10020 – 103 Street, Edmonton
When Ukrainians first arrived in Canada, the Methodist and Presbyterian churches became actively involved in their assimilation, or Canadianization. The Methodists’ Home and School for Ruthenian (Ukrainian) Girls, opened in Edmonton in 1909 and initially focused on young women working in the city, often as domestic servants, and later on girls pursing their education.
Early 20th-century Ukrainian immigrants, who were Catholic or Orthodox in religion, arrived without priests. Partly to fill the vacuum, partly to provide educational and medical services and partly to convert the newcomers in the interests of assimilation and nation building, the Methodist, Presbyterian and, after 1925, United churches established missions across the West. Activity in Alberta focused on the countryside east of Edmonton, where the missionaries operated hospitals and, to reach the young, residential schools. They also worked among Ukrainians living in Edmonton. Today’s Bissell Centre is a legacy. In 1909 the Methodists opened the Home and School for Ruthenian (Ukrainian) Girls on Rice Street (101A Street), moving to larger premises on 103 Street in 1912 as space needs grew. Both buildings were near McDougall Church, which supported the undertaking. While few single Ukrainian women immigrated in this period (more came between the wars under work contracts), only a small portion of them chose Edmonton and they had to support themselves. They were joined by homesteaders’ daughters either seeking an alternative to farm life or sent to the city by families depending on their wages. Most found employment as domestic servants or in local hotels, restaurants and factories. The Home and School for Ruthenian Girls provided a place to stay, to take English lessons and learn middle-class Canadian housekeeping practices. In return the missionaries expected the young women to pay a modest fee for room and board, attend nightly worship services and accept supervision of their social lives. By the mid-1920s, reflecting Ukrainians’ investment in education, more and more residents were attending high school or receiving business training. Financially hurt by the Great Depression and buoyed by the promise of the YWCA to continue its work among new Canadians, the Home and School for Ruthenian Girls closed in 1937. The building no longer stands.