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Image by Devon Hawkins

In Memory of

Jean Rhode Mahn

(nee Whittaker)


Athens Messenger

Moose Jaw Funeral Home



Significant material has been published on the founding and growth of Briercrest Bible Institute, yet most books and articles feature roles played by men, with comparatively little attention to the women involved. In this thesis I ask the question, "What were the experiences of women in the early days of Briercrest College and Seminary?" then take an oral history approach to find answers. Oral history searches out lived experiences not necessarily found in standard historical documents. Scholar Linda Shopes understands it “as a self-conscious, disciplined conversation between two people about some aspect of the past considered by them to be of historical significance and intentionally recorded for the record.” This thesis presents four autobiographical narratives that arose from such conversations with five women who were involved in Briercrest prior to 1960. 


Chapter 1 introduces my own background and process for choosing this topic. Chapter 2 surveys an interdisciplinary cross-section of literature about Briercrest, women’s history and psychology, Mennonite history, and delimits the epoch from WWI through the appearance of feminism. Chapter 3 explains oral history as discipline and method, exploring the researcher’s role. Chapter 4 presents the results: the women’s narratives. Chapter 5 highlights themes, demonstrates preliminary analysis, discusses what I have learned, suggests further research and practical applications, and asserts the value of the research.


In the founding of a school that grew into a town, women were usually outside the classrooms and offices, yet they had immeasurable influence, especially in the wider community. In fact, it seems their particular roles provided necessary balance in establishing the new place. 

"That's the Way it Was":

Oral Histories of Women from

Early Days of Briercrest College & Seminary

by Colleen Taylor

Briercrest Seminary, MA Thesis, August 2007

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