History of CFUW
Dr. Margaret Stovel McWilliams 1875-1952 was the first President of CFUW, from 1919 – 1923.
“Education in all its phases is the first interest of the new Federation.”
“Dr. Winifred Cullis, a visiting British lecturer at the University of Toronto argued that this would be a good time for existing University Women’s Clubs to form a national organization of university women. She pointed out that the British and American Associations were discussing the possibility of forming an international federation of university women, and she wanted Canada to be among the founding members. A group of women, . . ., met in Toronto in March 1919 [and] unanimously decided to establish a Canadian federation and began the work of contacting all the clubs and creating a constitution. The first Chronicle (1920) indicates there were then at least ten clubs in existence including the four Alumnae Associations listed. The organizational meeting took place in Winnipeg in August 1919, with delegates present from six clubs: Edmonton, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Victoria, and Winnipeg as well as the McGill Alumnae (Kinnear, Feminist 14; CFUW 62)."
At first CFUW held Triennials; in 1920, when they had 1123 members, 10 Clubs were represented at the meetings. The focus was on education and especially education for women and girls, as is evidenced by the two reports for action, one on educational conditions in Canada and another on job opportunities for university women. CFUW continues this focus on education while expanding its advocacy and program to encompass a wider application of advocacy on behalf of women and girls.
CFUW is a non-partisan, voluntary, self-funded organization with over 100 CFUW Clubs, located in every province across Canada. Since its founding in 1919, CFUW has been working to improve the status of women and to promote human rights, public education, social justice, and peace. Every year, CFUW and its Clubs award close to $1 million to women to help them pursue post-secondary studies. CFUW also provides funding for library and creative arts awards. CFUW Clubs provide life-long learning opportunities and fellowship to its members. There are over 100 lecture series, 200 book clubs and 75 issues groups offered by CFUW Clubs. CFUW Clubs are involved in community outreach on such initiatives as working to prevent violence against women, child poverty, early learning and child care.
CFUW holds special consultative status with the United Nations (ECOSOC) and belongs to the Education Committee of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. CFUW regularly sends a delegation to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. CFUW is the largest affiliate of Graduate Women International which represents women worldwide.
Back Row, Left to Right: Mrs. C. Wiley, Ottawa; Mrs. E. Smith, Victoria; Mrs. Sadler, Winnipeg; Miss Jessie Dykes, Toronto; Miss Kathleen Teskey, Edmonton. Front Row, Left to Right: Miss Lexa Denne, Victoria; Miss May H. Skinner, Toronto; Dr. Margaret McWilliams, Winnipeg; Mrs. G.L. Lennox, Winnipeg; Dr. Geneva Misener, Edmonton.
History of CFUW Project
Our One Hundred Years: The Canadian Federation of University Women
By Dianne Dodd
More than one hundred years in the life of a vibrant organization.
To celebrate CFUW’s centenary, Dr. Dianne Dodd was engaged to write a history of the Federation. This engaging study of a still active women’s organization is more than a centennial history to make its members proud. It also provides a lively exploration of a unique organization founded by early women leaders in higher education who offered friendship, community engagement, and lifelong learning. With a leadership of exceptional women, the organization played a largely overlooked role in the women’s movement by supporting education and the arts, encouraging young women to pursue higher education and scholarships, and through its advocacy initiatives helped to build the Canadian nation.