Stella Burry (1897-1991)

3. Directly across at #83 Cochrane Street is Emmanuel House, a former hostel and community services centre.

Stella Burry was born in Greenspond, Bonavista Bay, the daughter of a fisherman and a mother who encouraged her to study. Stella began teaching at the age of 17, but the massive poverty she encountered led her to reconsider her career.

In 1923, she attended Methodist National Training School for Missionaries and Deaconesses in Toronto, majoring in social work and training to become a deaconess in the United Church. There she developed the 'hand up' instead of 'hand out' philosophy, seeing those in need as "as persons with potential that could be fulfilled, given the basic needs of life and opportunities".

Emmanuel House
Emmanuel House
83 Cochrane Street
Photo by Linda Cullum, © 2023.

Returning to St. John's in 1938, she worked with the United Church developing programs in social welfare, including a community centre for domestic workers and a co-operative women's credit union. Stella also ran practical sewing, knitting and cooking groups for women where participants were supplied materials. She collaborated with the Presentation Sisters to allow families to grow their own vegetables on Presentation Convent land.

Agnes Pratt Home for Senior Citizens was established in the late 1950s with the help of Stella Burry. Emmanuel House, once the United Church hostel for young outport women, was founded in 1946. Stella was instrumental in establishing the hostel and served as its director until 1966. She worked in aid of youth as well, establishing camps in Western Bay and Shoe Cove, both in Conception Bay.

Emmanuel House
Stella Burry, ca 1923
Reproduced by permission of the United Church of Canada Archives, Toronto (Portraits Collection, "Stella Burry" 1976.001P/780).

Stella was also a founding member of the Community Services Council in St. John's, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for the Aging. In 1967, she was awarded the St. John's City Council Citizen of the Year, and in 1971 received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from the Pine Hill Divinity Hall in Halifax.

Stella Burry never married believing that if she did she would have to give up her community activism and commitments in order to raise a family.

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