Viola Daly


Viola Maud Daly, BA
Surname as Student: Daly
Education: United Church Training School
Graduation Year: 1932
Designated: June 07, 1933
Where: Montreal & Ottawa Conference
Denomination: United Church of Canada
  • 1901 - Born, November 9
  • 1966 - Retired
  • 1973 - Died, July 2

  • 1932-1937: Teaching, Board of Home Mission Appointment, Caughnawaga Reserve Day School, Caughnawaga, Quebec
  • 1937-1943: Teaching Board of Home Mission Appointment, Brandon Indian Residential School, Brandon, MB
  • 1943-1950: Teaching, Board of Home Mission Appointment, Caughnawaga Reserve Day School, Caughnawaga, Quebec
  • 1950-1961: Teacher-Missionary, Skidegate Indian Reserve, Queen Charlotte Islands, BC
  • 1961-1966: Teaching Day School, Board of Home Missions Appointment, Port Simpson, BC

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Viola Maud Daly was born November 9, 1901, in Rat Portage (now Kenora), Ontario. Her father, George Daly was a train engineer who was stationed there. He, as well as Rachael, her mother, immigrated from Enniskillen, Ireland to Winnipeg, where they met. According to the family story, they had been baptized by the same Bishop (Anglican), even sailed to Canada on the same ship, yet their paths did not cross until meeting in Winnipeg. They had 9 children; 7 girls and 2 boys. Vi was the youngest. Sometime before 1911, the family returned to Winnipeg and bought a house at 35 Alloway Avenue, in the Wolseley area, which remained the family home for more than 50 years. (Vi at age 4, Vi at age 7)

Vi attended Gordon Bell High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Manitoba in 1924[1], the only member of her family to have a post-secondary education. University attendance sky rocketed for women in the 1920s, but Vi’s grand niece, Pat (Bellhouse) Russell explained that Vi’s father was generally not in favour of women being educated. However, George was caught up in a small rivalry with a neighbor in the strongly middle class neighbourhood who was sending his son to University, so he acquiesced to Vi’s interest and allowed his daughter to go as well. A tea held in her honour by her sister, Kay Coates (the second sister to marry Harry Coates; Ruth having died in childbirth) was the subject of a news article in the Winnipeg Tribune[2]. Several social events hosted by the Daly’s are reported in the paper, suggesting that they were a socially active family.

Vi’s parents had arrived in Canada as Anglicans but sometime prior to 1901 they converted to Methodism.[3] The family was very active at Young Methodist so it is not surprising that after graduation Vi was a keen volunteer in the newly formed United Church. There is lots of evidence of her interest in McLean Mission, located on Alexander Avenue in a poor inner city neighbourhood with a predominantly immigrant population. Located south of the CPR tracks, it wasn’t in Winnipeg’s infamous “north end” but it was shaped by the same issues related to poverty and racism. Rev. J. M. Shaver, Superintendent of All Peoples’ Mission wrote of the area in 1925: “that district gives the Juvenile Court more candidates than any other district in the City.”[4] A new facility was opened in 1921 and the Mission joined the United Church in 1925, becoming McLean United Church, though it remained commonly referred to as McLean Mission. In 1935, McLean became part of the Central Winnipeg Mission, joining the congregations of St. Andrew’s Elgin Avenue and Point Douglas.

Shaver reports being proud of the work of the Deaconesses and the volunteers that they coordinated. To get a sense of the scope of the enterprise, there were 50 Sunday School Teachers and Officers at McLean in 1925.[5] Vi was one of those Sunday School teachers. Weekly attendance for Programs in 1923 was 296, with C.G.I.T[6] in addition, and this was reported to be in a start-up year with new staff.[7] Shaver declares that Sunday School work with the young “non-English, non-Protestant” children “is the most important work in our Missions, for it decides the attitude of the children toward the place and in a very great degree decides the moral tone of the future.” There was no reluctance at the time to declare that a goal of the work was to anglicize the children. British Protestantism was viewed as a superior expression of Christianity, and it was widely believed that to make good citizens, immigrants had to be converted to an expression of British protestant values and beliefs. Vi’s leadership extended into C.G.I.T, helping to host the Mother – Daughter banquet, where the Young Men’s Club waited on the tables[8] and at Christmas entertainments, for the Primary and Beginner’s departments, over which Vi was “in charge”.[9] The White Gift service, the same week, was attended by 333 children. As a volunteer, Vi was getting extensive experience planning and work with children which became the focus of her ministry as an elementary teacher.

Vi was also keenly involved in leadership at Fresh Air Camps; Camp Sparling and Camp Robertson, both at Gimli, Manitoba, on Lake Winnipeg. The Fresh Air Camps in Canada were modeled on English efforts in the mid-1800s to give the children a holiday away from the slum conditions of the city. Fresh Air Camps continue to this day, based on the same principles that children benefit from clean air and an outdoors experience. The Deaconesses of Winnipeg’s All Peoples’ Mission (Methodist) are credited with establishing the first Fresh Air Camp in Western Canada in 1905 in the then pastoral Norwood Flats area of Winnipeg, which the children reached by streetcar. The Fresh Air Camp movement in Winnipeg was likewise a response to the miserable slum conditions that existed in Winnipeg’s inner city where epidemics of typhoid were not uncommon into the 1900s. By 1907 the camp had been relocated to Gimli where it was known as All Peoples’ Gimli Camp, and later Camp Sparling (1926). In 1911, the Presbyterian urban mission of Robertson Memorial Institute opened another Fresh Air Camp nearby known as Camp Robertson, which became a United Church camp in 1925. The two camps were amalgamated in 1949 on the Camp Robertson site under the name United Church Fresh Air Camp when shore erosion made Camp Sparling unusable.[10]

Camps were, as they continue to be, an effective mechanism for developing church leaders. Viola worked along-side numerous trained Women Workers as well as a number of Deaconesses who undoubtedly influenced her in her vocational decision. “About 140 junior girls recently spent eight days at the fresh air camp at Sparling. [Deaconess] Ida Pitt, of Stella Mission, was in charge, assisted by … Viola Daly [and 11 other] leaders. Swimming, morning worship, story telling and nature study, sing songs and camp fires” were part of each day. [11] Present at the camps during the 20s and early 30s were Deaconesses Olive Shaw, Edna Pearson, Louise Mollenhauer (Dickson), Zaidee Stoddard, Emily Martin (Garrett) and Edith Sherwin, as well as Leah Bratt and Ida Pitt.[12] Vi worked with these two women at McLean; Ida from about 1922 to 1926,[13] and she assisted Leah, who served at McLean from 1927 to 1930.[14]

The camping experience extended beyond children with the inclusion of their mothers. In 1936, for example, when Vi was home for the summer months, she assisted with the leadership of a 10 day camp, this one for 120 mothers and children from St. Andrews Elgin Avenue and McLean United Churches, sharing leadership with Deaconess Ida Pitt.  (Vi at McLean in 1924)

Vi’s professional activities are not precisely known prior to her 1931 departure for the United Church Training School (UCTS), in Toronto.   For certain she was a substitute teacher and she may have taught full time. She appears not to have had work other than teaching.

Vi arrived in Toronto just as the full effects of the depression were settling in. UCTS was operating out of what was originally the Methodist building at 135 St. Clair Avenue West. With its four floors, a gymnasium and many meeting rooms it was much too large for the number of students and missionaries on furlough living there. An arrangement was made with Victoria University that a group of resident students for whom there was no room at Annesley Hall (the Victoria woman’s residence) would live there as well but that arrangement ended months before Vi arrived. In September 1931, instead of 67 residents there were 18 UCTS students and 3 transient missionaries.[15]

There was a lot of concern over the small number of students attending the program, which had declined since the early 1920s. It was felt that the Depression was not the only reason for this. There was also a decrease in employment possibilities, due in part to congregations having to pay higher salaries than in earlier days, although the women still received less than half of “ministers” pay. In 1933, the two Deaconesses at McLean Mission, appointed by the Manitoba Deaconess Board but financed by the Woman’s Missionary Society (WMS), were each receiving $1,000 a year and that was indicated to be in line with what the Women Workers at All Peoples’ Mission were receiving.[16] It is noted in 1934 that an across the board reduction of worker’s salaries is to be instituted. (A typical ordained minister’s salary was $2,000, along with the provision of a manse, but he was expected to be supporting a family.) Increasingly, there were options for women in social work, health care and teaching. Raising the standard of admission to the school and requiring higher levels of academic and professional training implied that the women gave up other possibilities in order to undertake work in the church. Did Viola have a plan in mind when she entered the school? Did she envision being an inner city missionary like the women she knew so well? Did she always intend to continue to be a teacher? to work with Aboriginal people? or did the circumstances of the day give direction to her future?

Winnifred Thomas, Secretary for the United Church’s Committee on Deaconesses and other Women Workers declared about Vi’s class:

… the comparison should not be numbers but the contribution a class can make. Last year’s contribution with its six graduates, three of whom were university graduates, must rank very high. (UCTS Board Minutes, December 4, 1932)[17]

The small group of students meant that there was a strong sense of community, of shared vision and commitment to the deaconess and missionary movements. The students had their own Educational Committee and they committed to a close relationship with the Student Christian Movement (SCM) and Student Volunteer Movement (SVM). There were picnics and wiener roasts and class parties, including some with the other two training schools (Anglican and Presbyterian) and with Emmanuel College (United Church seminary) students. The relationships established during their years at the Training School continued through the rest of their lives.

Women who had a prior degree were only required to take one year at UCTS, rather than the standard two year program. The typical first year curriculum in this era consisted of: Old Testament; New Testament; Christian Doctrine; Church History; Sociology; Religious Education; Public Speaking, Dramatics and Voice Culture; Gymnasium, Recreation and Games; and, short courses such as Singing and Music Appreciation, First Aid and Home Nursing, as well as intensive courses on the work of the Boards of the Church and the WMS. There was a maximum of 18 lectures hours for any student, exclusive of the short courses.[18]

Viola completed the one year “General Course of Biblical Study prescribed for students of The United Church Training School” and graduated May 3, 1932. She was awarded the Scholarship for General Proficiency of $25.[19] Following the customary year of probation as a Deaconess Candidate she was designated as a United Church Deaconess by Montreal and Ottawa Conference on June 7, 1933.[20]  (Deaconess Certificate)

Students graduating from the program had several options; among them: to seek employment independently in a congregation; to sign on with the WMS, who appointed women to missions across Canada and around the world in ministries that the WMS managed; or, to take a position under the United Church’s Board of Home Mission.[21] Vi, with her interest in teaching in Canada, choose work under the Home Mission Board. The WMS operated fewer of the United Church Indian Schools, so that may account for her decision. However, during this time period it was customary for graduates to make a decision between being a WMS Worker OR a Deaconess. Many Deaconesses later in their careers would be employed by the WMS but less commonly was a new Deaconess hired on with the WMS. Vi would have been very familiar with women in both streams through her years of volunteer activity in Winnipeg, which strengthens an argument that she had a sense of being called into the diaconate. It was a life long calling. Since all of her work was in Indian Schools, she was always paid by the Federal government, but the schools were managed by the church.

After graduation, Viola was appointed in the summer of 1932 by the Board of Home Mission as a teacher at Caughnawaga Indian Day School, in the Mohawk community of Caughnawaga (now called Kahnawake) near Montreal, in Quebec. She taught grades 1 and 2 until 1937, and returned to the school in 1943 and taught for 7 more years. The day school was financed by the Federal Department of Indian Affairs: In 1936 she was paid $900.[22] It was the standard that the Department paid full time women teachers. It is difficult to assess if this was a competitive wage. The average teacher’s wage, outside of the Federal system, varied by grade taught, amount of experience, level of teacher training and gender, and, wages dipped everywhere during the Depression. However, there is extensive evidence that church officials running Indian Residential Schools complained to the Federal government that they could not attract good staff because of budget provided. This salary though, is in the same ball park as that of a woman church worker at the time.

Caughnawaga was not a residential school, and Viola boarded with Mr. and Mrs. Napoleon Johnson.[23] A picture of Viola wearing Mrs. Johnson’s “Indian” regalia suggests that they had a close relationship.[24] Also among Viola’s photographs is a group shot of the congregation of Caughnawaga United Church. She became an active member there.

At the time of Viola’s death, her sister, Margaret, received a card from Doris Montour, Official Board Secretary of the United Church in Caughnawaga:

We were saddened to hear of Viola’s passing and we felt fortunate that she had paid us a visit recently. Viola had a very useful and pleasant life. She was a very hard worker and had many friends. She was also a very dedicated religious person and was happiest when giving her time to others. Her name was mentioned at church service on Sunday and a prayer for her family. Her ‘Explorer & C.G.I.T. Groups’ and many former pupils will remember her with fondness.[25]

Home for a summer vacation in 1934, an account of Viola’s work in Quebec appeared in the Winnipeg Tribune. She made presentations on her work at least twice that summer.[26] Missionaries were encouraged to talk about their work, a strategy the United Church used, but it was the WMS who were experts at employing it to keep the money coming in. Viola had pictures to accompany her presentation, not surprisingly, as she seems to have had an interest in drama and theatre and probably understood that pictures can speak better than words. Indeed the photos made an impression on the Tribune’s unidentified reporter who wrote:

As long as the children in Miss Daly’s pictures were dressed in western clothes they looked Canadian enough; in Indian costume they looked more like their own race, though even then some of them were but little nut-brown specimens of Winnipeg children who have spent the holidays at the beach.   One little mite of four, Helen Skye, was photographed in both kinds of dress. Her brief Indian skin frock, with its beaded embroidery made her look as though she were “dressing up” – playing Indian.[27]  (Photo of girl in 1937)

The perspective of the writer, seen here and throughout the article, demonstrates commonly held notions of the time, among them that “Indians” were a European created caricature belonging to a former time. The level of ignorance of the writer was predominant in the day. Vi is asked, “what do they eat?”, “what do they do?” She responds, as quoted in the article, matter-of- factly: they eat “everything you do”. She describes the steel work the men do on skyscrapers, ending with, “like builders everywhere they have suffered during these dark days [the depression].” From a contemporary viewpoint, her responses, trying to normalize the people she lives among, may not seem that significant, however, the information that Vi and other church workers brought to light was important. It is part of the both/and reality of the missionizing undertaken by the church; the church contributed to the ill effects resulting from colonialization of First Nations, but church workers also had relationships with First Nations people, respected them and carried some messages into the public discourse that challenged prevailing views. Sadly, the views of this 1930s writer continue today, more robustly than one might imagine given all that has happened in the last years to bring awareness among Canadians.

The article also demonstrates a prevailing theological view of the time. The author writes, “The minister of the [Caughnawaga] Church is Rev. Thomas Whitebean, a Christianized Indian who now ministers to his own people. Pictures Miss Daly showed of him revealed him to be a stalwart Christian.” The implication here is that because Rev. Whitebean looks so British, he appears as good a Christian as one could be. It is more than 40 years later before the United Church formerly apologizes for confusing culture with gospel: “We confused Western ways and culture with the depth and breadth and length and height of the gospel of Christ. We imposed our civilization as a condition for accepting the gospel. We tried to make you be like us.”[28]

In between her years at Caughnawaga, from 1937 to 1942, Vi taught Elementary at the Indian Residential School in Brandon, Manitoba, again in a Board of Home Mission appointment. It is not known why Vi moved west. Often Deaconesses and other women workers, who were always single because married women were forced to resign, were called upon to return home to care for aging or ill family. But Vi had single sisters living at home with her parents. Maybe she just wanted to be closer to family. Digging further into the records related to the Caughnawaga school could shed light on her decision.

The Brandon Indian Institute, five kilometres northwest of Brandon, in southern Manitoba, was established in 1895 by the Department of Indian Affairs at the persistent urging of the Methodist Church, which assumed management of the school as it was begun.[29] The church wanted an industrial residential school for children from north of Lake Winnipeg, where most of their missions were established. The location, more than 1,000 km from the missions, was intentional: children would be better assimilated when far from home and culture. The Institute concentrated on vocational rather than academic training up to the 1950s. Located on rich farm land, the school farm was a successful agricultural venture. During the time that Viola taught at what was by then known as the Brandon Residential School, it still operated on the half day model, in which students were in the classroom for half a day and working the other half, either in agricultural or domestic chores. (Vi on school steps)

Gerald Bird, the 1940-41 Valedictorian, as perhaps expected of a valedictorian, commends the staff for the good years of his education “in this institution which has been “home” [quotations original] to us”[30]: recalling the parties, concerts, sports events and other pleasures shared with the staff.

The Yearbook account of the ‘Svengalis’, a C.G.I.T. marionettes group tutored by Vi and another teacher highlights one of the pleasures at the school. The troupe performed throughout the school year, including at nearby churches, for the Normal School and the Business and Professional Women’s Club, as well as for in-house entertaining at Christmas and the year end Banquet.

“I know”, Gerald Bird writes, “that if we should weigh the trials and the disappointments against the pleasures and the benefits of our stay here, we would find that the pleasant times far surpass the unpleasant.” It is not clear, however, that the staff concurred.  (Brandon School Staff photo)

The Brandon school experienced many difficult years, but beginning in the late 1930s and especially during the war time, it was particularly bad. Vi worked under two Principals, Rev. J. A. Doyle, 1929-1941 and Rev. Roscoe Chapin who took over in 1941 until he was relieved of his responsibilities in 1944. In 1940-41, eight staff members left, in addition to the departure of the Principal[31]. This was half the staff.[32] Instead of improving the situation, Chapin was credited with making them worse. Although it is not known what Vi experienced at the school she left after Chapin’s first year to return to Caughnawaga. Her family recall her leaving was prompted by her discomfort with how the school was being operated. Did her critique began with Chapin or had it begun under Doyle?

In addition to chronic problems of underfunding, resulting in cutting corners on services for the children, there was a series of runaways and behaviour issues. Chapin was unable to handle the crisis. When he expressed regret about his lack of ability in a 1944 letter to Rev. George Dorey, Superintendent of the Board of Home Missions in Toronto, the response was to assure him it wasn’t his fault. This quote from the letter demonstrates the tenor of the times, not least of which was the patriarchal atmosphere:

… if the war had not come along with all its upheavals, everything would have turned out well. I happened to see the report that the Mounted Police turned in on the young fellow who was the cause of all the trouble – I forget his name, – but from the report it is quite evident he has been in trouble on a number of occasions and is a regular bad lot. In normal times he would not be wandering round the country causing trouble. The next thing I want to say is that, if you could have had the kind of staff that normally is obtainable, even the difficulties which have arisen might have been obviated. Anyone who knows the facts is fully aware that you ought to have as Senior Teacher a young man of physical strength and vigour. Now, of course, all these men are in the army or in the services somewhere – and you have to get on as best you can. … So do not let us worry any more about Brandon – or at least let somebody else do the worrying, if any has to be done.[33]

The letter was meant to be pastoral, so its assuring nature might be expected. Church leaders do however, offer critique about some staff at some times. From this letter, and others of the era, it is clear though that the role and respect given women teachers was second rate. They were not seen as leaders. Vi, who was a capable and caring woman might not have found it easy to work in this kind of environment and if she had other concerns about the administration and care of the students she might have decided it best to return to the day school in Quebec. Unfortunately, Brandon School records held by the United Church are thin for this period. When the records on Indian Residential Schools that the Federal Government is to submit for public access through the University of Manitoba National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation are accessible it may be possible to learn more about Vi’s work at the school.

In 1950, when Vi left Montreal for the second it, it was for the far west coast, indeed to the most westerly charge in the United Church, and an appointment as a Missionary/Teacher on the Skidegate Indian Reserve on the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia (now called Haida Gwaii) where she remained until 1961. Again, she was employed by the Federal Government, with a full time job teaching, but expected by the United Church to assume leadership in the Skidegate Mission work.

Vi had lots of ministry companions on Haida Gwaii. Jessie Oliver[34] was the WMS appointed Community Worker, beginning in 1950 until she was replaced by Joan Caldwell in the summer of 1957. Jessie and Joan were graduates of the United Church Training School. In their annual reports to the WMS, Joan names Vi’s involvement in the mission work directly, Jessie infers it, so these women would have known each other fairly well. Rev. L.C. Hooper was the resident minister, until 1955. In 1956, Mr. J.D. Murdoch, a layman, and his wife, identified only as Mrs. Murdoch, arrived. In November, 1955, a United Church hospital was opened at Queen Charlotte City and with it came additional church personnel as some staff were attracted to service there because it was a church hospital.

The Skidegate field consisted of three main points and one smaller one. The oldest community was Skidegate Mission, a Haida village of about 300 people at the time. The Haida language was still spoken by the older people. Jessie Oliver remarked in her annual report, “It is a real experience to hear these people pray and sing in their own tongue. They are a kindly people with real concern that their children have the opportunities that are open to every Canadian. To hurry is not part of their nature and I think that they are all the better for it.”[35]

Queen Charlotte City, which was also a village despite its name, was a white community of doctors, nurses, teachers, business people, loggers and fishermen. Sandspit was a combined airport and logging camp. Jessie Oliver observed, “In these two villages the things of the world have the first place in the lives of many of the people. In both of them the children’s groups are the most active and they are our hope for the community.”[36] Skidegate was a very small village which had grown up around the wharf. In her 1956 report Jessie Oliver commented, “Many times the question is asked, “How do the two races get along together?” The answer with few exceptions is, “Very well.” There is no difference. Actually the fact that there are two races is very seldom thought about or mentioned.”[37]  (UCC Hospital c1955)

Vi’s responsibilities, beyond her full time teaching job, included Girls’ work (C.G.I.T. and Explorers), church school and leading summer camp. The United Church expected a lot of its staff and the CE work that Viola carried out was expected.

During the summer of 1961, Vi moved further north and onto the mainland for her final appointment to the Indian Day School in Port Simpson, British Columbia (now called Lax-Kw’alaams).

Methodist missionaries begin their missionary work with the Tsimpsean First Nations in Port Simpson in the early 1870s. Port Simpson began a mission of the Methodist Church in 1874. At the time it was a community of 3,000 people, a hub for trade and transportation on the coast. Early converts to Methodism, the Dudowards, a local Tsimshian family had already began a day school with over 200 students. A few years after their arrival Emma and Thomas Crosby began first a girls’ home followed by a boys’ home, not originally a school, but a home for children Emma considered to be “lost”. Some of the original attraction to Methodism faded among the indigenous people when the church proved powerless to fulfill its commitments to intervene with the government on land claims settlements. It was further extinguished for many by the church’s encroachment into education. The Homes never became large schools, and a day school continued in the community. By 1946, the attendance in the homes had dwindled and they were closed. While Vi arrived long after the closure of the Homes, this history was still shaping the community. The United Church mission, always bigger than the Homes, continued after their closing, so Vi was not alone as a United Church representative in the community.

A membership card for the Epworth League is one of Vi’s personal papers that survived to be deposited in the Archives. The Epworth League, a Methodist youth organization, is still active in Methodist churches around the world. In Canada, after 1925, it was largely displaced by other programs reflecting the new denominational mix of the United Church. But the League, which was very strong along BC’s coast, continued to thrive, and is still known in Lax-Kw’alaams.[38] It is very likely that Vi was involved in leadership in this group while she was in the community.

Viola, having reached the age of 65, retired in 1966 and returned to Winnipeg. She moved in with two sisters still at 35 Alloway. Characteristic of her organizational abilities she helped her older sisters to get the health care they needed and worked with them to move them into suitable housing and the home was sold. Viola moved into an apartment on Cornish Avenue, on the edge of the West Broadway district of Winnipeg.

She again became active in the Winnipeg community, attending Young United Church and developing a social circle, particularly through her connection with the University Women’s Club, conveniently around the corner from her apartment.

The Club was a member of the International Federation of University Women (IFUW). In June, 1965, while still in British Colombia, Vi attended the Federation’s Convention in Australia[39]. It is not known what Canadian University Club she connected with during this time frame, perhaps the Vancouver Club. The University Women clubs were progressive organizations. In 1965, for example, the IFUW reported on a special contract with UNESCO to prepare a study on the contribution of the progress in women’s education to social and economic development, and they reporting submitting completed studies to the UN Commission on the Status of Women: Occupational Outlook for Mature Women, and, Access of Girls and Women to Education and Society.[40] The Clubs offered social connection and activity, but that was available in other organizations; Vi must have been interested in the role of women in society to invest herself in this way.

Vi enjoyed other travels in her retirement, as she had all her life, using her summer vacations from teaching to see other parts of the world. Her grand neice and nephew recall that “Auntie Vi” would often have interesting gifts to give to them, sometimes from her travels or from the rather exotic locations where she lived.

Vi’s retirement coincided with the decision of the United Church to withdraw from its involvement with Residential Schools. The remaining schools, which had largely become residences only, were turned over to the government in 1969. Brandon was the only residential school that Vi taught in, (Port Simpson, originally a residential school, closed in favour of the day school in 1948) and she died long before the legacy of the schools, and the church’s involvement in Indian education, came under deserved public scrutiny. Yet, there were voices raising concerns and asking serious questions about the place of non-Aboriginal people and the paternalism of both day and residential schools, certainly by the 1950s, and church staff were aware of these voices. Without any documents written by Vi, it is impossible to know if she wondered about her own role in Indian education. Whether it was heartfelt or only spoken out of a sense of obligation, the Brandon Valedictorian does credit the school and its staff for creating a, “New Order of Things” in contrast to the world that the graduates will be entering, which is a “boiling seething, mess of hate, prejudice, and destruction.”[41] The story of Indian Residential Schools, and church involvement in education, is complicated and must be viewed with an appreciation for the context of the times.

Clues point to Vi’s sense of call to the diaconate as being deep and valued. As described earlier, she had choices at the time of her training, and becoming a Deaconess was deliberate. She was in attendance at several of the bi-annual Deaconess Conferences. When her trip to Australia is noted in the 1965 Association minutes, it is in the context of providing a reason for her not attending the meeting that year. She retained her blue deaconess ribbon in pristine condition and it too survived beyond her death.

Viola died July 2, 1973. After suffering a stroke, she was in a coma for a few weeks before she died. She is buried at Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg.


This biography was written by Caryn Douglas in 2015. Thanks to David Bellhouse and Pat (Bellhouse) Russell for their assistance.

A pdf version is available, contact us


[1] University of Manitoba, Bachelor of Arts Diploma, 1924; Viola Daly Fonds, United Church Archives, Winnipeg

[2] Thursday, May 15, 1924, The Winnipeg Tribune, p 6.

[3] 1911 Canada Census

[4] Report of Deaconess Work in All Peoples’ Mission and McLean Mission, 1922 – 1923, to The Deaconess Aid Society of the Methodist Church from Rev. J. M. Shaver, June 1, 1925. United Church Archives Winnipeg.

[5] McLean United Church Sunday School 1924 – 1925 Photograph, United Church Archives Winnipeg, mclean_001_OS.

[6] Canadian Girls in Training

[7] Report of Deaconess Work in All Peoples’ Mission and McLean Mission, 1922 – 1923, to The Deaconess Aid Society of the Methodist Church from Rev. J. M. Shaver, June 1, 1925. United Church Archives Winnipeg.


[8] “MacLean Holds Mother and Girl Reunion Dinner”, Saturday, May 12, 1928, The Winnipeg Tribune, p 48.

[9] “McLean Mission has Christmas Entertainments”, Saturday, December 27, 1930, The Winnipeg Tribune, p 35.

[10] Fresh Air Camp Series Description, 520-1; United Church of Canada Archives Winnipeg

[11] “Junior Girls Stage Little Red Riding Hood”, Saturday, July 27, 1929, The Winnipeg Tribune, p 43.

[12] UCCDeaconessHistory.

[13] Annual Methodist Deaconess Society Reports, Years 1922 to 1925, United Church of Canada Yearbook, Deaconess Appointments, 1926

[14] United Church of Canada Yearbook, Deaconess Appointments, Years 1927 to 1930.

[15] Gwyn Griffith, Weaving A Changing Tapestry The Story of the Centre for Christian Studies, unpublished early drafts.

[16] Correspondence regarding McLean Mission and the Manitoba Deaconess Board 1926 to 1937, , Series 528/1Fellowship of Professional Women (Winnipeg Unit), United Church of Canada Archives

[17] Gwyn Griffith, Unpublished chapter drafts.

[18] Gwyn Griffith, Weaving A Changing Tapestry The Story of the Centre for Christian Studies, The Centre for Christian Studies, 2011.

[19] United Church Training School Graduation Ceremonies, May 3, 1932. (found on

[20] Book plate inside bible presented to her upon the occasion, Viola Daly Fonds, United Church of Canada Archives Winnipeg.

[21] The WMS was what is sometimes described as a “para-church” organization, independent of the United Church, but affliated.

[22] Annual Report of Department of Indian Affairs for the Year ended March 31, 1936. Ottawa, 1937 (downloaded from Collections Canada, 2014)

[23] Teacher Home for Vacation Tells Interesting Stories About Her Indian School”, The Winnipeg Tribune, Saturday, July 14, 1934 p 7.

[24] Viola Daly Fonds, United Church of Canada Archives Winnipeg

[25] Information from David Bellhouse (Margaret’s son) in an email February, 2015. Card dated July 9, 1973

[26] Untitled column, The Winnipeg Tribune, Saturday, July 14, 1934, p 10. Announcing a St. Stephen’s-Broadway United Church WMS meeting the following week where Viola would “tell of her interesting mission work among Indians”.

[27] Teacher Home for Vacation Tells Interesting Stories About Her Indian School”, The Winnipeg Tribune, Saturday, July 14, 1934 p 7.

[28] 1986 Apology to First Nations People made at the Sudbury General Council, United Church of Canada

[29] The Children Remembered: The United Church of Canada Residential School Archival Project,

[30] Brandon Indian Residential School Yearbook 1940 – 1941, Viola Daly Fonds, United Church of Canada Archives Winnipeg

[31] Brandon Indian Residential School Yearbook 1940 – 1941, Viola Daly Fonds, United Church of Canada Archives Winnipeg

[32] Two left to join the military, so perhaps their departure had other motivations.

[33] From George Dorey, Superintendent, Board of Home Missions, Toronto, to Rev R.T. Chapin, Brandon Indian Residential School, April 28, 1944. Series 509/2/2-5, Box 509/2/2-5-2, Brandon Residential School Correspondence, United Church of Canada Archives Winnipeg,

[34] In 1962 Jessie became a Deaconess, as did a number of her WMS colleagues when the WMS was ended and their work transferred to the Board of Home Mission.

[35] Missionaries Reporting, The Woman’s Missionary Society of the United Church of Canada, Toronto, 1955, p 96.

[36] Missionaries Reporting, The Woman’s Missionary Society of the United Church of Canada, Toronto, 1955, p 96.

[37] Missionaries Reporting, The Woman’s Missionary Society of the United Church of Canada, Toronto, 1956, p 204-205.

[38] Email from Sharilynn Upsdell, former United Church minister in Lax-Kw’alaams, December, 2014.

[39] Minutes of the National Conference of Fellowship of Deaconesses and Other Women Workers in the United Church, June 25-29, 1965.

[40] International Federation of University Women,

[41] Gerald Bird, Valedictory Speech, Brandon Indian Residential School Yearbook 1940-41, Viola Daly Fonds, United Church of Canada Archives Winnipeg.