Janzen, Helen (1908-1992)

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Helen Janzen, 1974. Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives Photo

Helen Janzen: educator and peace advocate; born in Gretna, Manitoba on 25 January 1908 to Abram and Katharina (Friesen) Janzen. She graduated from Mennonite Collegiate Institute (MCI) in Gretna, received the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1936, a Bachelor of Science (Home Economics) in 1940, and a Bachelor of Education in May 1958.   

Helen Janzen taught elementary school for 10 years in the Gretna district school and 10 years in secondary school in West Kildonan and Winnipeg, where she developed a complete curriculum of home-making, while continually taking university courses. In 1951 the Manitoba Department of Education appointed her to be the supervisor of home economics in the province. This was a new position and entailed many responsibilities including visiting schools throughout the province. Having taught in both urban and rural settings, helped her in this job. She remained in this position for 21 years until retiring in the spring of 1972.

In retirement, Helen Janzen remained extremely active. She remained active in the Home Economics Association, which granted her a Life  Membership. She served as the first woman on the Mennonite Central Committee Canada executive.  She was a board member of Southern Manitoba Radio Station C.F.A.M., a member of the Manitoba Interfaith Council Board, and she served as membership secretary of the local Winnipeg chapter of the United Nations Disarmament Committee.  She passionately advocated for peace, circulating pleas for disarmament. She participated in the Peace Walk in Winnipeg in 1982.  Her commitment to the traditional Mennonite peace position went beyond mere wishful thinking, as she did much reading and volunteering at the local UN office. The issues most important to her included poverty, ecology, women's concerns and nuclear proliferation. The province of Manitoba presented her with a Meritorious Service Award.

Helen was very involved in the Mennonite Church, being a member of Charleswood Mennonite Church and serving on their pastoral team in the 1970s. She was also a member of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada Resolutions Committee at one time. She was an active member of the Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, translating Gerhard Wiebe’s Causes and History of the Emigration of the Mennonites from Russia to America (published in 1980). She wrote and published her own memoirs in a book entitled Memories in 1985.

Helen Janzen died on 29 February 1992 in Winnipeg.  Her life had been so radically changed during her final year, when cancer forced the amputation of her right leg, but she accepted this painful experience without complaint, preferring to remember her many years of health with its rich and rewarding experiences. Her life and passing were marked by a funeral service at Bethel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg and a burial at the family plot in the Gretna cemetery.


Koop, Doug. "Mennonite and More" Mennonite Mirror (March 1983): 4-5.

"Helen Janzen" [obituary], Winnipeg Free Press (2 March 1992).

Janzen, Helen, translator. Causes and History of the Emigration of the Mennonites from Russia to America (Winnipeg, Manitoba: Manitoba Mennonite Historical Society, 1980.

Janzen, Helen. Memories. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Helen Janzen, 1985.

Archival Records

Mennonite Heritage Centre archives (Winnipeg, Manitoba): Helen Janzen fonds.

Author(s) Alf Redekopp
Date Published 19 November 2009

Cite This Article

MLA style

Redekopp, Alf. "Janzen, Helen (1908-1992)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 19 November 2009. Web. 3 Aug 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Janzen,_Helen_(1908-1992)&oldid=138869.

APA style

Redekopp, Alf. (19 November 2009). Janzen, Helen (1908-1992). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 3 August 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Janzen,_Helen_(1908-1992)&oldid=138869.

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