Helen Gordon (nee King) was one of the early women graduates of the University of Manitoba. After graduating in 1896, she spent a year at the University of Edinburgh. She was the daughter of Rev. Dr. John M. King, first principal of Manitoba College, and belonged to a small group who believed women should have the same educational opportunities as men.
While Reverend Gordon was the one who was identified with the church in his pastoral role, Helen also made a significant contribution to the life of her congregation. She served on the Presbytery, the Conference Branch and the Dominion Board of the Woman’s Missionary Society of the Presbyterian and United Churches.
The Seven Children of Charles and Helen Gordon
All seven Gordon children graduated from the University of Manitoba, some with post-graduate degrees, and worked in fields of public and community service, locally, nationally and internationally.
King is best known for his work with the United Nations Secretariat where he worked as Human Rights and Information Officer and served with a number of U.N. social and cultural agencies around the world. He was a founder of the Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF), which preceded the New Democratic Party of today, the author of several books, a member of the Order of Canada, along with many other accomplishments.
Mary’s education began at the University of Manitoba and continued for a year at Oxford with her brother King, followed by attendance at Library School in Toronto. She was a talented pianist and singer, and was a well-known community worker.
Gretta took postgraduate studies in Toronto and later returned to Winnipeg with her family and became involved in daycare, first as a volunteer, then as executive director of the Stella Avenue Day Nursery. Today, the Flora Avenue daycare bears her name and the Manitoba Child Care Association established the Dr. Gretta Brown Scholarship after her passing.
Lois graduated from the University of Manitoba and taught at the prestigious Miss Edgar and Miss Cramp’s School for girls in Montreal. She served in the Canadian Women’s Corps during World War II, rising to the rank of captain. After the war she obtained a Master’s Degree in Social Work and served as an executive in the Toronto Children’s Aid Society for 23 years. She returned to Winnipeg in 1996.
Ruth was well known in Winnipeg’s music and amateur theatre circles. She was an accomplished pianist of national reputation and worked with the Winnipeg Little Theatre, Winnipeg Ballet, Manitoba Music Festival and was also associated with CBC’s School Broadcasts for 30 years.
Marjorie worked for the British High Commissioner’s Office in Ottawa and Washington, was vice-consul for Canada in New York, and was the first principal of St. Hilda’s, a new women’s college at the University of Melbourne in Australia.
Alison graduated in Home Economics and continued her studies in nutrition at the Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto. Alison returned to Winnipeg, married and raised four children. Like her mother she was closely associated with the United Church.
While this generation has now passed away, their decedents have kept the Gordons’ legacies alive through their contributions as writers and people who serve the community in many walks of life.