New donations add to our collection of artifacts and our collection of stories. The stories are often as interesting as the artifacts. Here are a couple of those stories.
Some of the artifacts donated to Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) shed light on all aspects of life and death. Mary Luewen recently donated a burial frock or “chemise”, which is a dress resembling a nightshirt. The burial frock is part of an old funerary tradition, considered scriptural by many Mennonites, who cite Revelation 3:4 “…and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” The frock was worn by the deceased until a white funeral shroud and coffin could be made. It could be passed down to the children of the deceased, with the intention of being used again, or kept by the family as a way to remember the departed.
Luewen’s donated burial frock originally belonged to Maria Toews (b. 1857). She married Jacob B. Krueger in the year 1879. According to the donor, the frock was first worn on the wedding night, and last worn at one’s funeral. The embroidery would seem to support this, as it contains her initials and “1879,” the year of her wedding. Maria died in 1889 while giving birth to her sixth child. Her daughter, also named Maria, was six years old when her mother died. The frock was passed down to her daughter, Maria (Toews) Voth. Maria Voth never wore it, but kept it. Burial frocks like Maria Toews’ were commonly used in Russia but less so in Manitoba, especially after the 1930s when funeral services moved away from the home and into established funeral businesses.
Normal School Certificate and Diploma
Another recent donation to MHV’s collection is a diploma and certificate from a Normal School, or teachers training college, in Morden. It was donated by Leona Rempel. These artifacts reflect the occupational opportunities and limitations placed upon Mennonite women in the early 1900s. Teaching was a profession that unmarried Mennonite women were encouraged to pursue. Helena Hiebert was born in Winkler, Manitoba and attended Normal School in Morden. She graduated at the age of 20 in September, 1913. Helena’s first teaching assignment was to a small country school in the Pembina Hills. She moved on to a schoolhouse of approximately 40 children in Winkler. After receiving an offer from Steinbach she decided to continue her teaching career there. At that time, the village of Steinbach did not encourage extended schooling beyond age 15. Here she met a friendly car salesman by the name of Jacob Toews (a grandson of the pioneer of 1873, Cornelius Toews). They married in 1921. At that time in history, marriage ended a woman’s teaching career. Helena’s daughter was born in 1924. In 1929, Jacob passed away very suddenly. In this school district at that time, neither married women nor widows would have been hired as teachers, so life became difficult for Helena and her family. Helena spent her days into old age making a living having boarders or foster children. She passed away at age 88.
We would like to thank all donors for entrusting their artifacts to MHV. Like these two artifacts, each object can illuminate a unique aspect of Russian Mennonite history in Manitoba. If you are interested in donating to the collection, we would be pleased to discuss your artifact with you.
Calendar of Events
September 7 – Fall on the Farm (10:00-5:00)
September 9 – Heritage Classic Golf Tournament at Quarry Oaks
September 20 – Supper From the Field fundraiser