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Janis Lee Thiessen was born in 1971 to Frank Thiessen (1925-2005) and Margret Loewen (1933-) of Winnipeg, Manitoba. She completed her B.Sc. in 1992 and her education degree in 1994 and became a teacher at Westgate Mennonite Collegiate in Winnipeg, Manitoba where she has taught chemistry, social studies and Mennonite history. She received her M.A. from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba in 1997, during which time she worked on the Metropolis project, Winnipeg's Immigration History Research Group. She took two years leave from Westgate to work on Ph.D. studies at the University of New Brunswick, which she successfully completed with the defense of her thesis entitled "Faith and Factory: Russian Mennonite Workers in Twentieth Century Manitoba" on November 9, 2005.
Her research focused on three factories in Manitoba owned by Mennonites, namely Friesens Corporation of Altona, Loewen Windows of Steinbach, and Palliser Furniture of Winnipeg. Each of these businesses had primarily a Mennonite workforce at their founding and they each became one of the largest employers in their communities.
The interviews and thesis explored themes such as immigration, unions, assimilation, urbanization, class differences, worker – employer relationships, and religious values.
Since 1994 some of her research on Canadian Mennonite labour history has been appeared in publications such as Studies in Religion, Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, Mennonite Quarterly Review and Journal of Mennonite Studies. She has also given several presentations on the same topic since 1995.
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June 2020 by AHR