Rev. Dr. Norah Louise Hughes

Nora HughesNorah Hughes was the first woman to be ordained by BC Conference. She was born in Portsmouth, England, in 1905. She immigrated to Canada with her family as a teen in 1921, and settled in the Abbotsford area. After attending normal school, she taught elementary school for a short time, and then entered the University of British Columbia. There, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Science and a Master’s degree in Biology.

“I can well remember my feelings as I read the news that the United Church of Canada had voted to admit women to ordination as ministers,” she said. “I knew, even as I read, that here was what I had to do, though I fought the idea.” She became a candidate for the ministry the following year (1937), much to the dismay of one of her biology professors, who told her she was cut out for better things.

Hughes attended Union College, earning her Bachelor of Divinity in 1940, and was the fourth woman to be ordained in the United Church. She later obtained a PhD in church history from the University of Chicago. Her many charges including: Hazelton-Skeena River (1940-1941); Chase (1941-1942); Ashcroft (1945-1947); Hatzic (1947-1949); North Surrey (1949-1952); Fernie (1953-1957); Victoria West (1957-1960); Salt Spring Island (1960-1965); and Langley (1966-1970). Throughout, she had offers of positions as “assistant minister”, but she reportedly refused them all, choosing to act in a congregation on her own.

Norah Hughes was also the first woman to serve as President of BC Conference (1962-1963). In 1964, she was given an honorary doctorate from Union College. After retirement, she attended Langley United Church. She died in on July 28, 1989.

Newspaper headline announcing first woman minister in British Columbia.

Transcript of Interview

Recorded: 1975

Duration: 22 minutes

Rev. Dr. Norah Louise Hughes