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Voth, Herta Judith (1923–2012)

Proper Title

Herta Judith Voth fonds

Dates of Creation


Physical Description

59 cm of textual material, 84 photographs

Biographical Sketch

Herta Judith Voth (1923–2012) was born on 3 January 1923 in Lugovsk, Neu Samara, Russia. She was the 2nd of 10 children born to Johannes T. Voth (1897–1973) and Katherina Voth (nee Katherina Baergen, 1896–1976). Her siblings, in birth order, were Walter J., Holdina J., Alvin Martin, Tobias “Toby” Allan, John, Susanna, Erna, Edith, and Katherina “Kae.”

Herta’s family (parents and three oldest children: Walter, Herta, and Holdina) immigrated to Canada from Russia, and settled in Springstein, Manitoba, in 1925. The Voths, along with other Mennonite families, immigrated to Canada with hopes of a brighter future, as restrictions on religious freedoms and farm collectivization spread across the Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution and civil war (1917–1920). The rest of Herta’s siblings were born in Canada. At the age of 14, Herta made a confession of Christian faith and was baptized into the Mennonite Brethren church at Springstein two years later.

Following three years (1942–1945) of study at Winkler Bible School (Winkler, Manitoba), Herta completed her high-school requirements and began Nurses Training at Misericordia Hospital (Winnipeg, Manitoba) in 1947. She graduated in 1950.

With Nurses Training completed, Herta worked in several hospitals over the next decade, including Concordia General Hospital in Winnipeg (1950), Brandon Mental Hospital (1951), Hillsboro General Hospital in Kansas (1952), and the Centro de Salud Dispensary in Choco, Colombia (1952–1957). Her experiences in these and other hospitals developed her knowledge of general nursing, psychiatric nursing, and tropical medicine. She trained other medical personnel also. In July 1958, she completed a Post Basic Course in Obstetrics at Winnipeg General Hospital.

Returning to Colombia (1959–1962), Herta worked closely with the Indigenous peoples of the Choco region. In 1963, Herta moved to Virgil, Ontario, to work first as a psychiatric nurse in the Bethesda Home for Mentally Ill (1963–1965), then caring for newborns at the Henderson Hospital in Hamilton (1965–1969), and then pediatric nursing at Hotel Dieu Hospital in St. Catharines (1970–1973). She left Ontario in 1973.

From 1973 to 1987, Herta served with Mennonite Brethren Missions/Services International as a nurse and missionary to Panama. It was here that she worked with the Waunana-Embera tribes, the same indigenous groups that Mennonite Brethren Bible translator and anthropologist Jacob Loewen and his wife, Anne, had worked with in the 1950s and 1960s. Herta notes in her journal that the Waunana and Embera tribes lived together as one tribe, yet their languages were so different from one another that they had to be treated as two separate groups.

Following her formal missionary career, Herta was invited back to Bolivia and Panama for a 6-month assignment in 1989 as part of a Mennonite Central Committee-sponsored trip to Centro Menno in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. She made Winnipeg her retirement home, writing, serving at the community food bank, and taking computer courses. In 1998, at the age of 75, she adopted an African family: Mukai, mother, and two children, Rujeko and Tinaye Muza.

During her life, Herta kept meticulous records of her expenses and correspondence, as well as writing almost daily journal entries that detailed her missionary duties. Later, she related her experiences on the mission field through short stories, poems, and newsletters to churches. She died in Winnipeg on January 23, 2012.

Custodial History

In June 2014, Audrey Voth Petkau (Herta’s niece) and Terry Petkau donated a box of Herta’s personal papers (journals, correspondence, and photos) to CMBS.

Scope and Content

The Herta J. Voth fonds consists of 84 photographs (1937–1998; primarily 1973), correspondence with family, friends, and churches (1956–2004), and journals documenting her missionary trips to Colombia and Panama (1964–1989). The textual and photographic records in this fonds document well the work of a Mennonite woman on the mission field in the latter half of the twentieth century.


  • Location: textual records, volumes 1430 and 1431; photograph collection NP209.
  • Described by Phil Enns, March 2016; updated by Jon Isaak, January 2017.
  • Language: English, German, Spanish, and Wounaan.
  • Accession No. 2014-12; 2022-04.
  • No restrictions on access.
  • Related materials:

File List

Volume 1430

1. Short Stories and Reminiscences. -- 1952–2009.
2. Colombia Files. Testimonials, journal entries, and short stories. -- 1955–1987.
3. Panama letters. Correspondence and Annual Reports. -- 1956–1994.
4. Short stories and play. -- 1964–2009.
5. Correspondence with sister Holdina and parents, and Journal entries. -- 1972.
6. Panama Files. Newsletters, Stories, and Reminiscences. -- 1972–2008.
7. Panama Files. Correspondence, Newsletters, and Articles. -- 1972–2008.
8. Panama Files. Short Stories, Journal entries, and Newsletters. -- 1973–1987.
9. Correspondence with sister Holdina and parents, and Journal entries. -- 1976.
10. Panama Journal entries. -- 1986.
11. Panama Journal entries. -- 1987.
12. Journals. -- January–September 1988.
13. Journal. Trip to Bolivia with MCC. -- 1989–1990.
14. Journal. -- 1964.
15. Journal (Panama). -- 1973.
16. Journal with Photos (Panama). (NP209-02). -- 1973.

Volume 1431

1. Educational Material. Diplomas, Report Cards, Certificates. -- 1936–1995.
2. Autograph Books and Address Book. -- 1937–[197-?].
3. Identification. Licenses and Passports. -- 1951–2003.
4. Records of Correspondence. -- 1971–1985.
5. Obituary for Herta’s father Johannes Voth (1897–1973), and Memorial Project for Uncle Bernhard Bergen (in exile in Russia 1929–1938). -- 1997.
6. Journal entries. -- 1974.
7. Records of expenses. -- 1975–1990.
8. Radio Communications (Panama). -- 1976–1984.
9. Journal entries. -- 1981–1983.
10. Records of Correspondence. -- 1985–2004.
11. Journal (Panama). -- 1974.
12. Journal (Panama). -- 1975.
13. Journal (Panama). -- 1977.
14. Journal (Panama). -- 1979.
15. Journal (Panama). -- 1980.
16. Journal (Panama). -- 1982–1983.
17. Journal (Panama). -- 1984.
18. German Bible (New Testament). A Christmas gift from teacher B.B. Fast. -- 1932.
19. Journal (Colombia/Panama). -- 1985.
20. Journal (Panama). -- July–September 1985.
21. Journal. -- 1988.
22. Journal (Panama). -- 1988–1989.
23. Photo Album (NP209-01). -- 1937–1998.
24. Songbook of Christian choruses translated into Wounaan. -- 1988.

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