The Year 1885 saw the beginnings of an organization of women whose aim was to support the mission and ministry of the Anglican Church in Canada. This was known as the Women's Auxiliary to the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Church of England in Canada - the W.A. Although before this time the presence of women in the church was obvious, their active participation was not recognized until, under the leadership of Mrs. Roberta Tilton, seven devoted churchwomen approached the Board of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, to request that women be given a place in the missionary work of the church. They were given authority to organize the formation of a "Woman's Auxiliary". The first branch was formed In Ottawa on April 21, 1885. As a result of this decision other W.A.'s were formed in the growing parishes of Eastern Canada.
The motto chosen for the W.A. was "The love of Christ constraineth us," and the hymn of that title is still used as the "ACW hymn". Through the years, the goals of the W.A. expanded from promotion of missionary work to include work among the natives and immigrants who came to Canada early in the century, work among interred Japanese during World War II, work with seniors and the homeless. The W.A. was organized into a National group with diocesan divisions, and within each diocese there were local parish branches, which sponsored groups such as Little Helpers and Junior & Girl's Auxiliaries. Over the years the Junior & Girl's Auxiliaries were disbanded due to lack of interest, and although a few parishes still have Little Helpers, their role is different from the original intent.
|The diocesan Women’s Auxiliary pictured in Ladner in the 1920s (Diocesan Archives)|
The Board of the Diocese of New Westminster W.A. was formed in 1904, with a few dedicated women meeting in a small room in the basement of Christ Church Cathedral. In early British Columbia this organization was an essential part of the building of the Anglican church. Many a set of Parish Council Minutes notes "referred to the W.A." when the necessity arose for more funding - in St George's that ranged through adding an altar rail, building a porch, paying the cleaning lady, and finding funds for the Priest's stipend! The W.A. held teas, ice cream socials, and bazaars to raise these funds.
It is interesting to note that St George's first Christmas bazaar was held in 1908 as a competition where each member displayed her own "fancy work" for sale - the two members who apparently did not enjoy "fancy work" served teas - and needless to say, in good Anglican tradition, raised a considerable amount of money!
By 1947 the scope of W.A. work had broadened and it became an auxiliary to the whole church. With real foresight, the Diocesan Board decided to purchase a house with funds donated by members in memory of those departed. W.A. Memorial House was purchased in 1950 and became our central meeting place and work room. It provided accommodations for visiting missionaries on their way to the Far East, and as a base when they returned and needed to visit local churches to talk about their work.
By 1966, recognizing that women were not an "Auxiliary" to the church, but were in fact an integral part of the church, the name was changed to Anglican Church Women.