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1915: Loss and Achievement: The Gruchy Family

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Arthur Gruchy was eager, intelligent and able. An honours student, Arthur intended to enter the ministry and was noted for his “indomitable courage, calm assurance and cheery optimism.”1  He enlisted for service in the war; fellow students imagined that, 10 years hence, they would write ‘The Gruchiad,’ an epic celebrating “the heroic deeds of Colonel Arthur Gruchy, V.C., during the war of 1915, and his subsequent work with...the great Canadian Renaissance movement.”2

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In reality, Arthur was anxiously awaiting active service.  He wrote the Sheaf in March 1915 complaining of inactivity, but added “let us possess our souls with patience; for we may yet drink our fill of fighting, and that shortly too.”3

By the next edition, the Sheaf included Arthur’s obituary.  Such was his character, they wrote, had he lived and achieved his dream of the ministry they were certain “he would in his day have become one of the great leaders of his church in this Province.”4   He was the first casualty among the University students who had enlisted. 

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But the Gruchy family was still destined to make its name in the ministry.  Lydia Emelie Gruchy, Arthur’s sister, earned a BA from the University in 1920.  Three years later, she had earned a BD: affiliated St. Andrew’s College noted that with her, they had “the distinction of possessing the only woman graduate of a Presbyterian theological college in Canada.”5  Her graduation forced the church to consider ordination for women.  Lydia quietly served as a lay minister in a variety of rural congregations while the controversy raged for 13 years. 

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The church finally noted she “proved that there is no work too hard, and no duty too exacting for her.  She comes after a probation far longer and trials far more testing than have been given the candidates for the ministry of the sterner sex.”6 On 4 November 1936 in Moose Jaw, Lydia became the first woman in Canada to be ordained a minister in the United Church.  In 1953, she became the first Canadian woman to receive an honorary doctor of divinity degree.

Related Collections

E.H. Oliver fonds, MG 6.
Saskatoon Women’s Calendar Collective fonds, MG 133.


1915a: Arthur Gruchy.  The Sheaf, April 1915, vol. 3, no. 6, p. 274
1915b: University Company, 28th Battalion.  The Sheaf, April 1915, vol. 3, no. 6, p. 202.
1915c: Lydia Gruchy. The Sheaf, April 1920, vo. 8, no. 5, p.361.
1915d: Lydia Gruchy giving sermon.  SWCC fonds, photos 1976.


1. The Sheaf, “A Loss and a Challenge,” Nov 1914, vol. 3 no. 2.
2. The Sheaf, “Some Dream,” April 1915, vol. 3, no. 6, p. 263.
3. The Sheaf, "From Ex-Editor Gruchy," April 1915, vol. 3, no. 6, p. 218.
4. The Sheaf, "Obituary," Oct 1915, vol. 4, no. 1, p. 8.Keystone (yearbook) 1923, p. 149.
6. The United Church Observer, "Women who made history." vol. 145 no. 7, Jan 1975, p. 33.

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