The Mothers’ Union is a rapidly disappearing organization in North America, and Sooke has the last group in existence west of the Great Lakes.
It wasn’t always that way.
There were hundreds of Mothers’ Union groups in Canada and five active groups on Vancouver Island, helping young mothers learn the basics of how to care for and raise their babies, during the 1940s.
The groups were linked to the Church of England and the Anglican church and after their inception in England in 1876, their number grew quickly as one diocese after another formed their own Mothers’ Union.
But those were the days before public health nurses, readily available medical care, and a host of other services designed to help young mothers. It was also before social media and countless other resources were available to offer advice on how to be a good mother.
It was also during a time when churches were the beating heart of community life.
“It (the Mothers’ Union) started dropping off when people stopped going to church,” Liz Johnson, Sooke Mothers’ Union head, said.
“It started going down, down, down, just as the attendance at the church started to decline. Now there are a lot of grey heads in the church, but not as many young people.”
The Sooke Mothers’ Union now has only five members and it no longer provides guidance to young mothers. Instead, the group concentrates its efforts on participating in its one large, annual event – Apple Fest.
“We bake about 150 pies and put them up for sale. We donate the money we raise to the church and to a variety of charities,” Johnson said.
“That’s the main thing we still do, although there are some other activities we continue to do on a smaller scale.”
The Sooke Mothers’ Union members still serves food for the Sooke Philharmonic Society and the Ekoos Choir, and when a child is christened at Holy Trinity Anglican, they still create a banner with the child’s name that’s presented to the parents.
But the Mothers’ Union’s decline is not happening everywhere.
“The Mothers’ Union today still has more than four million members worldwide and it is particularly strong in Africa, India, and places like Myanmar,” Johnson said.
“Internationally, it’s still strong, but in Canada, I guess we’re part of a disappearing organization. But we’re going to hang on, and if there’s a need, we’ll be there to help.”