Mary: “I’m a woman who stands at the midpoint
of four generations of women who have
cared deeply about what was called the
It represented a belief
that religion was not a private vision
but a message about responsibility
and concern for others.
We seek a community, a nation, a world, where
life is fair for everyone where children
are fed and treasured,
where there is safety and clean air and no war.
Virginia Woolf said in a writer’s diary
that she was inspired by what she called
If I could catch the feeling I
would, she said.
The feeling of singing of
the real world.
The sense that comes to
me of being bound on an adventure,
that is the reality.
Life is an adventure.
I can testify to that with every fiber
of my 88 year-old self.
The adventure has to do with love,
but also, most poignantly,
with the search for truth.
When you have truth you have meaning,
and when you have meaning you have it all.”
Eric: Well, when I said mother gave us the best
of ourselves I think she gave us
our humanity, our care for people.
Probably, by example, respect for
She helped build our self-esteem.
Nancy Ruth: As I traveled with her as a
child or a young woman she would
introduce me to a politic,
to a to an art form, to an expression of one thing or
another, and it was like tasting bits of her world.
Edward: Well sure I’d try to give her a big
a tender hug, but you just put my arms around her
but you just touch her, you know.
Rosario: It’s true that I develop self-confidence and
I learn how to face, and talk to people.
because she told me that um, I did not
come to Canada to just sit in a chair.
I have to face people and to be with people.
Eleanor: She was an usual woman.
And I do think it’s the combination of pain
and intrinsic character
Narrator: Mary Coyne Rowell was born into a family
that nurtured her passion for social justice.
Her parents, Nell Langford and Newton Rowell
were a devoted and influential Methodist couple
The conditions that they saw around them shaped their social and
They cared deeply and actively about the world of which they
At the same time they were committed to the voice
and the future of their country.
Margaret: Well I don’t think that
either Newton or Nell were what you’d
but they certainly were reformers.
Mary: “My interest in international affairs
came naturally, due to the activities of my parents.
My mother was president of the Canadian YWCA
and their representative to the World Organization,
and I attended World conferences with her.
These dealt with the conditions facing
immigrant women and women factory workers.
My father was in the national government
as Minister of Health and president of the Privy Council
during the First World War.
He was a Canadian representative
at the first meeting of
the League of Nations,
and early president of the
Canadian Institute of International Affairs.”
Nancy Ruth: She grew up in a formal household
where the dining room table conversation was of international
affairs and affairs of state in Canada
and political talk, and all this kind of
Mary: “We children when we were small had nursery tea and only came down for
when we were old enough to behave ourselves and sit quietly.
And I remember my father would often tell us
interesting points of legal cases that
he had been taking in court.”
Eleanor: She had at a young age wide scope of understand
and her relationship with her father was
really very tender and trustful.
So she must have grown up in an atmosphere where
she knew she was cherished, but that she
and these were almost equally strong forces within her.
Narrator reads Methodist Creed:
Do all the good you can, by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can, in all the places you can,
and all the time you can, as long as ever you can.
Narrator: The Methodist Creed was more than a call
It was a call to action in every part of life
for all of one’s life.
Mary’s grandmother wrote this letter to
her teenage granddaughter,
Mary’s grandmother: “I am thinking
lately about our grandchildren I do so
covet one or more for the mission guild
the need is so great
and the Lord who has given such advantages to you all,
wants laborers who will answer the call
saying: here am I – send me!”
Narrator: Her grandmother’s call resounded in a world
swept up in the torrents of change.
The missionary movement and colonialism
continued to transform Asia and Africa.
The First World War was raging in Europe.
Women were fighting for the right to
The Bolshevik uprising engaged
millions of people in the excitement and
the upheaval of revolution.
As Mary grew and developed, she was aware that she
must find a place for herself in this
world of change.
In fact, these issues
were to define her choices and her
activities throughout her life.
When she was 13 Mary was sent to a
private school in a quiet corner of
Quebec her parents expected her to learn
French to honor Canada’s two cultures.
Mary’s lifelong joy in female
friendships bloomed here.
The friends she made at school would later sustained her
through her darkest hours.
Even though Mary was far from home,
spreading her wings perhaps for the first time,
her mother reached out
reminding her daughter of her
obligations and responsibilities.
Mary’s mother, Nell:
“My dear Mary the fact that you are head girl,
I feel it is a real honour.
I know you will realize it is also a responsibility.
I hope you will use your position in the
best way at all times.
In so many little ways you can help build up the best in
your school and strengthen girls in taking the highest stand.”
Narrator: The pressure to
meet her family’s loving expectations
suddenly became even more urgent and
Eric: Mother’s favorite sibling, Lankey,
her elder brother, he died of a sports
injury at Victoria College.
And that was a great loss for her.
Lanky was sort of the
pride and joy.
Margaret: Lankford’s death
was a terrible blow to the whole family.
I know that Rowell didn’t talk much about
Langford had been expected to go into
law and then perhaps joined the firm the
father was in.
Nancy Ruth: The pictures of her with her brother
Langford are tender and just so touching.
I think it was a huge loss to her but it
was also a loss because she became the
Mary: “Why couldn’t it have been
A daughter can never mean what the
eldest son does to parents and so it
seems so useless for me to ever try to heal their wound.”
Narrator: The family had suffered this grief before.
When Mary was only 4 her younger brother Edward died in
Nell’s sorrows never entirely left her.
Mary’s presence was a comfort for her
Mary’s father, Newton: “Dear Mary, This is to wish you a very
happy birthday on Monday next.
It was indeed a glad day when you came
to us 20 years ago.
Each year has come with added pleasure and
satisfaction as we have watched you grow and develop.
You are now the joy and comfort of our home.
This past year has not been an easy one
for any of us but you have made it so
much easier for your mother and me by
your constant thoughts and care for us.
I cannot tell you all that you have meant
to us this year and I cannot tell you
all it is meant to me.”
Narrator: Still struggling with her sorrow Mary returned to her
- 1. Born Into the Social Gospel Movement
- 2. Victoria College and the Student Christian Movement
- 3. Returning to Home and Marriage
- 4. Mary’s Children and Her Commitment to Child Development
- 5. Mary’s Life with Harry
- 6. Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury Collections
- 7. Mary’s Support for Canadian Art
- 8. The Stuff of Women
- 9. Mary’s Political Values and Her Interest in China
- 10. Mary’s Later Years
- 11. A Summary of Mary’s Life
- 12. Credits
- Watch the Whole Film