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Mary Stewart’s Collect

As Women’s Institutes formed across the country in the early 1900s, one such member, Mary Stewart, wrote a prayer called the Collect Club for Women in 1904 to inspire a new generation of women to aspire to greatness.

Stewart felt that the new movement of women working together for a collective purpose was a fresh idea and decided that the group deserved its own meditation.

Women’s Institutes use the Collect throughout the world – it is the official creed for the organization.

The Collect

Keep us O Lord from pettiness; let us be large in thought, in word and deed.
Let us be done with fault-finding and leave off self-seeking.
May we put away all pretense and meet each other face-to-face, without self-pity and without prejudice.
May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous.
Teach us to put into action our better impulses straight forward and unafraid.
Let us take time for all things: make us grow calm, serene, gentle.
Grant that we may realize that it is the little things that create differences; that in the big things of life, we are one.
And may we strive to touch and know the great human heart familiar to us all, and O Lord God, let us not forget to be kind.

In the Spirit of Mary’s Collect

An outspoken WI member, called out both sexes, regarding a lack of equality for women, honouring the message of Mary’s Collect, just one example of an individual that took a stand for gender parity.

Elizabeth Roberts MacDonald, a member from Nelson, was a speaker supporting Women’s Suffrage. MacDonald quoted Women’s Suffrage as one of the greatest of the age’s onward movements.

She wrote:

“I wonder if the funny side of our being denied the vote has ever struck any of you?

One half of the human race has calmly arrogated to itself a right which belongs in equal measure to the other half, and the other half, with lamentable cowardice and mental apathy, has submitted! It is funny when you think of it, but alas, also tragic!

Century after century, we have shirked our share in vast departments of the world’s work, for what? For the false praise of those men who did not want the standards of living they had set up disturbed, and who therefore flattered the women who were content to leave their own intelligence underdeveloped, and to accept their opinions ready-made from a supposedly superior sex! And from such women, the women who will take no interest in any but their own small concerns, comes no help to the world, but only pettiness, gossip, spite and harsh judgement of those who strive to follow the larger ideal.”