A woman of means, Elizabeth Alloway created The Winnipeg Foundation in partnership with her spouse.
Elizabeth McLaren was born in Buckingham, Que., one of 13 children of James McLaren and Ann Sully. Her father, one of the leading citizens of the Ottawa Valley, made his fortune in lumber and banking. By the time of his death in 1892, he was one of Canada’s richest men.
Elizabeth most likely met William Alloway while he was visiting his own family in Montréal. They were married in September 1878 in Buckingham, and immediately moved to Winnipeg, taking up residence at The Derries (what they called their home) on Assiniboine Avenue, where they lived for the rest of their lives.
Elizabeth was a devout Presbyterian. Once in Winnipeg, she joined Augustine Church (est. 1877), whose congregation had a strong call to mission.
Her first minister at Augustine, Dr. Andrew Baird, described her childhood as having been “spent in the environment of a deeply religious home, and all her life she tried to live up to the traditions of that home. She was devoted to the religious services of the church and what they stood for: faithful in attendance at worship and to the precepts of Christian teaching.”
Elizabeth lived out her faith through her charitable work. She was an early supporter of the Children’s Home, personally maintaining a 14-bed ward there. She gave generously to further the work of the Margaret Scott Nursing Mission. And when the Victorian Order of Nurses received its Royal Charter in 1897, she took the Winnipeg chapter under her wing.
Unlike most married women of the time, Elizabeth had her own money outside her marriage, inherited from her father’s estate and completely under her control. In this sense, the Alloway charitable endeavours were a partnership in the truest sense of the word. It is clear that the decision to create a community trust named for the city they loved rather than after themselves and then to fund it with the total equity of their individual estates was a joint one.
It was also completely in keeping with Elizabeth’s adherence to those Christian precepts referred to by Dr. Baird – do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.