Through a Canadian stained glass window – Woman’s Auxiliary Founder, Roberta Elizabeth Odell Tilton

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The window’s inscription reads: In 1885 Roberta E. Tilton started the Woman’s Auxiliary, a notable concept that developed and rendered such splendid service to the Anglican Church of Canada.

by Abby Mulvihill

Roberta Elizabeth Odell Tilton was born in 1837 and died in 1925.

She was born into a world in which women did not have the vote and were not legally persons.

Women could not have a bank account, and men ran the churches.

Although a Unitarian by birth, Roberta became an evangelical Anglican when she married John Tilton, who became a high ranking federal civil servant in Ottawa.

She had a certain social position in Ottawa, and used this as a stepping stone to the advancement of women’s roles in Canada as a whole.

In 1885 she co-founded the Woman’s Auxiliary (W.A.)—much later this became the Anglian Church Women—with the permission of (most of) the bishops of the Canadian Anglican Church. The W.A. was envisioned as a support for the Board of Foreign and Domestic Missions.

By the time of her death, the W.A. had 70,000 members and 3,000 branches.
Roberta worked in other spheres than just the W.A.

She was involved with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Girls’ Friendly Society, the Mothers’ Union, the Orphans’ Home of the City of Ottawa, as well as many other causes.

Personally, there was sadness in her life. Her one adopted child did not live long.
The Church of the Ascension in Hamilton does not have the only Canadian stained glass window commemorating her life.

St. Mary’s Kerrisdale Vancouver, B.C. also has an effort in her memory. Gilroy Stained Glass (Vancouver) apologizes for the look of this window: “The only image we had is a photo of her looking very stern and by her body language slightly peeved with the photographer.”

Abby Mulvihill, one of the newer members of the Church of the Ascension Hamilton, has been involved with the Fundraising Group and the Sunday School, as well as sharing the responsibility of being a projectionist at Sunday services.

As we celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, we look back at the role of the church as told through stained glass windows.

The Church of the Ascension Hamilton has 10 stained glass windows in their Chapel of the Holy Spirit dedicated to Canadian Anglican pioneers. For more information about the windows go to ascensionchurch.ca.

The Niagara Anglican will feature others in the coming months.