mission Reports, Proceedings of the Commission on Foreign Missions in Western Canada, Winnipeg, August 28, 1909.

71. Ibid., Rev. T. E. Shore to Rev. C. E. Manning, December 23, 1912.

72. The Voice, Winnipeg, February 7, 1913.

73. Annual Report, Missionary Society, 1913-14, pp. 569-70.

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