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Ruth Derksen Siemens

Ruth Derksen Siemens, author

Ruth Derksen Siemens is a first-generation Canadian of Russian Mennonite descent, who was born in Vancouver, and also lived in a traditional Mennonite village in the Fraser valley.

A scholar with a particular interest in historical documents and their socio-linguistic implications, she is an instructor of writing and rhetoric at the University of British Columbia. Her PhD in the philosophy of language (University of Sheffield, UK) investigates a corpus of 463 letters written from former the Soviet Union by Russian Mennonites. Some of these letters appear in her edited work Remember Us: Letters from Stalin's Gulag (1930-37).

Along with producer-director Moyra Rodger, Ruth was the co-executive producer of a documentary film, Through the Red Gate, which traces the journey of the letters from Russia to an attic in Carlyle, Saskatchewan. presents images of some original letters, their translations, photos of the writers, artists' exhibits as well as the one-hour documentary.

Another publication, Daughters in the City: Mennonite Maids in Vancouver (1931-61) records the experiences of young Mennonite maids of the two Girls' Homes in Vancouver (visit

[See the cover of this book here: Mennonite Maids City-Cover.pdf

More about Daughters in the City

In the early 1930s, young Mennonite women - mostly adolescents - began to arrive in Vancouver, seeking work as domestic servants. Most had recently arrived as refugees from Russia, having escaped the terror of Stalin's regime. Their desperate families owed a substantial debt to the Canadian Pacific Railway for their journey.

Daughters in the City chronicles the remarkable stories of these young women and the hundreds who followed them in the next three decades. From archival records, interviews and historic photos, Ruth Derksen Siemens assembles the history of two Girls' Homes (Mädchenheime) established to support and protect the working girls.

These indomitable young single women were pioneers of their community: they broke through the barriers of the “evil city,” the English language and the upper-class British culture. Significantly, they shaped the settlement patterns of not only Vancouver but also western Canada. With careful scholarship and fond respect, this book pays tribute to their impact and their long-lasting legacy.

Look for Ruth's books in our MHSS book lists.

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