This project focused on researching approximately 100 liturgical textiles in the collection of St. John the Divine Anglican Church in Yale, BC. St. John the Divine is one of the oldest churches in the province, and many of the handmade textiles appear to date back to the time of its origins in the 1860s. The Church is now de-sanctified and designated as a Provincial Heritage Site.
The Church was associated with the All Hallows Anglican girls school, which operated in Yale from 1884 to 1920. Part of the research concentrated on the production of textiles for the Church by the faculty and students of the school. Research included an analysis of the technical construction of the textiles to help determine their origins. The study of the St. John the Divine collection was contextualized within a broader history of the production of Anglican liturgical textiles, particularly in Western Canada. Comparisons were made between the Yale pieces and those from other sites. Oral history interviews with members of Anglican textile guilds, sanctuary committees, and descendents of students from All Hallows School helped fill out the research.
An exhibition entitled "Enduring Threads" travelled to Trinity Western University in the spring of 2003 and was on display at St. John the Divine Church in Yale throughout the summer. Part of the exhibition travelled to the Maltwood Gallery at UVic in the fall of 2004, as part of the larger exhibition resulting from the CURA project “A Woman’s Place.” A catalogue entitled Enduring Threads: Ecclesiastical Textiles of St. John the Divine Church, Yale, British Columbia, edited by Jennifer Iredale, was published in 2004 to coincide with the annual spring opening of the Yale Museum and a new permanent exhibition of the textiles mounted at the St. John the Divine Historical Site. The catalogue is available from the museum.
A special Fall 2002 issue of BC Historical News entitled “Womanly Arts: Expressions and Creations by Women in Victorian British Columbia” was published for Women's History Month in October and featured articles on the Yale textiles by UVic students Rachel Edwards and Natasha Slik. Rachel contributed an article entitled “Unravelling the Past,” and Natasha contributed an article entitled “Yale's Ecclesiastical Textiles.”
Interest in this project continues. Jennifer Iredale gave a paper, “Enduring Threads: Church Linens Made for the Church of St. John the Divine, Yale, BC,” at the annual conference of the Women's History Network of British Columbia, Sept. 31-Oct. 1, 2005, at the Burnaby Village Museum, Burnaby, BC.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this kind of work is when we are able to help someone find a piece of their own history through our research. In September, 2005 the Yale and District Historical Society received the following letter from W.R. Steen of Vancouver, BC:
"Thank you for the Enduring Threads book. While threads would not ususally excite me your book nevertheless proved to be a valuable document for me. ... My mother Georgina Lasher and her sister Beatrice were the children of a Cariboo Pioneer, George Lasher. He apparently lived common law with a First Nations woman, Theresa Walker the mother of the two girls. She died when the children were very small and George took them to All Hallows for schooling. My mother, Georgina, had an accident when she was about 4 years old and her right leg amputated. The outcome of this was that the distraught father left the children to the school's care and they never saw him again until adulthood. ... My mother in the course of her travels after leaving the school, lost all memorabiliia she had. So we never had any pictures. I have examined many pictures of girls at the school in the hopes of identifying her through evidence of her handicap. Your book has provided that. On page 16, the bottom line a sentence begins: At the "Indian School" Gina Lasher and Elsie Histko received prizes for needlework in 1906, - Pursuing my habit of examining photos I have spotted my mother and her sister. They are the two little girls front centre of the picture on page 17. If you look closely you can see that the little girl on the right (looking at the picture) is leaning on a crutch and the righ tleg is missing. The date of the picture, 1895, is right, since she was born in 1890. The little girl to the left (dressed similarly) is her sister Bea."
Thanks to Sister Violet and All Hallows in Ditchingham for providing the photograph that has allowed Mr. Steen to see his mother when she was a child and to know that she became a fine needlewoman by the age of 15.