Ilda Bauman–Unsung hero

Ilda Bauman was born in the wrong generation to get the recognition she deserved. It was classic case of being the person who made the institution operate smoothly, while her male boss got the public recognition.

Ilda was a single woman, born in 1898, who got an education at Toronto Bible College. However she did not go on to the mission field or work for years in city missions–places that would have a least brought modest recognition.

No, she was a founder of the House of Friendship in Kitchener, Ontario. It began as a mission to Jews, but quickly turned to the physical and spiritual needs of transients and immigrants.

Ferne Burkhardt’s short sketch of Ilda Bauman’s contribution to the House of Friendship was written for the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO). Go there to see the article and bibliography.


Ruby Dettweiler, Joseph Cramer and Ilda Bauman, ca. 1940. Source: House of Friendship

Ilda Bauman: key leader in the launch and development of the House of Friendship in Kitchener, Ontario. She was born 26 August 1898 on the family farm to Ira S. Bauman (14 July 1865-13 October 1935) and Matilda (Groff) Bauman (29 April 1865-10 September 1949). She was the sixth child and fourth daughter in a family of eight children. Ilda died after lengthy illness on 2 April 1974.

The city of Waterloo now covers the farm where Ilda was born. At age 11, her parents moved the family into a town home near the Erb Street Mennonite Church where they attended. Ilda became a baptized member on 21 March 1913.

In 1923 Ilda graduated from Toronto Bible College (now Tyndale University College and Seminary). She served briefly with  her sister, Emma, at the Mennonite Orphans’ Home in West Liberty, Ohio, sometime between 1924 and 1927. She worked at House of Friendship from its beginning in 1939 until October 1949 as a co-worker of founding director Joseph Cramer. About 10 years later she suffered a stroke which paralysed her and kept her in Scott Pavilion for 13 years. Ilda was moved to Sunnyside Home in Kitchener where she died in 1974.

Ilda did not hold prominent church or public positions but she worked tirelessly at House of Friendship. In 1939 she was part of an interdenominational women’s prayer group in Waterloo intent on reaching Jewish people. When the women learned of Joseph Cramer, a Jewish teacher turned Christian, they sought him out to lead their vision. Cramer soon set up shop in rented quarters in downtown Kitchener. Ilda worked alongside Cramer, making hundreds of home and hospital visits, distributing books and thousands of pieces of literature in many languages, and helping with numerous worship services in the rented room. Ilda also cooked meals for clients from donated food in a small adjoining kitchen. The House of Friendship, which began as an interest in Jewish evangelism, quickly turned to attending the physical and spiritual needs of transients and immigrants, some of whom were Jewish.

Ilda’s signature appears with Cramer’s on formal reports and documents. People close to the mission saw her as the real manager, yet, after Cramer’s death, the all-male “Advisory Committee” did not consider inviting Ilda to become the new director. Rather, they gave her a month’s salary ($65.00) to  “help toward your waiting on the Lord for your next move.” It was a bitter end to her sacrificial service and her rejection may have contributed to the ill health which plagued her for the rest of her life.

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