On Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015, a Vesper Service was held at Victoria Presbyterian Church on Carpin Beach Rd., Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of CGIT. Canadian Girls in Training (CGIT) was established in 1915 by the Young Women’s Christian Association and the major Protestant denominations to promote the Christian education of girls aged 12 to 17.
With the leadership of Diane Marshall, Marilyn Conway and fellow committee members, the Vesper Service on Dec. 22, 2015, was a lovely way to mark the 100th anniversary of CGIT. The Service was well attended by alumnae and friends of CGIT from local community of faiths, including, The Baptist Churches, The Anglican Churches, The United Churches, and Presbyterian Churches.
Rev. Deone L. Slabbert (minister for Victoria & St. Paul Presbyterian Churches), and Susan Slabbert (music director), along with the choir of Victoria Presbyterian Church, shared their gifts through ministry, in the Vesper service.
Winnifred Thomas, a New Brunswick Methodist and graduate of Mount Allison University; Olive Ziegler, graduate of the University of Toronto; Una Saunders, an Oxford University graduate who went on to become the general secretary of YWCA Canada; and Constance Body, an Anglican, and eventual general secretary of the YWCA, were the founders of CGIT in 1915.
Initial support was provided by the YWCA, along with the Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches. By the end of its first decade, 75,000 girls had received CGIT training. By 1933, there were chapters in 1100 communities across the country, with a total membership of 40,000. The group later became a program of the Canadian Council of Churches’ Department of Christian Education, and was an independent organization by 1976. Today, it is supported by the United Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and the Canadian Baptist Ministries, and numbers approximately 2,000 members in 150 groups right across Canada.
CGIT strives to provide mid-week activities, rooted in contemporary Christian values. The CGIT purpose is: “As a Canadian Girl in Training, under the leadership of Jesus, it is my purpose to Cherish Health, Seek Truth, Know God, Serve Others and thus, with His help, become the girl God would have me be.”
CGIT members wear a distinctive uniform, called The Middy, which is a white and blue shirt. As early as the 1920s, CGIT groups were in the business of teaching girls about the importance of female influence in home, work and community settings.
CGIT promoted higher education and leadership skills for women and acted as a catalyst for what would later be identified as the women’s movement. Ontario Lieutenant-Governor (1974-80) Pauline McGibbon, Canada’s first female Foreign Affairs Cabinet Minister Flora MacDonald (1926-2915) and labour leader & activist Grace Fulcher Hartman (1918-1993), all credited CGIT as influential to their lives.
The late historian, Margaret Prang (1921-2013), wrote ‘In the Girl God would have me be’, “the CGIT movement helped shape a vision of our country and the world, and of themselves as citizens, for many Canadian girls.” Margaret Prang was born in Stratford, Ontario and received a B.A. from the University of Manitoba (1945) and an M.A. (1953) and Ph.D. (1959) from the University of Toronto. She joined the Department of History at the University of British Columbia in 1959, and during her career at UBC was promoted from assistant professor to associate professor,and later to full professor. She also served as department head from 1974 to 1979, and1982-83.