Prior to 1966, women were not allowed to be ordained as elders or ministers, but were not completely discouraged from working within the Church.

The main two ways women could have a role within the Church were as deaconesses and as women missionaries. In both of these roles, women could have a full career within the Church. Some women missionaries sought ordination through other denominations while serving as missionaries.


Ewart College/The Presbyterian Missionary and Deaconess Training Home

Ewart College

Click to enlarge. Ewart College.

Ewart College/the Presbyterian Missionary and Deaconess Training Home was a training school for deaconesses, and was founded in 1897. The purpose of the school shifted over the years, but overall its main purpose was to train women for every area of Church work, including as: foreign missionaries, deaconesses, pastor’s assistants, home missionaries, directors of religious education, Bible teachers, and voluntary workers in home Churches. The school ran successfully for 94 years, and merged with Knox College in 1991.


Knox College

Despite being unable to be ordained, many women still attended Knox College, obtaining degrees in Theology and Divinity. In 1925, Caroline E. MacLaren was the first woman to graduate from Knox College with a Bachelor’s degree in Divinity (BD). She also received a Post Graduate scholarship for finishing top of the class. Unable to use the degree to be a minister, she returned to teaching and later became a principal.

Caroline MacLaren

Click to enlarge. Caroline MacLaren, the first female graduate of Knox College, 1925.


Many of these women preached, taught and visited Churches and communities, ministering in every sense of the word –with the following exceptions -they couldn’t vote or speak in Church Courts, and weren’t ordained under Word and Sacraments.


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