The National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) was founded on October 27, 1893, at a public meeting in Toronto, chaired by Lady Aberdeen, wife of the Governor-General of Canada, at the Horticultural Pavilion in Toronto and attended by 1500 women. It was founded in a period when women were beginning to organize themselves for effective community action. Many women, looking beyond the charitable societies, garden clubs, music and literary clubs, and missionary societies to which they belonged, saw the need for societal reform, better education for women, even women’s suffrage. They realized that they would be much more effective if they spoke with a united voice.
The International Council of Women (ICW) had been founded a few years earlier, in 1888, at a meeting in Washington, D.C. The idea of a Canadian Council was developed at the ICW World’s Congress of Representative Women, meeting in Chicago in May 1893. A group of women attending from the Dominion of Canada took the opportunity to form a provisional executive for the possibility of a new Canadian Council.
From its beginning, the National Council worked to improve the status of women. Some of its earliest efforts were directed towards improving the lot of three underprivileged groups/women prisoners, women working in factories, and women immigrants. By 1900, its members were reporting the appointment of matrons in some institutions housing women prisoners, and of women inspectors in Ontario and Quebec factories where women were employed.
The Famous 5 were members of NCWC: Read about the Famous 5
History of the National Council of Canada: Engagement in the National Council of Women of Canada: An Analytical Perspective , Blemano, Cardillo, Heffernan, McCreadie, and Dr. A. Perrella, December 7, 2017
Today in Ottawa’s History: The Evening Journal – Women’s Edition “…Notable women in the Ottawa community also contributed articles to the special newspaper edition. Lady Aberdeen wrote a lengthy column about what “society girls” might do…” Note: NCWC’s website and this section on “History” has been mentioned at the bottom of the above-mentioned webpage of “Today in Ottawa’s History”.
Lady Ishbel Maria Hamilton-Gordon Aberdeen, the wife of the Governor General and founder, agreed to become the first president, and the rapid spread of local Councils across Canada owed much to her energy and enthusiasm. Lady Aberdeen was never for a moment a figurehead president, and when she left Canada in 1898, her executive lamented “…We feel that in losing your stimulating and energizing presence we are losing that which has hitherto been the mainspring of our organization.”
For more details about Lady Aberdeen, visit Founder.
Coat of Arms
As part of its Centennial celebrations, the NCWC was granted an official Coat of Arms in 1993. For more details, visit: Coat of Arms
AGM Archived Documents from first Annual Meetings
NCWC meeting held in Halifax in 1936: Photo of Members at NCWC Meeting – Halifax 1936
NCWC Agenda for 5th Annual Meeting and Conference 1989
NCWC Yearbook Report for 20th Annual Meeting and Conference 1913
NCWC MG 18, I25, Findings Aid No. 694 National Archives of Canada