The first non-Aboriginal women to arrive in Alberta came with the missionaries. In the case of the Catholic missionaries, they came as societies of nuns and in the case of the non-Aboriginal Methodist missionaries they came as wives. After the early mission work of Robert Rundle, Aboriginal missionaries and mission workers such as Henry Steinhauer with his wife Jessie and Benjamin Sinclair with his wife Margaret were part of this work.

McDougall_family_thuIn 1859, Bishop Taché and Father Lacombe requested that the Grey Nuns of Montreal send sisters to help with mission work. More religious women would follow, including Les soeurs de charité d’Evron (Sisters of Evron) and Les filles de la sagesse (Daughters of Wisdom), both of whom came from France and settled in the central Alberta Region at Trochu and Red Deer respectively. When these women arrived, the Canadian West was still perceived as a place too harsh for the female constitution and that non-Aboriginal women would wilt and perish under its savage conditions. Their survival and success in the territory meant that these women were hardy and strong-willed exceptions to the general rule.

However, this presence also signified a change in perceptions of the non-Aboriginal women's existence in the West; increasingly white women were perceived as being necessary to the civilization of the West. Not only did they stand for the development of families and homes, the very basis of a stable society, but they were also believed to be the pillars of Christian piety and morality.