University Women's Club of Winnipeg

The University Women’s Club of Winnipeg was founded in April 1909. The first members at this founding meeting were: Miss Margaret Johnson, Miss Lillian Baynon, Mrs. Hay Stead, Mrs. Ira Mackay, Miss I.C. McGregor, Mrs. C.J. Campbell, Miss Elsie E. Moore, Miss Grace Crawford, Dr L.F. McPhee-Greene, Miss Elsie Craig, Dr Mary Crawford, Mrs. P.D. Harris, Miss Margaret Springate, Miss A.M. Morrison, Mrs. H.R. Hadcock, Mrs. Roland Taylor, Mrs. B.J. Curry, Mrs. T.M Grover, Dr M. Ellen Douglass, Mrs. W.H. Thompson, Miss Maud Chisholm, Miss Edith Woodsworth and Miss E.L. Jones.

The club’s early purpose was to advance the place of women in the community related to the industrial and societal changes that were occurring. Many opportunities were opening up for women. However, in 1909, women were not yet legally recognized as equal to men. Women did not have the vote, struggled to join recognized academic and business professions and had little influence on government to achieve change.

The first elected president was Dr Mary Crawford, the Chief Medical Inspector of Winnipeg schools. She took an active interest in women’s suffrage. Under her leadership, club members “were in the front lines, working for things women now take for granted. They often belonged to other clubs, almost certainly church groups, often raised large families, were unselfish with their limited time, had none of today’s household conveniences yet met the criteria for today’s superwomen.” In 1914, Dr Crawford participated in a “Mock Parliament” play that promoted the cause of votes for women, leading to the vote for (most) Manitoba women in 1916 and then for the rest of Canada.

In March 1919, four leaders in university organizations met in Winnipeg at a conference, creating the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW). This national federation meant Canada would become one of the first countries to join in the emerging International Federation of University Women (IFUW). The first organizational meeting of CFUW was held at the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg in August 1919. These clubs believed increasing educational opportunities for women and improving the overall status of all women in all areas of life were vital steps in maintaining peace. CFUW today continues as a 100-year-old non-partisan organization with 100 clubs across Canada.

In October 1938, the membership voted to rent Ralph Connor House from the City of Winnipeg. The house, at 54 West Gate, was the former home of Reverend Charles Gordon and was in danger of demolition. UWC agreed they would upgrade it to serve as a clubhouse for meetings and club activities. In 1976, the UWC of Winnipeg received a Heritage Award for the preservation of Ralph Connor House.

In 2002, the UWC of Winnipeg received a Distinguished Service Award from Heritage Winnipeg for the preservation of 54 West Gate. Celebrations were held for the 90th Anniversary of Ralph Connor House and the 95th Anniversary of the UWC of Winnipeg. Ralph Connor House was designated as a national historic site of Canada in 2009.

The UWC of Winnipeg continues today as an organization of women leaders that work together. One of its projects, the UWC of Winnipeg Scholarship Trust Fund, continues to respond to changing needs and times. The fund currently supports 26 annual scholarships and bursaries given to young students advancing their educational goals.

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