- 1902 - Born, June 22
- 1984 - Died, August 21
Born at Starbuck, Manitoba on June 22, 1902, Floris June Olsen was the youngest in a family of six children. She taught school at Golden Valley School, Cartwright School and Dayton School, all in rural Manitoba, before entering the 2 year Deaconess Program at Manitoba College, Winnipeg, in 1929.
Floris’ gifts for leadership were apparent at the College. The Vox Wesleyanna (yearbook) of 1931 notes, “She has taken an active part in college life and as head girl of Sparling Hall [Women’s Residence] she proved her executive ability.”
Upon her graduation, Floris, a Deaconess Candidate, took a position at Knox United Church in Calgary. It was customary at the time for women to serve one or two years as a Candidate prior to being Designated. By 1932 she appears on the list of Deaconesses, so she was probably designated by Alberta Conference in 1932. She continued at Knox until July, 1936 at which time I believe she returned to Manitoba and to a career outside the church.
Deaconesses were lay women and their vocational identity was dependent on being employed by the church. In this way the Order was significantly different from Ordination, which was bestowed upon people for life, regardless of their employment. When women left the employ of the church they were disjoined from the Order.
Floris does not explain her own circumstances in the book she wrote about Starbuck families. Perhaps she was unable to find employment, as positions for Deaconesses disappeared in the lean depression era. She might have come home to be closer to family. It was common for the unmarried daughter to be responsible for the care of parents. Sometimes women moved away from church work because the pay was very poor, and better opportunities could be found in the secular world.
For whatever reason Floris joined the federal civil service and made a mark for herself professionally and in her community. She worked for 30 years with Canada Manpower, retiring as Regional Coordinator of Women’s Employment for the Prairie Region. She served as Chair of Trades and Professions for the Manitoba Council of Women. She was a member of St. Stephen’s Broadway United Church, Starbuck United Church and the Business and Professional Women’s Club. In 1973, on behalf of the Starview Manor Society, she wrote a booklet entitled Starbuck Seedlings: A History of Starbuck and Vicinity. She died at Winnipeg on August 21, 1984 and was buried in Starbuck Cemetery.
Floris is a “Memorable Manitoban”, according to the Manitoba Historical Society, where she is remembered as a teacher, civil servant and historian.
Written by Caryn Douglas, August 2014.