Cressman, Margaret Emily Georgina White (1914-1987)

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Margaret White Cressman: church and community leader, particularly among women, and gracious hostess, was born 13 August 1914 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to Christopher White and Margaret (Stewart) White. She had one younger brother, Gerald. Margaret was baptized in the Philpott Tabernacle, part of the Associated Gospel Churches denomination. She married Eben Cressman on 28 June 1941 and joined the Wanner Mennonite Church in January 1943. The Cressmans had two children, Margaret (Marnie) Derksen, the eldest, and a son, Paul. Margaret Cressman died 2 December 1987 in Cambridge, Ontario and is buried in Wanner Mennonite Church cemetery.

At the Wanner church, Margaret was active in the women's sewing and mission circle and in 1945 helped organize an evening group for church and community women who could not attend a daytime group. Margaret was secretary, then president and later also president of the senior group. Her skills at the local level moved her to leadership of the Ontario Women's Missionary and Service Auxiliary (later Commission) for 10 years, first in 1960 as secretary, then vice-president and then president.

Margaret's leadership at Wanner also included organizing her girls' Sunday school class into a club that welcomed community girls, initiating a card system for the church library, and being the first woman elected to the church council, serving as its secretary.

In the community, Margaret conducted a neighbourhood Bible club, provided religious instruction in the local school, served on the board of the YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association), the Maple Grove Women's Institute as president and historian and, with her husband, was involved in the Maple Grove Farmers Club.

When Self Help Crafts (later Ten Thousand Villages) came to Ontario, Mennonite Central Committee Ontario (MCCO) director Doug Snyder asked Margaret to take charge. She totally reorganized the sales plan. From packing her car trunk with stock and taking it to churches and communities and receiving, processing and delivering orders, she bought crafts from around the world from the head office of Self Help Crafts in Akron, Pennsylvania and sold them directly to customers from space at the MCCO office building. Sales rose sharply!

When her husband retired from teaching in 1972 and accepted a three-year Mennonite Central Committee teaching assignment in Zambia, Margaret reluctantly agreed to leave behind her first grandchild and all those tasks which gave her so much joy and go to Africa. She had no work permit nor salary but busied herself relating to people, doing office work, engaging with a girls prayer group and helping with crafts, scripture memorization and Bible stories. Using her hosting skills, Margaret built trust among students and staff.

Back in Ontario in 1976, Margaret, still energetic and vivacious, spoke at retreats and chaired a committee operating MCCO's new used clothing shop as well as doing a weekly shift in the store.

A gifted leader, Margaret Cressman was also a model of spirituality and a loyal and treasured friend.


Roth, Lorraine. Willing Service: Stories of Ontario Mennonite Women. Waterloo, Ontario: Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, 1992.

Derksen, Marnie (Cressman). Interview by Ferne Burkhardt. Kitchener, Ont. (May 2014).

Author(s) Ferne Burkhardt
Date Published January 2015

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MLA style

Burkhardt, Ferne. "Cressman, Margaret Emily Georgina White (1914-1987)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2015. Web. 4 Jul 2020.,_Margaret_Emily_Georgina_White_(1914-1987)&oldid=130375.

APA style

Burkhardt, Ferne. (January 2015). Cressman, Margaret Emily Georgina White (1914-1987). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 4 July 2020, from,_Margaret_Emily_Georgina_White_(1914-1987)&oldid=130375.

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