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Lesbian Mothers' Defence Fund

  • Instelling
  • 1978-1987

In 1978, members from Wages Due Lesbians created a new organization called Lesbian Mothers’ Defence Fund (LMDF). Modelled on the Seattle organization Lesbian Mothers’ National Defense Fund, this new group was formed in Toronto in 1978 and was primarily concerned with helping lesbian mothers in child custody cases. As such, it collected a large amount of documents on trials held in Canada and the United States, which it distributed to lesbian mothers or/and their lawyers. It also provided some financial assistance and emotional support to lesbian mothers.

To reach as many women as possible it also began to publish a newsletter, Grapevine: the newsletter of the Lesbian Mothers' Defence Fund. Not only did it inform women but the money helped to support the running of the organization. The Lesbian Mothers’ Defence Fund also raised money by holding dances and accepting donations. However, the revenues were slim and they had to rely heavily on grants given by several companies. By 1987 the organization ceased operations.

Lesbian Organization of Toronto (LOOT)

  • Instelling
  • 1976-1980
The Lesbian Organization of Toronto (LOOT) was founded in 1976 and was Toronto's first openly lesbian feminist group. L.O.O.T. grew out of an October 1976 meeting convened in the C.H.A.T. (Community Homophile Association of Toronto) offices on Church Street. Fiona Rattray, an original member, estimates the meeting was attended by 30-60 lesbians. Members present at this meeting decided to rent part of a house (342 Jarvis St), to develop a multi-use lesbian centre. The collective also included Eve Zaremba, who would later become one of Canada's first notable openly lesbian writers, and Lynne Fernie, a noted documentary filmmaker. The Lesbian Organization of Toronto shared the building with two other compatible organizations; The Other Woman, one of Toronto's longest lasting feminist newsmagazines, and the Three of Cups Women's Coffeehouse. L.O.O.T. moved into the house on February 1, 1977. The organization regularly provided peer support, telephone counselling, dances, social & political activities, a lending library, a newsletter, potluck socials, brunches, concerts and performances by well-known feminist and lesbian musicians like Ferron, Alix Dobkin, Mama Quilla II, and Beverley Glenn Copeland. In 1979, L.O.O.T. members, in collaboration with the International Women's Day Committee, organized that year's Bi-National Lesbian Conference on the University of Toronto campus.

Womynly Way Productions

  • Instelling
  • 1980-?
Formed in 1980, Womynly Way Productions is a non-profit organization producing professional concerts, dance, comedy and theatrical performances featuring primarily women artists. Making cultural events accessible to differently-abled people, including the hearing-impaired, and those who use wheel chairs, is stressed whenever possible. They also provide free childcare at all events.

Women in Trades (WIT)

  • Instelling
  • 1979-1989

The origins of the Women In Trades organization came out of a September 1979 meeting where women from several government agencies and educational groups met to come up with a strategy to help women already working in trades or as a starting point for women interested in entering non-traditional occupations. It was evident to the women at this meeting that there were problems with women in trade feeling isolated and not having a support group to discuss issues with. In spring 1980, a working committee was planning the founding meeting of Women In Trades association. This was held in June 1980.

Founding members of the group are Nancy Bayly and Jenny Stimac. There were always a small group but were committed to the cause. Mary Addison served as co-ordinator of the organization throughout the 1980s. Women In Trade helped women from both an educational and political perspective to make sure they received the guidance they needed. They were able to direct women to different training programs and also encourage them to act politically. There were workshops on how to lobby the government and speaking out publicly and also to attend rallies.

The central focus of the organization was to promote women in trade performing non-traditional work. This was an ongoing process. It involved convincing federal and provincial decision makers and labour unionists of the viability of women working in trades. They had to continually work at strengthening the relationship between tradeswomen, unions and employers. The membership of the group had a broad base. Women In Trade was open to women from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and also disabled tradeswomen. To be eligible for membership a women had to: work with her hands, belong to a particular skilled trade and paid hourly doing work with machines. Funding was always a challenge for this organization and they had to be constantly looking for sources of money. They looked to several different Ontario programs for assistance.

Women Plan Toronto

  • Instelling
  • 1985-2004

In 1982, a ground-breaking conference about gender perspective on urban issues was organized in Toronto by Women In/And Planning (WIAP). It sought to examine the underlying disconnections between urban planning practices and women’s needs.

In 1985, the creation of Women Plan Toronto (WPT) was inspired by an article in Women Environment about Women Plan London (WPL) in the UK. Reggie Modlich was a founding member of WPT and its main coordinator. It was supported by a grant from the federal government via the Status of Women agency as well as by WIAP.
Reggie Modlich defined WPT as ‘a grassroots women’s organization that uses participatory methods to involve diverse women in changing urban planning processes and outcomes in Toronto. Its purpose is to raise awareness and advocate alternatives for addressing women’s planning concerns’.

WPT was composed of a voluntary committee called ‘circles’ in order to avoid the traditional male hierarchical structure of organization. All members who attended a meeting could be part of the decision-making process. Thus, WPT started to exploring gender issues in urban planning by holding informal discussions. Women from various social backgrounds were invited to talk about their experiences and ideas relating to Toronto’s urban environment. The groups explored issues related to child care, public transit, personal safety, municipal governance and elections, housing, and urban planning.

Barbara Loevinger Rahder explains that ‘the structure of the organization, fluctuated with its memberships, depending on who is involved what their interests are, and what issues are on the public agenda (or put on the public agenda by WPT). There [was] one part-time staff member, and a core of about seven or eight volunteers who [were] usually very active in the circles and on various projects. Another fifty women or so [were] less active members, and up to another 3000 individuals and organizations [were] part of a broader network which [was] kept informed and sometimes mobilized around important issues and events’.

From 1985 to 1998, WPT took up various issues and started executing various projects. In this way, during the 1980s and 1990s, WPT had a direct impact on urban planning in Toronto: ‘For more than a decade, the organization has worked to focus attention on women’s needs in the city, to critique the inequities of mainstream planning, and to develop alternative visions of what planning and urban life would be like if women diverse needs were taken into account’.

In 2004, Toronto Women’s City Alliance (TWCA) succeeded WPT.

Nellie Langford Rowell Library collection

  • Instelling
  • 1969-
The Nellie Langford Rowell Library began its existence in 1969 with the collections of documents by the radical feminist group Toronto New Feminists. This group disbanded in 1973 and its library collection was moved the Women's Place on Dupont Street in Toronto. Afterwards, the collection was handed over to the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Metropolitan Toronto on Birth Street.
Upon Birch Street's Y's closure, the documents were put in storage. Joanna Stuckley, the library's first organizer, a faculty member and an advisor to the President on the Status of Women at York's University, was able to arrange for the library to be moved to York University as the York-YWCA Collection. York University has provided a budget to cover one third of its library expenses. In 1985, 1987 and 1994, a donation by Mary Coyne Rowell, through the Jackman Foundation, enabled Founder's College to establish the library on a permanent basis. The library was renamed to honour Mary Coyne Rowell Jackman's mother, Nellie Langford Rowell.

Business and Professional Women's Clubs of Ottawa (BWCPO)

  • Instelling
  • 1933-

The Business and Professional Women's Clubs of Ontario (BPWCO) was formed as a provincial wing of the Canadian Business and Professional Women's Clubs, itself a charter member of the International Federation. In 1933, the Business and Professional Women's Club of Ottawa (BPWCO), a local branch of the Business and Professional Women's Clubs of Ontario, was created. Membership to a local Business and Professional Women's Club allowed access to provincial, national and international membership.

In 1948, the Business and Professional Women's Clubs of Ontario (BPWCO) had its first annual provincial conference. It was headed by a board of directors who met before and after the annual meeting. An interim board meeting was held in the fall and the executive began to meet on a more regular basis. In Ontario, the local clubs were grouped in 12 regions, each comprising of a maximum of 12 clubs. Each individual club elected a regional advisor among its membership. Regional advisors acted as a liaison between the board of directors and other clubs, visited the clubs yearly, and encouraged the creation of additional clubs.

In 1970, the Business and Professional Women's Clubs of Ontario (BPWCO) went through a reorganization. Regions were disbanded and the number of districts was increased from four to seven. Changes were also added to the Board of Directors. The number of vice-presidents decreased from four to one and seven district directors were appointed.

The Business and Professional Women's Club of Ottawa and Business and Professional Women's Clubs of Ontario hosted various activities such as contests for career women and Business Women's Week. Both organizations were also involved in lobbying, the creation of scholarships, as well as the presentation of briefs and submissions to government commissions and the United Nations.

The objects of all clubs were quite similar: to encourage equal status for women in economic, civil and political life; to promote the interests of business and professional women; to encourage education and occupational training for girls and women; and to promote cooperation between professional and business women.

Redlight Theatre

  • Instelling
  • 1974-1977

The Redlight Theatre was Toronto’s first professional feminist theatre company, operating from 1974 to 1977. Diane Grant, Marcella Lustig, and Francine Volker, who were actors and playwrights in Toronto’s alternative theatre scene, founded Redlight Theatre to give women artistic, technical and administrative opportunities in theatre. Grant, Lustig, and Volker served as Co-Artistic Directors and the theatre was run by a combination of hired staff and volunteers.

The Redlight Theatre mounted a wide range of productions addressing feminist topics such as the women’s history, gender stereotyping, and abortion. It produced original plays and commissioned work from playwrights such as Carol Bold and Margaret Hollingsworth. The Redlight Theatre’s most acclaimed production was What Glorious Times We Had written by Diane Grant, which told the story of Nellie McClung and the suffrage movement in Manitoba. What Glorious Times We Had premiered in 1974 and toured Canada for International Women’s Year in 1975. Other notable productions include Entrances (1974) written by Marcella Lustig and Francine Volker, Strange Games (1975) by Elinore Siminovitch, and Queen of the Silver Blades (1976) by Susan Swan and Margaret Dragu. The Redlight Theatre also sponsored Cleo Laine’s first concert in Canada.

In 1975, Redlight Theatre created the Playwrights Workshop to encourage women to develop professional skills in writing for the theatre. Plays that emerged from this workshop include Inside Looking In by Joann MacIntyre, Lies My Mother Told Me by Gay Claitman and Nancy White, and 10,000 Hellcats in Deepfreeze by Suzette Couture, Marcella Lustig, and Jacqueline Swartz.

Established with a grant from the Local Initiatives Program, the Redlight Theatre also received funding from The Secretary of State, the Canada Council, and the City of Toronto. The theatre never acquired sufficient funds to secure a permanent location so productions were staged in various venues, including the Matador Club, the Bathurst Street United Church, the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, and St. Paul’s Centre. After three seasons, the Redlight Theatre closed due to lack of funding in 1977.

Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)

  • Instelling
  • 1956-
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is a national trade union centre, the central labour body in English Canada to which most Canadian labour unions are affiliated. It was founded on April 23, 1956 through the merger of the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada and the Canadian Congress of Labour.

Committee Against Street Harassment (CASH)

  • Instelling
  • 1979-[1985]
In 1977, Margaret Dwight-Spore founded Better End All Vicious Erotic Repression (B.E.A.V.E.R), an organization dedicated to decriminalizing prostitution in Canada. Around 1979 BEAVER changed its name to Committee Against Street Harassment (CASH). It offered legal advice, counselling, referrals and support to sex workers and also provided education through public discussion. It was disbanded in the early 1980s.
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