Manufacturing Mennonites: Work and Religion in Post-War Manitoba

Manufacturing Mennonites: Work and Religion in Post-War Manitoba

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By Janis Thiessen
Canadian Social History Series
University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division © 2013
World Rights
264 Pages
ISBN 9781442611139
Published Apr 2013
Online discount: 15%
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ISBN 9781442642133
Published Apr 2013
Online discount: 25%
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ebook (EPUB format)
ISBN 9781442660595
Published Jun 2013
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Manufacturing Mennonites examines the efforts of Mennonite intellectuals and business leaders to redefine the group's ethno-religious identity in response to changing economic and social conditions after 1945. As the industrial workplace was one of the most significant venues in which competing identity claims were contested during this period, Janis Thiessen explores how Mennonite workers responded to such redefinitions and how they affected class relations.

Through unprecedented access to extensive private company records, Thiessen provides an innovative comparison of three businesses founded, owned, and originally staffed by Mennonites: the printing firm Friesens Corporation, the window manufacturer Loewen, and the furniture manufacturer Palliser. Complemented with interviews with workers, managers, and business owners, Manufacturing Mennonites pioneers two important new trajectories for scholarship - how religion can affect business history, and how class relations have influenced religious history.

Janis Thiessen is an assistant professor in the Department of History at the University of Winnipeg.


1. The Mennonite Intellectual Elite: Yieldedness, Non-resistance, and Neighbourly Love

2. The Mennonite Workplace: Loewen Windows, Friesen Printers, and Palliser Furniture

3. Mennonite Corporate Mythology: The ‘Reflections’ Campaign

4. ‘You Had to Know Everything; Otherwise, You Weren’t Fit’: Worker Experience and Identity

5. Unequally Yoked: Manitoba Mennonites and the Schreyer Government

6. ‘No One Is Always Happy with His Environment’: Union Drives and Corporate Responses


Manufacturing Mennonites is a first-rate work that opens up much new terrain not only in Mennonite history and life in contemporary North America, but also in the intersecting fields of religion and social class relations. Along with her careful, painstaking primary research, Janis Thiessen uses a wide-ranging and interdisciplinary approach that moves seamlessly through the fields of labour, ethnic, gender, and business history, as well as economics and even theology. Very well written, provocative, and thoughtful, this book is a remarkable accomplishment and a major contribution to the current literature.”

Perry Bush, Department of History, Bluffton University

“Much of the historiography on Mennonites has emphasized their rural, agricultural livelihood. Manufacturing Mennonites is significant for illuminating the significant role of Mennonite-owned manufacturing industries in the late twentieth century. This well-written work makes an important contribution to the study of Mennonite history and Canadian business history.”

Marlene Epp, Conrad Grebel University College, University of Waterloo

‘This is an important and suggestive study that should put to rest tendencies either to ignore religion, or to assume that it has an autonomous power outside of the nexus of capitalist social relations.’

James Naylor, Oral History Forum, vol 33:2013

Manufacturing Mennonites could prove to be a model for other scholars examining the relationship between religion and corporate culture.’

Stephanie Kreihbiel, Oral History Review, April 2014

‘This is a pioneering work in a new area of study for Mennonites… It has an urban, industrial focus and draws for theoretical and comparative purposes on the scholarly literature of business and labor history applied in new and interesting ways.’

James Urry, Mennonite Quarterly Review, January 2014

‘Compelling study… Manufacturing Mennonites could prove to be a model for other scholars examining the relationships between religion and corporate culture.’

Stephanie Krehbiel, Oral History Review, vol 41:01:2014

‘This monograph is a welcome contribution to the social history of religion in Canada… It contributes to our understanding of the complex ways in which religious faith can impact workers’ class consciousness and activism.’

Lynne Marks, Labour/le Travail vol 75:2015

‘A finely nuanced study of the ways in which Mennonites experience social class relations.’

Alvin Finkel, Journal of Mennonite Studies, vol 32:2014