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Women's Place

  • Instelling
  • 1972-

In early 1972, a group of women formed the Ottawa Women's Centre Association, and drafted a proposal for a centre which would allow women to meet and pool their skills and resources. The Ottawa Women's Centre (OWC) was the result of their proposal. The centre, offering meeting space, counselling, information and education, became the hub of women's liberation activity in Ottawa from its opening in July 1972 until its demise in 1980.

Like many grassroots feminist organizations of the 1970s, the Women's Centre wanted to avoid traditional methods of organizing; the aim was to leave as much power as possible in the hands of the members themselves. Consequently, the OWC was structured as a collective, run by staff, volunteers and members together, and using consensus to decide on centre policy and direction. However, as the Women's Centre grew, the need for more structured organization became apparent, and while the collective structure was maintained, in 1974 a Policy Committee was elected to be in charge of the major decisions. It was also decided, in 1973, that the centre would be off limits to men.

The Women's Centre offered diverse services which revolved mainly around crisis help, counselling, information and support of various kinds. They were also very active in the community, helping to organize a number of events, such as the Native Women's March to Ottawa in 1979, protests against federal cutbacks affecting poor women, and "reclaim the night" parades. They inspired, supported and helped to organize many other women's organizations in the Ottawa community, such as the Rape Crisis Centre, Women's Career Counselling, Interval House and Upstream, a women's newspaper. In 1975, the scope of their programs had grown so large that it was decided to split the two components of service and action. At that time, Women's Info, Referral and Counselling, while continuing to share the same space and Policy Committee, became a separate organization.

Financial support for the OWC came from a number of sources, including individual donations and support from other community organizations such as the Ottawa Women's Business and Professional Club. A major fundraising drive and benefit events were held in 1973, 1974 and 1976. The OWC also received grant money through the International Women's Year Program, the Local Initiatives Program and the City of Ottawa. In 1975, they were awarded a $10,000 grant from the Regional Municipality on the condition that they incorporate and register as a charitable institution. However, this decision was strongly opposed by some members who saw the potential for serious problems in reliance on government funding. These problems were illustrated the following year when the same grant was revoked. Although the decision was later reversed, the OWC was temporarily thrown into a funding crisis by the controversy.

In 1978 an open meeting was called to discuss the future of the OWC and it was decided that they would work towards becoming self-sufficient. A Business Committee was formed to help with this goal, and the result was the creation of Chez Nous, a small cafe which opened on the premises in February 1979. It was hoped that revenues from Chez Nous would allow the centre to survive without government support. Unfortunately, difficulties connected to their application for a liquor license threw them into even deeper financial trouble and they were forced to close in May 1980.

The idea for Women's Place/Place Aux Femmes originally grew out discussions with Mayor Marion Dewar held in January 1984. The community representatives and individuals who met with the Mayor felt there was a need for a centralized telephone information and referral service specifically for women.

A feasibility study on the need for such a service was commissioned in 1984 by an interim Board named Women's Info. The study confirmed the need for one source to co-ordinate and provide information on the services available to women. Those surveyed also pointed to the problem of gaps in service and the need for outreach and advocacy, and so it was agreed that, although the service would begin with information and referral, it would grow into the areas of support, advocacy and direct services.

In late 1984, while plans were being made for the new service, numerous concerns were raised about duplication of existing services, particularly with the Community Information Centre. To deal with these concerns, Women's Info decided to accelerate their growth plans and were given a grant of $10,000 to gather support and suggestions for the new proposal which included a wider range of services and a physical space for personal access and Centre activities.

Women's Info consulted the community extensively through mail-out questionnaires, pamphlets, and in-depth interviews, and discussions were also held with Community Information Centre representatives in an attempt to clarify respective roles and objectives. It was agreed that, besides providing information and referral, the new women's centre would also help identify and advocate for unmet needs and resources, and would work to heighten awareness of women's issues. The new proposal had extensive community support, and on October 16, Ottawa City Council approved funding. On June 12, 1986, Women's Place/Place aux Femmes officially opened at 242 Besserer Street.
From the beginning, Women's Place was concerned with reaching out to women who were isolated or disadvantaged because of age, ethnicity, poverty, disability or a combination of factors. Thus, their services, operating guidelines, and structure reflected the need to be inclusive and accessible. They did regular and extensive community outreach, established a francophone services collective and worked closely with other organizations to identify and work to solve problems caused by gaps in service. The Board was made up of both staff, volunteers and community members, and the organization was operated as a collective, with everyone sharing in the decision making process. Decision-making positions could not be held by men, although they could have limited access to services and information.

Like many women's organizations, Women's Place faced its share of financial problems, relying for funding on individual donations and government grants. In September 1986, only a few months after their official opening, their budget was reduced from $80,000 to $40,000, necessitating the cutting of 3 full time positions and many services. Another cut, in 1987, was met with a huge fundraising effort which included a reception for Bonnie Robichaud on Parliament Hill, film nights, a poetry reading, dances, a March for Peace and a music night. Since 1988, Women's Place/Place aux Femmes has relied mainly on grants from the provincial and local governments. In 1991, it moved from Besserer Street to Bruyere Street, where it rents the top half of a local community centre from the City.

The aims of Women's Place today are much the same as they were when it opened in 1986, but lack of funds has decreased the scope of their services somewhat. A lot of their work today is done in support of or in conjunction with other community and women's organizations.

Ottawa Women's Place / Place aux Femmes

  • Instelling
  • 1986-

The idea for Women's Place/Place Aux Femmes originally grew out discussions held in January 1984 with Mayor of Ottawa, Marion Dewar. The community representatives and individuals who met with the Mayor felt there was a need for a centralized telephone information and referral service specifically for women.

A feasibility study on the need for such a service was commissioned in 1984 by an interim board named Women's Info. The study confirmed the need for one source to co-ordinate and provide information on the services available to women. Those surveyed also pointed to the problem of gaps in service and the need for outreach and advocacy, and so it was agreed that, although the service would begin with information and referral, it would grow into the areas of support, advocacy and direct services. In late 1984, while plans were being made for the new service, numerous concerns were raised about duplication of existing services, particularly with the Community Information Centre. To deal with these concerns, Women's Info decided to accelerate their growth plans and were given a grant of $10,000 to gather support and suggestions for the new proposal which included a wider range of services and a physical space for personal access and Centre activities.

Women's Info consulted the community extensively through mail-out questionnaires, pamphlets, and in-depth interviews, and discussions were also held with Community Information Centre representatives in an attempt to clarify respective roles and objectives. It was agreed that, besides providing information and referral, the new women's centre would also help identify and advocate for unmet needs and resources, and would work to heighten awareness of women's issues. The new proposal had extensive community support, and on October 16, Ottawa City Council approved funding. On June 12, 1986, Women's Place/Place aux Femmes officially opened at 242 Besserer Street.

From the beginning, Women's Place was concerned with reaching out to women who were isolated or disadvantaged because of age, ethnicity, poverty, disability or a combination of factors. Thus, their services, operating guidelines, and structure reflected the need to be inclusive and accessible. They did regular and extensive community outreach, established a francophone services collective and worked closely with other organizations to identify and work to solve problems caused by gaps in service. The Board was made up of both staff, volunteers and community members, and the organization was operated as a collective, with everyone sharing in the decision making process. Decision-making positions could not be held by men, although they could have limited access to services and information.

Like many women's organizations, Women's Place faced its share of financial problems, relying for funding on individual donations and government grants. In September 1986, only a few months after their official opening, their budget was reduced from $80,000 to $40,000, necessitating the cutting of 3 full time positions and many services. Another cut, in 1987, was met with a huge fundraising effort which included a reception for Bonnie Robichaud on Parliament Hill, film nights, a poetry reading, dances, a March for Peace and a music night. Since 1988, Women's Place/Place aux Femmes has relied mainly on grants from the provincial and local governments. In 1991, it moved from Besserer Street to Bruyère Street, where it rented the top half of a local community centre from the City of Ottawa.

Ottawa Women's Centre

  • Instelling
  • 1972-1980

In early 1972, a group of women formed the Ottawa Women's Centre Association and drafted a proposal for a centre which would allow women to meet and pool their skills and resources. The Ottawa Women's Centre (OWC) was the result of their proposal. The Centre offered a space for meetings, counselling, training and education, and it became the hub of women's liberation activity in Ottawa from its opening in July 1972 until its demise in 1980.

Like many grassroots feminist organizations of the 1970s, the Women's Centre wanted to avoid traditional methods of organizing; the aim was to leave as much power as possible in the hands of the members themselves. Consequently, the OWC was structured as a collective, run by staff, volunteers and members together, and using consensus to decide on centre policy and direction. However, as the Women's Centre grew, the need for more structured organization became apparent, and while the collective structure was maintained, in 1974 a Policy Committee was elected to be in charge of the major decisions. It was also decided, in 1973, that the centre would be off limits to men.

The Women's Centre offered various services which revolved mainly around crisis help, counselling, information and support of various kinds. They were also very active in the community, helping to organize a number of events, such as the Native Women's March to Ottawa in 1979, protests against federal cutbacks affecting poor women, and "reclaim the night" parades. They inspired, supported and helped to organize many other women's organizations in the Ottawa community, such as the Rape Crisis Centre, Women's Career Counselling, Interval House and Upstream, a women's newspaper. In 1975, the scope of their programs had grown so large that it was decided to split the two components of service and action. At that time, Women's Info, Referral and Counselling became a separate organization while continuing to share the same space and Policy Committee.

Financial support for the OWC came from a number of sources, including individual donations and support from other community organizations such as the Ottawa Women's Business and Professional Club. A major fundraising drive and benefit events were held in 1973, 1974 and 1976. The OWC also received grant money through the International Women's Year Program, the Local Initiatives Program and the City of Ottawa. In 1975, they were awarded a $10,000 grant from the Regional Municipality on the condition that they incorporate and register as a charitable institution. However, this decision was strongly opposed by some members who saw the potential for serious problems in reliance on government funding. These problems were illustrated the following year when the same grant was revoked. Although the decision was later reversed, the OWC was temporarily thrown into a funding crisis by the controversy.

In 1978 an open meeting was called to discuss the future of the OWC and it was decided that they would work towards becoming self-sufficient. A Business Committee was formed to help with this goal, and the result was the creation of Chez Nous, a small cafe which opened on the premises in February 1979. It was hoped that revenues from Chez Nous would allow the centre to survive without government support. Unfortunately, difficulties connected to their application for a liquor license threw them into even deeper financial trouble and they were forced to close in May 1980.

The Women’s Place / Place aux femmes (fonds 10-020) was opened in 1986, after extensive feasibility studies and community surveys to determine exactly what type of service should be offered in Ottawa. The basic organisation, philosophy and services of Women’s Place were very similar to those of the previous Ottawa Women’s Centre, but there was more emphasis on meeting the needs of diverse groups of women in the community, and on working together with other organisations and agencies.

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.

Broadside

  • Instelling
  • 1979-1989

Broadside: A Feminist Review began publication in October 1979 and produced 10 issues a year until its demise in September 1989. Until then, the paper met its publication goals regularly with two exceptions: a mail strike and faulty equipment. Published in Toronto, Broadside was heavily weighted to Ontario. Attempts were made to link other Canadian correspondents to issues on a regular basis, however these were not consistently sustained.

Behind the production of Broadside was a volunteer collective whose goal was to publish a tabloid-size newspaper that would provide a forum for all women, to encourage dialogue, and to provide a feminist perspective on a range of subjects. The publication was committed to publishing reviews, analyses of women’s issues and feminist perspectives on world events. Articles about the Vietnamese Boat People, nuclear power, and Amnesty International shared space with articles on sexual assault, pornography, child care, pay equity, and abortion. There was always a large arts component along with critical commentary on popular culture.

Collective membership varied and current members were identified in the mastheads. The members of the collective had a variety of backgrounds and skills. These included volunteering skills for layout, editorial functions, fundraising, subscription services, circulation and distribution. Original collective members included Eve Zaremba, Philinda Masters, Deena Rasky, Beverly Allinson, Heather Brown, Susan G. Cole, Debra Curties, Judith Lawrence, Alex Maas, Jacqueline Frewin, and Susan Sturman.

From 1979 to 1988 Broadside had one paid employee, the editor, Philinda Masters. While the Broadside collective was responsible for the paper’s overall functioning, day to day decisions fell on the editor’s shoulders. Masters resigned in 1988 due to increasing financial and personal duress. During the mid-1980s summer students were hired under federal and provincial job programs. Some of the students continued to participate with the paper’s production as collective members.

Throughout its existence, the paper operated under the constant risk of financial doom. Support was raised mainly from advertisers, subscribers, and government grants. Some fundraising efforts sponsored by Broadside included dances, concerts, and a strawberry brunch. The collective initiated direct mail campaigns to boost subscriber lists and revenue.

The editorial collective attempted to continue the paper’s production, but found the combination of burn-out and financial pressures overwhelming. Volume 10, No.4 was published in February 1989, but there was no March issue. A meeting was called in an effort to encourage another group to take over production. Lacking further support, Broadside published the tenth anniversary and final issue (Volume 10, No.5) in August/September of 1989. The collective received funding for the final issue from personal donations and the Ontario Women’s Directorate.

Several collective members, participated in organizing the 1986 Canadian Feminist Periodicals (CFP) Conference. This conference was an initiative that grew out of the efforts of members of the Canadian Periodicals Publishers Association to strengthen the Feminist base within Quebec. Their first conference was held in 1985 in Quebec.

Significant contributors to Broadside included: Myrna Kostash, Susan G. Cole, Eve Zaremba, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Ann Cameron, Dorothy Heanut, Banuta Rubess, Angela Miles, Margaret Atwood, Joanne Kates, and Eleanor Wachtel.

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.

National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC)

  • Instelling
  • 1971-[2010]

The National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) was an umbrella organization for women’s groups and groups that supported women’s issues in Canada.
In 1970, commissioned by the federal government and chaired by Florence Bird, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women (RCSW) released a report which recognized women’s subordinate place in Canadian Society. The report contained 167 recommendations to strengthen women’s position in Canada. In 1971, the National Ad Hoc Committee on the Status of Women was formed by a group of women determined to see these recommendations implemented in the Canadian Society. Further, they proposed that this large organization would form committees to address key matters of concern, lobby the government for legislative changes and raise public awareness about women’s issues. During the Strategy for Change conference led by Laura Sabia in Toronto in 1972, it was decided that « Ad Hoc » should be dropped from the name, thus the organization became known as the National Action Committee on the Status of Women. Initially, the first thirty groups that made up NAC were mostly based in Toronto, but over time, the number of member groups increased dramatically and represented more of Canada. In fact, in 1977 NAC had approximately 120 member groups registered, 576 groups in 1988, and around 600 in 1996. Membership was diverse in class and politics: “They included many older national women’s organizations, business and professional women, unions, YWCAs, service organizations such as women’s shelters and rape crisis centres, immigrant women’s caucuses in various mixed groups and political parties.” (Rise Up!). The organization became officially bilingual in 1976.

NAC’s structure remained consistent and was volunteer based. NAC was led by an elected president and supported by a number of elected vice presidents, regional representatives and member groups. Approximately every two years there was an election for a new presidential candidate. Over the years, each NAC president brought her own talents, perspective and leadership direction to the organization. Typically, each president served a two-year term, beginning with Lauria Sabia. Subsequent presidents were Grace Hartman, Lorna Marsden, Kay Macpherson, Lynn McDonald, Jean Wood, Doris Anderson, Chavia Hosek, Louise Delude, Lynn Kaye, Judy Rebick, Sunera Thobani, and Joan Grant-Cummings.
Along with the president, the vice-presidents and regional representatives from the NAC Executive made decisions about hiring and office practices and acted as liaisons to member groups. The Executive met throughout the year to provide continuity and direction. NAC was organized in several committees which focused on particular issues including employment, pensions and income security; social services (including child care); violence against women; health and reproductive rights; pornography; visible minority and immigrant women; native women, etc.

. Each year an annual general meeting was held in order to communicate with member groups, assess strategies, plan for actions and campaigns and form committees to effectively organize their voices. Each member group had the opportunity to send a representative to the meeting who could vote on proposed amendments to the Constitution or any motion that was brought forward. Committees responded to issues in their jurisdiction as they arose. Members had the opportunity to join committees, which met during the year, planning and organizing campaigns and report to the AGM.

In order to reach the many member groups, NAC published short newsletters that highlighted current issues and pertinent events. The publication was first called Status of Women News (1973-1985), commonly referred to as Status, and evolved into Memo. The publication became Feminist Action Feministe (1985), and finally Action Now (1990).

The first NAC office was located in Toronto, but as NAC’s membership grew larger and it received more funding from the government, it was decided to open an Ottawa office. Unfortunately, it became expensive to have two offices and therefore in 1995, it was decided that the Ottawa bureau would have to close down. The NAC Toronto office changed location, size and personnel, reflecting financial and organizational pressures.

Funding for NAC was inconsistent, depending on [changing?] federal government policy. The government funding allowed NAC to develop an infrastructure that permitted active but costly participation from the regions (women from every province and territory flew in on a monthly basis for meetings and working committees). There was, however, always a debate in NAC about whether to accept money from the government. On the one hand, it was argued that women pay taxes and have a right to have tax money redistributed to promote their aims and rights. On the other hand, it was argued that NAC needed to be fully independent so that the government could not pull the plug on their movement. NAC did, however, rely heavily on federal funding, which was problematic during its last years of existence. NAC’s core funding from the government was cut in half in 1988, which made membership fees and fundraising campaigns essential to NAC’s survival. By the 2000s, NAC was slowly becoming a less relevant feminist political advocate and has since completely disappeared from Canadian politics (Collier, Cheryl, p.17).

NAC, in its heyday, was instrumental in bringing women’s issues to the forefront of public discussion. NAC identified four issues as priorities when it began in 1972: the right to abortion, childcare, getting coverage for homemakers in the Canada Pension Plan and equal pay. By 1975, International Women’s Year broadened to equal pay for work of equal value, universal childcare, birth control accessibility, the right to abortion services, Family Law Reform, pension rights for homemakers and native women’s rights. During the 1984 Election, NAC’s efforts secured an unprecedented nationally televised debate on women’s issues. Also in the early 1980's, in reaction to the cutbacks from the Conservative’s federal budget, the Back On Track Campaign encouraged women to voice their disapproval with these detrimental moves to cut funding to essential groups. As well, NAC was vocal in lobbying for legislative and social change including Section 32 (b) of the Indian Act, changes to the Constitution in 1982, and equal pay for work of equal value. Other significant committees were formed and worked on issues like Survival of the Planet, Lesbian Rights, Justice, Immigrant and Visible Minority Women. When under the Immigration Act, domestics, many from Jamaica, were being deported after losing their jobs, NAC fought successfully to stop the deportations. NAC’s members’ efforts were successful also to get, improve and maintain unemployment insurance for women, and maternity and parental benefits as well as to lead the way in developing a coalition to fight free trade. NAC also supported several breakthrough legal cases, including that of Bonnie Robichaud on her complaint of sexual harassment. Bonnie Robichaud’s victory in finding the employer liable for harassment opened the door for many women to complain. NAC also supported Mary Pitawanakwat on her complaint about discrimination on the basis of race in the Secretary of State. It played a significant role in supporting her victory to be reinstated in her position. The beginning of the 90’s was marked by the case of Chantal Daigle and the Ecole Polytechnique Massacre.

Although NAC was not immune to controversy, or internal struggles, it managed to successfully represent hundreds of women’s groups in Canada. NAC became an important voice for women’s groups in Canada in the 70s into the 90s, and played an important role in raising awareness and effecting positive changes for women in Canada. NAC ceased existance in the late 2000s.

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.

Ottawa Women's Lobby (OWL)

  • Instelling
  • 1977-[199-]
The Ottawa Women’s Lobby (OWL) was a feminist advocacy organization founded as a member group of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) by Shirley Greenberg in 1977. OWL lobbied the municipal, provincial and federal governments to fight for equality for women in all aspects of Canadian life. The organization consisted of women from various occupations and backgrounds. In addition to Shirley Greenberg, the members of OWL throughout the group's founding/early years (1970s) consisted of: Kay Marshall, Lynn Kaye, Rosemary Billings, Diana Pepall, Mary Ambrose, Pat Hacker, John Baglow, Carole Swan, Helene Doyon, Sheila Klein, and Monica Townson. OWL remained active until the 1990's, but past members continue to hold semi-annual social meetings, which facilitate spirited debates.

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.
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