Celebrating 100 years of CFUW in Canada

Celebrating 100 years – Presentation 

Click to view the power point presentation at the 100th anniversary celebration that was presented at the November 13th, 2019 CFUW St. Thomas meeting.



St. Thomas, September 10, 2019 – 2019 is proving to be an exciting year for the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) as we celebrate our first centennial. During this time, we have a unique opportunity to showcase the impact of our local club, and set the stage locally, nationally and internationally for vibrant growth in the next century in our work supporting women’s rights, education, the arts and equality.

Who are we, you ask? CFUW is a self-funded, non-partisan, non-profit, voluntary organization founded in 1919. Over 7500 CFUW women from across Canada promote women’s equality, human rights, justice and peace. CFUW is active in public affairs, working to raise the social, economic and legal status of women and girls through contributing to education, the environment, peace, justice and human rights. CFUW has special consultative status at the United Nations (ECOSOC) and serves on the Education Committee of the Canadian Sub-Commission to UNESCO.

Locally, St. Thomas women first gathered in 1951 at the home of Mrs. Muriel McDougall (wife of beloved local artist), with the hopes of forming a local CFUW Chapter. The avowed purpose was two-fold: to facilitate access of women to higher education, and promote friendship and understanding among women throughout the world without regard to race, religion or political opinions. Many educators were among our group of Charter members, including the first ever female Dean of Alma College, Dr. Flora Sifton.

Our local Constitution was signed in 1952 by 26 Charter members and, by the late 1950s, the Club had enough seed funding to initiate an annual $25 scholarship to the top St. Thomas female student who was graduating high school and attending university. In fact, our current club president received such a scholarship in 1962! Today, that scholarship fund has grown to a yearly sum of $3,000 and is given to six young women across high schools in St. Thomas and Elgin County. These deserving women are chosen for their community spirit or involvement in women’s issues.

Considering the Club was formed at a time when a significantly smaller percentage of women completed their post-secondary education, our efforts were noble and timely. The tides have been changing, though, since the early 2000s, as female post-secondary graduates started to out-weigh their male counterparts. In 2015, for instance, of the 2,520 St. Thomas residents to have completed university at a bachelor level or above, 65% (1,630) of them were female.[1] That may be taken to mean that part of our mission has been achieved – women are being educated. But, despite that, certain challenges persist. Even with the same level of education, women’s employment earnings are on average still lower than men’s. Looking at the 2015 statistics, of the 5,780 residents of St. Thomas who make $60,000 and over, 36% (2,060) were female, with an even smaller proportion of St. Thomas residents making an annual salary of $100,000 and over being female (26%).[2] The reasons for this economic imbalance are multi-fold and are a result of a system built about certain ideals, like the qualities that society subconsciously associates with an expression of competency. Therefore, the issue should be addressed systematically. Nationally, CFUW is strongly advocating for federal and provincial action in this regard.

Another significant focus at all levels of CFUW is to advocate to end violence against women. As our national organization urges for increased federal investment to organizations providing support to victims of gender-based violence, like rape centres and shelters, locally we contribute money and care products to women’s shelters and the YWCA. CFUW St. Thomas was also recently recognized for our collaborative efforts with the St. Thomas Police Service to review and assess how cases of gender-based violence are reported, investigated, and tried through our judicial system. An advocacy award was presented to our president, Ms. Nancy Mayberry, at a national conference in Winnipeg in early August for her efforts to this cause.

Although they have big impacts, advocacy and fund raising are only part of CFUW’s mandate. Much of our monthly meetings are devoted to discussing topics of local, national and global interest. Hearing from local leaders in academics, business, athletics, politics, and social issues is the main focus of our speaker series, with opportunities to incite discussion and learn about matters from new and different perspectives. Our 2019-2020 speaker line-up, as it has in the past, will do just that! Past Olympians, Deputy Ministers, and champion horse breeders are all part of the upcoming year’s presenters.

Along with this breadth and depth of community involvement and regular discourse of local issues, current CFUW St. Thomas members enjoy many fellowship opportunities, such as book clubs and lunch gatherings. Our longest serving member, Patricia A. Martyn, who joined in 1963 stays because being a member enables engagement in “thoughtful discussion, social activity and lifelong learning in a friendly and positive manner.” Many members agree that CFUW St. Thomas provides a place for social interaction between older and younger women who share common values in education and culture, providing an avenue for community involvement through a shared vision.

Photo Credit: Boomers & Beyond Elgin (November 2019)