The Canadian Women’s Studies Association (CWSA) was founded in 1982 at the Learned Societies’ Conference in Ottawa. As a bilingual association of Women’s Studies practitioners across Canada, the CWSA’s mandate is to provide a professional network for Women’s Studies specialists and to promote and foster women’s studies as an academic discipline. The CWSA was a member of the Canadian Humanities Federation, the Social Science Federation of Canada and later, when these two organizations merged, the Humanities and Social Sciences Federation of Canada (HSSFC). In conjunction with the HSSFC, they sponsor an annual conference. The CWSA has published a biannual newsletter since 1982.
In 1992, the CWSA issued its first conference programme entitled Weaving alliances: selected papers presented for the Canadian Women’s Studies Association at the 1991 and 1992 Learned Societies Conferences. The CWSA took over the publication of Atlantis, originally a women’s studies journal issued by Mount Saint Vincent University in 1994 when its publication was suspended due to internal disputes.
In 1993, in response to gender equity issues uncovered at the University of Victoria Political Science Department and on other Canadian campuses, the CWSA launched the Chilly Climate Committee to investigate the issue and propose remedies. In 1998, the CWSA website was launched and a cyber-committee was created in order to keep the association apprised of issues concerning women and new communications technology.
Since 2002, Atlantis, under the aegis of the CWSA, has sponsored an annual prize for a monograph in either French or English published during the previous year. The Book Prize was renamed in 2011 to the Outstanding Scholarship Prize. In 2004, the CWSA introduced both the Undergraduate and Graduate Essay Prizes. The essays are anonymously judged by a committee of 3-5 members.
The CWSA continues to promote Women’s Studies as an academic discipline and it continues to sponsor conferences and publish periodicals on the subject.