Author Archives: cfuwadvocacy

CFUW Trailblazers: Women Who Knew How to Roar

To mark Women’s History Month in Canada, CFUW is honouring some of the trailblazers that were once members of our organization.

Dr. Alice E. Wilson

Dr. Alice E. Wilson

Dr. Ann Augusta Stowe-Gullen (1857 – 1943), one of the first members of the University Women’sClub Toronto, is known for being the first woman to graduate from a Canadian medical school (Faculty of Medicine at Victoria University, Toronto) in 1883. Her advocacy work led to the establishment of the Ontario Medical College for Women.

 Dr. Alice E. Wilson (1881 – 1964) was one of the first recipients of a CFUW scholarship at the age of 44, which opened the door to a long and distinguished career as the first woman to hold a professional position with the Geological Survey of Canada and to be appointed Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1938.  Recognizing the importance of the CFUW scholarship/fellowship program, Dr. Wilson left a bequest to the organization in 1964, establishing the Dr. Alice E. Wilson Awards. The awards are given to four women annually.

Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw

Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw

Dr. Elizabeth Bagshaw (1881 – 1982) was one of Canada’s first female doctors and the medical director of the first (illegal) birth control clinic in Canada despite intense criticism from the medical and religious communities. She served as the clinic’s medical director for over 30 years pioneering areas of family medicine that were not widely practiced at the time. Dr. Bagshaw was a member of the University Women’s Club of Hamilton.

Helen Alice Kinnear, Q.C. (1894 – 1970), a former member of the University Women’s Club of Toronto, was the first federally appointed woman judge in Canada.


Charlotte Elizabeth Whitton, O.C., C.B.E. (1896 – 1975)
was a member of the University Women’s Club in Ottawa, a feminist, and the first woman mayor of Ottawa (and a major city in Canada), serving from 1951 to 1956 and again from 1960 to 1964.

The Honourable Muriel McQueen Fergusson, P.C. O.C. Q.C. (1899 – 1997), a former member of CFUW Ottawa, was the first woman Speaker of the Senate from 1972 to 1974, and the first woman deputy mayor of Ottawa in 1953.

Phyllis Gregory RossO.C., C.B.E. (1903 – 1988) was a Canadian economist and the first woman to serve as a Chancellor in the Commonwealth of Nations. She was a member and President of the University Women’s Club in Ottawa. 

Winona Grace MacInnisO.C., O.B.C.  (1905 – 1991), a former member of University Women’s Clubs of Ottawa and Vancouver, was the first woman from British Columbia to be elected to the House of Commons.

Helen Battles Sawyer Hogg, C.C. (1905 – 1993), a former member of the University Women’s Club on Toronto, was an astronomer, the first female president of several astronomical organizations, and the first woman to be appointed to the physical sciences division of the Royal Society of Canada.

Dr. Jessie Gray

Dr. Jessie Gray

Dr. Jessie Gray (1910 – 1978) was known as Canada’s “first lady of surgery”, and one of the four leading cancer surgeons in North America at the time. She was a member of the University Women’s Club of Toronto, and earned a formidable succession of firsts: first woman gold medalist in medicine at U of T (1934); first woman to obtain the master of surgery degree (1939); first woman resident surgeon at the Toronto General Hospital; first woman fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (Canada, 1941); first woman member of the Central Surgical Society of North America; and first woman elected to the Science Council of Canada (1966).


The Hon. Pauline Mills McGibbon, C.C., O. Ont, (1910 – 2001) was a member of the University Women’s Club of Toronto, and served as the 22nd Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1974 to 1980. In addition to being the first woman to occupy this position, she was the first woman to serve as a viceregal representative.

Blanche Margaret Meagher, O.C. (1911 – 1999) was a Canadian diplomat and in 1958 was appointed as Canada’s first woman ambassador. She was a member of the University Women’s Club of Halifax and served as Ambassador to Israel, Austria and Sweden.

Marie-Claire Kirkland-Casgrain, C.M., C.Q. is a Quebec lawyer, judge, politician and former member of CFUW Montreal. She was the first woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec, the first woman appointed a Cabinet minister in Quebec, the first woman appointed acting premier, and the first woman judge to serve in the Quebec Provincial Court.

500 Km Camino Trek Raises over $17,000 for Women’s Postgraduate Awards

L to R: Fiorenza Albert-Howard, Chair of the CFUW Charitable Trust,... , and Susan Murphy Immediate Past President of CFUW.

L to R: Fiorenza Albert-Howard, Chair of the CFUW Charitable Trust, Ann McElhinney, Treasurer , and Susan Murphy Immediate Past President of CFUW.

Susan Murphy, immediate Past President of CFUW, and her friend Monika Oepkes just completed a 22 day trek of  500 kilometres on the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, and arrived in Santiago de Compostela on September 6th.   Their walk was a fundraiser for the CFUW Charitable Trust to raise $100,000 in celebration of the CFUW 100th Anniversary Project in 2019.    All funds raised will be used to help increase the number of National fellowships and awards presented in that year.

Susan presented Fiorenza Albert-Howard, Chair of the CFUW Charitable Trust, with donor cheques from many CFUW clubs and members, friends and family, on Thursday September 25th at the CT Annual Meeting in Toronto.   Murphy said, “The walk was beautiful, but long, hot and sometimes difficult. However, knowing that we had such strong backing often made our steps lighter. We were excited to walk and very grateful for the support.”   This was the pair’s third Camino experience and second as a fundraiser.

The CFUW Charitable Trust is a registered charity that accepts and invests donations, and provides funding for the CFUW Fellowship Program which awards over $80,000 annually to Canadian  women researchers. Over $30,000 has been committed to the 100th Anniversary Project to date, as well as many new local CFUW club initiatives.   For more information, www.cfuw.org/charitabletrust

CFUW Calls for Action to Address Growth in Low Literacy among Canadians

Nearly 50% of Canadians have Low Literacy According to Latest Assessment

OTTAWA, September 8, 2014 – On the occasion of International Literacy Day, CFUW calls on federal, provincial and territorial governments to address the troubling growth in low literacy among Canadians.

According to the latest Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) carried out by Statistics Canada on behalf of the OECD, 48% of the Canadian population has literacy skills below level 3, the internationally accepted level required to function in a modern society and to be fully component in many jobs. This represents a nearly 8% increase since the last assessment in 2003.

While the rates of low literacy are similar for both women and men in Canada, women with low literacy skills are more likely to be unemployed or employed in lower paying jobs than men with similar levels of literacy. Elevating the literacy skills of women and girls in particular, is therefore an important way to help reduce poverty and gender inequality.

“Low literacy affects the social, economic and political participation of Canadians, and its growing incidence should be a pressing concern for policy makers”, said Doris Mae Oulton. “It is imperative that federal, provincial and territorial governments work together to develop a national strategy to address this issue, with specific attention to gender differences and the groups most affected, including Aboriginal peoples and immigrants.”

CFUW questions the Government of Canada’s decision to cut core funding to national and provincial literacy organizations as of June 2014. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has instead assembled a pan-Canadian network focused on improving the labour market outcomes of Canadians. ESDC sought proposals from organizations to join the network, however many literacy groups were not selected and are therefore currently reducing their programs, services and staff, or closing all together.

 

Today, CFUW joins the International Federation of University Women (IFUW) and affiliates in over 60 countries to mark this important day to raise awareness about illiteracy and low literacy, particularly among women and girls, around the world. Together, CFUW and IFUW are pressing governments, as well as educational bodies to take all steps necessary to eradicate illiteracy and low literacy. Action must include drafting and implementing legislation and concrete policy frameworks that identify measurable goals and benchmarks to tackle the global literacy shortfall. All programs for action must recognize and make provision for the increased vulnerability of women and girls, who account for two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world.

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.

For more information, contact:      

Tara Fischer, Advocacy Coordinator, CFUW, advocacy@cfuw.org or 613-234-8252 ext. 106

CFUW Meets with Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan to Discuss Women’s Rights

Canada’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, paid a visit the CFUW National Office on Tuesday to meet with representatives of the organization. The ongoing work of the Ottawa Club’s study group, University Women Helping Afghan Women (UWHAW), resonated with the Ambassador and prompted her to reach out to CFUW for a meeting.

Ambassador Lyons spoke passionately about her role as the first woman Ambassador in Afghanistan in 10 years. She commented that one of her major challenges as Ambassador has been trying to keep public attention on Afghanistan; something certainly that CFUW, with its network across Canada, can help support.

As she nears the end of her first year as Ambassador, she is enthusiastic about Canada’s new phase of involvement in Afghanistan; focused on development, human rights, security, and governance. There continues to be a lot of hard work ahead from her perspective, which must be carried out with as much vigour as Canada’s military involvement. This she believes is an important way to honour the military’s work, and to make Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan a constructive story; women’s rights being an essential part.

The task of supporting women’s rights in Afghanistan is enormous she says, but one that Canada and the international community remain committed to. Their progress is fragile, but also tangible, and symbolic of what can be accomplished collaboratively. She stressed that Afghanistan could become an important example of 21st Century Global cooperation if the international community and the Afghan government are able to achieve something workable for the Afghan people, particularly if women’s rights continue to improve, considering the past extremism they experienced.

So how can this be accomplished? There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.  The Canadian government recognizes that women have an essential role to play in attaining durable, long-lasting peace, as research from the Institute on Inclusive Security, and others have shown. Ongoing funding for women’s rights, health and governance will certainly be important components, along with support for economic development to ensure sustainability.

CFUW, with its member Clubs, can support women’s rights in Afghanistan by continuing to keep these issues and Afghan women’s concerns in the public eye.

To find out more about the work of University Women Helping Afghan Women visit the CFUW Ottawa website or like the UWHAW Facebook page.

University Women Strive to End Violence against Women


Ottawa – June 22, 2014
– In 2013, the CFUW National President Susan Murphy invited Clubs across Canada to participate in a national initiative to support women and girls who are survivors of violence.   CFUW Clubs across the country took up the President’s challenge and over half of the Federation’s 107 Clubs responded with a wide variety of projects.

The initiatives undertaken by CFUW Clubs included community activities such as CFUW Nanaimo’s community-based workshop on how bystanders can intervene entitled Ending the Silence: Strategies for Preventing Abuse. Members ofCFUW Corner Brook became a community partner in the CAMPUS Project, a study examining the issue of violence against young women on university campuses. CFUW Southport held a candlelight service in honour of the women killed at École Polytechnique. CFUW Dartmouth provided supplies to “Alice Housing” for women and children in second stage housing who are victims of violence.

Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary General of the UN has said that violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread abuses of human rights in our time. It affects one in three women and girls. In this vein, and building on the momentum from last year, CFUW will continue with the National Initiative in 2014/2015 because we believe our ongoing collective efforts can and will help raise public awareness about violence against women and girls, improve support and prevention, and put pressure on all levels of government to take stronger action.

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.

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 For further information, contact:

Robin Jackson, Executive Director, Canadian Federation of University Women, 613-234-8353 ext. 106, executivedirector@fcfdu.org

CFUW Grants Close to $1 Million in Scholarships and Bursaries for Women

Waterloo, June 20, 2014 – Close to $1 million in scholarships and bursaries was awarded by the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Clubs across the country. Susan Murphy, National President of CFUW, announced that “This is an annual contribution Clubs make to demonstrate their commitment to the education of girls and women. We know that these scholarships and fellowship have an impact on thousands of lives every year.”

At the CFUW Annual General Meeting & Conference, being held in Waterloo, Ontario, Ms. Murphy praised the work of CFUW members. “This is an organization that believes in the education of girls and women. We consistently demonstrate our willingness to ensure that education is a possibility for our promising women.”

As well as the funds that are raised and distributed on a local basis, CFUW also last year gave $83,500 from their CFUW Charitable Trust for postgraduate funding for women, funding that is available to Canadian citizens or permanent residents studying in Canada and abroad. CFUW received 389 applications for these 15 fellowships and awards.

“We have made learning our priority. We believe in the power of education. We believe that an education is one of the most effective ways for women to achieve equality, maintain their voice, and understand and exercise their rights.” Murphy stated. “The need has never been greater for independent self-funded groups such as CFUW to be visible, with strong community based activities.”

Supporting education is only part of the mandate of our Clubs. Clubs across Canada hold hundreds of different fund raising events, sustain endowments and undertake hundreds of activities that keep members engaged in promoting and supporting their communities. As well, Clubs support women’s shelters, day cares, work with aboriginal women and advocate on important issues such as financial literacy for girls and women. Murphy said “We believe in Action, Advocacy and Education and the women of CFUW continue to show community, national and international leadership.”

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.

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For more information, please contact:

Robin Jackson, Executive Director, Canadian Federation of University Women, 613-282-1758 or cfuwed@rogers.com

 

University Women Concerned New Prostitution Legislation Continues to Criminalize Women

OTTAWA – June 5, 2014 – The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) is concerned that Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act will continue to punish and criminalize women for selling sex, and fails to address the social, economic and racial inequalities that push women into prostitution.

“While CFUW agrees with the aspects of the bill that focus on criminalizing the purchase of sex and targeting demand, we are concerned by the provisions that will make it illegal to sell sex in some public spaces”, said Susan Murphy, President of CFUW. “We agree with the government’s assessment that prostitution is harmful to women, but criminalizing them is not the answer”.

Since 2010, CFUW has supported the adoption of a legal framework similar to Sweden, where women are fully decriminalized and comprehensive exit services are provided. Sweden also has a more robust social safety net, which allows women to enjoy a higher degree of economic and social equality in comparison to women in Canada.

“Bill C-36 continues to treat prostitution as a public nuisance, and will likely replicate some of the safety issues that arose with the previous communication law struck down by the Supreme Court”, said Ms. Murphy. “Far too many women are forced into the sex trade as a result of poverty and inequality. The funding earmarked for exit services is laudable and a step in the right direction, but more is needed to address root causes”.

With the rising cost of post-secondary education and students having difficulty finding summer jobs, even some young women are turning to prostitution using the internet to pay for their university and college education. CFUW finds it egregious that the Government of Canada would criminalize these young women trying to make ends meet. Instead the government should address rising tuition fees and improve access to decent jobs for young people.

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.

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For more information, contact: Robin Jackson, Executive Director, Canadian Federation of University Women, 613-234-8252, ext. 102, executivedirector@fcfdu.org