In the early 1900’s, women who had attended universities began to form local clubs in some of the larger cities across the country. Vancouver University Women’s Club began in 1907, the first such west of Toronto, The Victoria Club began in 1908, and the Winnipeg Club in 1909.
Most of the first members of the Vancouver Club had attended universities in the east. In a province still without a university, one of their foremost concerns was to be active in public service, especially with regard to education.
When the University of British Columbia was established by an act of the legislature in 1908 it became a focus project of the Vancouver Club. As a result of the Club’s active interest in UBC, Evlyn Farris, the first president of the Vancouver Club, was appointed to both the University Senate, and the Board of Governors; the first woman in either position.
In 1919, the national organization, CFUW, was founded. The inaugural meeting was held in Winnipeg, with women from all over Canada coming together to create the federation of local clubs into a National organisation.
On August 26, University Women’s Clubs from Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton and Victoria met in Winnipeg. Plans began for a scholarship, a publication called the Chronicle, and surveys on education and vocations. The travelling scholarship was meant as an equivalent to the Rhodes Scholarships, for which women were ineligible, to be financed through lecture series or tours. Public work was to be encouraged, and women of suitable talents should be encouraged to run for school board or university governing bodies. The CFUW brought together women who were of the belief that they were privileged to have been well-educated, and determined to use their education in the service of society rather than for their own self-gain. In doing so, they hoped to prove that women were the equals of men.
At the First CFUW Triennial, an education report done by Geneva Misener of the Edmonton University Women’s Club was presented encouraging women to enter the teaching profession with“ an adequate salary schedule” including the principle of Equal Pay for Equal Work! In addition, Elsinore Macpherson reported on a survey of vocations of university women in Canada.
CFUW established the Legal and Economic Status of Women Committee to co-operate with the International Federation of University Women (IFUW) and keep clubs informed on questions concerning women’s rights.
The Reading Stimulation Grant was intended to be directed to those areas poorly supplied with books, and aimed to stimulate children’s reading skills.
The Committee on Penal Reform was established and presented briefs over the twenty years of its existence. The committee also supported work done by the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS), an organization that addresses issues affecting women and girls in the justice system.
CFUW’s president, Laura Sabia, and a group of Canadian women’s organizations put pressure on Lester B. Pearson’s government to create the Royal Commission on the Status of Women.
The CFUW Charitable Trust was established to receive donations to fund the CFUW fellowships and scholarships.
CFUW is represented along with other women’s groups in a nationally televised Press Conference on gun control. CFUW works with the Coalition for Gun Control and Firearms Control Centre.
Motivated by attendance at the Beijing Conference, CFUW applies for and receives consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. This consultative status allows access by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to all UN bodies that are open to NGOs. This includes the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
CFUW joins The Ad Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights. The Coalition is comprised of 28 women’s groups, unions and human rights organizations. The coalition is formed in response to federal funding cuts to Status of Women, defunding of the Court Challenges Program and the abandonment of the Universal Child Care plan.
■ Women in Universities, A Comparative Study – 25 Years Later, chaired by Margaret Therrien, a member of the original team.
■ Sexual Assault on Campus, chaired by Pam Love and Dr Sharon Crabb of the Status of Women sub-Committee
We celebrated 100 years as a national organization!