Council of Women of Winnipeg Inc.


                   Who We Are - History of the Council of Women



Ten Winnipeg women's groups came together on March 27th 1894, to organize the Winnipeg Council, one of the first in Canada. At one time, there were nearly 100 federate or organizational members of Council. Today, with many of these organizations no longer existing, there are fewer federate members. Organizations which belong can include both men and women, however the representative to Council is always a woman. Associate or individuals may also belong.


Council does not receive Government funds for its operation, but is dependent on volunteer time and effort, along with minimal fees from its members.


Group achievements, outstanding performance, breaking new ground or old barriers and making a distinct and describable difference .

The Council of Women of Winnipeg has indeed had many achievements in its over 118 year history. Many of them have made a distinct and lasting difference. The following will highlight just a few:


Recent Activities:

· Council has sponsored Town Halls as a way of educating and informing voters, prior to civic, provincial and federal elections. A Mayoralty Forum was held in June 2004; the Fort Whyte All Candidate Provincial Election Public Forum was held December 2005; the All Candidate Federal Election Forum Winnipeg South Centre was held January 2006;  the Kildonan-St. Paul Federal Election Town Hall October 2008 and the City of Winnipeg by-election for River Heights March 2009.

· Celebrating Women, a major initiative of National Council was a big success in Winnipeg during the summer of 2005. Over 2000 persons visited the national touring art exhibit and fund-raiser. The exhibit was on display at the Assiniboine Park Conservatory from July 7 to August 2, 2005. 75 volunteers were involved.

· A series “Energy Options for Our Future” was the program theme for 2007.

· Recent resolutions have been on the disposal of hazardous waste, the need for public toilets in downtown Winnipeg, pay as you drive public insurance and the usuage of plastic bags.


In the beginning - early history:


·  As early as 1894, the Council of Women of Winnipeg (referred to here as the "Council") was advocating for a system of "technical training" in the public schools. Later, (1900) the Council approved in principle the instruction of Domestic Science, and in 1902, worked with a committee of men from the University to manage the Domestic Science Department, about to be inaugurated at the University. In 1903, the Council met with government to assure the funding for this program did not end. This early interest and work continued with support for women and girls and youth in practical skills training over the years.


The early years of Council documents the successful advocating for a Matron at the Police Station, which resulted in a Matron being appointed in 1899. After achieving that "breakthrough", Council appointed a committee to cooperate with the Prisoners' Aid Association in securing repairs at the Police station.


Those early years also were groundbreaking in the work of Council which saw members working for the establishment of the Victorian Order of Nurses, which was formed here in Winnipeg in 1897, another "first" and making a huge difference in the care of the sick at home. Work of Council has continued over the years with support of public nursing, home care, fair salaries and employment practices for nurses and appropriate education and training. More recently Council has taken action in support of nurses having more say into policy planning.


· At a meeting held in 1903, it was decided unanimously that a branch of the Women's Art Association of Canada be established in Winnipeg. Local Council continued to support women in the arts over the years - in 1948 Council supported a local exhibit of paintings by Canadian women artists.

· 1907 and 1908 were busy years with President Annie Bond and the establishment of a Children's Hospital, all ground breaking work led by the Council of Women of Winnipeg.


  • A "Bureau of Employment for Women and Girls" was opened under the management of a committee of Winnipeg Council in January 1915 - a first for Winnipeg. This provided a much needed resource for women coming to the city, with 667 being placed that first year.
  •  A "Cinema Committee" in 1916 began to look into the quality of the films being shown to children. A member from Council, Mrs. Patriarche was appointed to the Board of Censors (a joint body of 3 with the Province of Saskatchewan). This was a first to have a woman as a member of the Board.

· From this early involvement, Council, for many years, issued lists of "good films for family viewing" to its federate members, which were widely distributed and indeed eventually published in the press.

· 1919 saw the Council petitioning the Winnipeg School Board to take over the operation of the Kindergarten Schools. This was done and also that year a psychiatrist was appointed to the school staff at the urging of the Winnipeg Council, the first in Canada.

· 1920 is recorded to be a significant Annual Meeting, with members being urged to register and to use their franchise in the upcoming Provincial Election as it would be the first time that privilege was accorded them. Members were being educated and educating others.

· Around 1930, Mrs. Ross Mitchell as a member of Winnipeg Council collected information concerning Maternal Mortality. She found that Manitoba,  which once had the highest death rate of mothers in Canada, now had the lowest rate. This had been accomplished partly by the efforts of Council and its support of the Victorian Order of Nurses and the Margaret Scott Mission.

 The 1930's saw Council actively working on supporting Community Centres where basic instruction was given to mothers of "borderline or relief families". Articles were made, such as children's clothing, quilts, school dresses and jams and pickles. Council actually held a garden ·  As early as 1932, Winnipeg Council was urging government to establish a pension system for the blind.

·  In 1936, National Scholarships for education were supported.

In 1944, Family Allowances were endorsed.

· In 1945, there was considerable work done in the area of amendments to the divorce laws and the recognition of a separate domicile of wife. In 1947, recommendations were made to the Attorney-General on the establishment of a Family Court. In 1954, a resolution was passed by Council that an amendment be made to the Dower Act, providing that a wife must receive legal advice before consenting to the sale of homestead.

·  In 1946, a conference was held, organized by local Council, to consider the formation of a consumers' council.

 In 1947, Winnipeg Council's early work saw the formation of the Consumers' Association of Canada. Definitely groundbreaking!

· In 1949, there was a 2-day institute held, sponsored by Winnipeg Council, on "inter-racial" goodwill. Later in 1954, Winnipeg Council sponsored an Indian Metis Conference, the first in Canada! Local Council then recommended and advocated for Indian and Metis Friendship Centres, with the first opening in 1958.

· In the late `40's Council became very active in penal reform. A brief was prepared, and later distributed for use in officers' training programs. Funds were provided for the Prisoners' Aid Society to help women prisoners.

· In 1951, resolution and action was done by Council urging that women be eligible for jury service.

· As early as 1971, Winnipeg Council was supporting the removal of abortion from the Criminal Code.

· The Council held the first workshop on Violence Against Women in 1982. This was a major initiative of the Provincial Council of Women of Manitoba that year, but it was Winnipeg Council that held the first workshop, which later became the pattern for the 32 workshops which followed, in Winnipeg and through out the province. The workshops facilitated discussion, recommendations and the public realization that indeed there was a problem. Ground breaking, and significant work. 

· During the 80's and 90's, members of Council became concerned with land use planning in Winnipeg and the surrounding municipalities. A Committee was formed, with members researching and becoming actively involved in intervening at hearings where developers were planning and promoting low density housing and "urban sprawl". The Council of Women of Winnipeg was one of the first groups to alert the public to this growing potential problem, with costs born by Winnipeg tax payers.

The Council has made an incredible difference to the quality of life for Winnipeggers, in particular women and children. The following are only examples of many, which reflect the diversity of interests and the value of its work.


As early as 1908, Council had set up a committee to institute a program of playgrounds for children in Winnipeg. Two playgrounds for pre-school age children were opened in 1940, due to the cooperation of the School Board and the response of firms and individuals to the appeal of the President of the Council of Women of Winnipeg and the Convenor of Recreation (a committee of Council).


·In 1919, Council initiated a post-card campaign to urge the government to establish an institution for the "feeble minded" or mentally · 1919 was also the year Council urged the establishment of a Curfew Law in Winnipeg and this was recommended to City Council for age 16 and under.


In February 1999, Council hosted a presentation on "Panhandling: the good, the bad and the ugly" which gave interesting insight into the causes and control problems related to panhandling for our members and the public, with Ethics Professor, Dr. Arthur Shafer.

· In 1921, better supervision was requested for the passenger traffic to the beaches, parks and pleasure-grounds, dance halls and outdoor amusements. Council was successful in stopping a proposed all-night hallowe'een dance and as a result of their work a new by-law re dance halls was passed by City Council.

· The continued sale of oleomargarine was requested also in 1921.

· Bus service on Morley to the hospitals was requested - and approved.

In 1924, the Council took up the crusade against employment of women in the Free Amusement Shows in town. These shows were later closed in 1928 and Council received a letter from then Mayor Dan McLean congratulating Council on the closing of these places.

· Between 1925 and 1930, Council took up the investigation of pastry and other foods being offered for sale uncovered and unprotected, urging City regulation and monitoring. Shortly after their investigation began, a report was prepared which stated that the Food and Drug Act appeared to be now complied with in this regard.

· Council urged decreasing the number of days of horse-racing by City Council. Legislation was also urged governing the operation of pin ball machines (1937) and other gambling devices. This latter was enacted.

· Members of local Council were concerned in the late 20's as well, with the lack of enforcement of laws regarding working hours for women and recommended that stools for sales girls be placed in shops.

· At the request of local Council, the University Women's Club of Winnipeg (a long time federate member of Council) made a survey of library conditions in the City in 1934. A resolution followed, urging City Council to reorganize the library authority by the creation of a Library Board. A woman was named to the Board when it was organized. Much work has been done by Council in support of the Public Library system in terms of accessibility and resources over the years. In 1939, for example, there was a recommendation to the Library Board that reference sections of the library remain open until 10:30 during winter months. The status of Winnipeg Libraries was the topic of a Council program  in 1999 as Council continued its mandate to educate its members and the general public on local issues.

· Early efforts for supporting adequate housing for low-income groups were recorded in 1935 and appear frequently in years following. In 1949, for example, a delegation appeared before government with a well prepared brief, urging housing for low- income families. In 1950, the Winnipeg Council of Women was named by City Council to be part of a delegation to approach the Manitoba government for support of the City's plan for low rental housing. In 1961, Council formed a delegation to City Council re slum clearance. Council then marched on the provincial government urging grants for housing projects and slum clearance. In 1963, Burrows-Keewatin and similar housing projects were endorsed. In 1982, bus tours were conducted for Council members and the public to view some of the early public housing programs and the core of the City where such projects were needed. In 1999, Winnipeg Council prepared a resolution on "homelessness", urging action by governments, which became part of the National Council resolution package for review by all Councils across Canada.

· In 1950, several resolutions were passed with short and long range programs recommended following the flood. The more recent flood of 1997, saw Council assessing the planning and land use decisions of government and urging that no residential housing should be permitted on the known flood plain.

· In 1955, Council urged the Manitoba Government to establish the School for the Deaf.

· In 1957 City Council was asked to install stoves and sinks in the Civic Auditorium, used by the community for various public events. Later in 1964, Council presented a resolution advising the use of the Auditorium as a public library. It is now the Manitoba Archive Library.

 · A resolution requesting City Council provide regulations for Ambulance Services was presented by Council in 1961.

·  Major work was done in the early `80s on the protection of heritage buildings by local Council members. A resolution by Winnipeg Council recommending income tax relief for owners of such buildings was presented, and indeed became a National Council resolution, which was approved.

·  Support was given in 1967 for the Manitoba Theatre Centre to be part of the new Centennial Art Centre.

· There was a protest to the then Metro Council on the multiplicity of street signs back in 1967. There was also support given at that time for a special Youth Squad Division of the City of Winnipeg Police.

· During the early `30's, local Council educated its members and the public on the value of immunization against diphtheria.

· Local Council supported the early work of Charlotte Whitton, and presented a summary of her report to City Council. They recommended that Child and Family Welfare work in Winnipeg be carried out under the direction of a trained supervisor.

· Citizenship is an area that Council has also supported over the years. That support was given at the ceremonies of the receiving of citizenship papers, and later at receptions and citizenship court observances. Members of Council provided refreshments for many years. During the time of the Hungarian Revolution, the Citizenship Chair of Winnipeg Council, along with her husband, met every train or plane arriving in Winnipeg with refugees aboard - regardless of the time of day or night. 


· Activities of Council have been public panels, presented in partnership with federate members such as the University Women's Club, on various civic issues, such as governance and the restructuring of government, taxation, urban planning and the recent mayoral and civic election.

· In 1998, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, the Winnipeg Real Estate Board, the Council of Women of Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Free Press held a Community Forum - "Planning Our Future". The Council of Women of Winnipeg has played a distinct role in bringing to the attention of the government, the media and the public, the growing problem of the exodus of Winnipeggers to the outlying municipalities. 

Council has also participated effectively in recent City of Winnipeg planning exercises such as "Plan Winnipeg" and "Transplan 2010".


The Council of Women of Winnipeg has contributed as a role model for other women.


The network of support, the leadership opportunities, the education and experiences for Council members is invaluable for women. The values of the organization, which include respect and community participation assist in members' development. The following examples are ones where Council has supported women's opportunities and individual development.


·  Founding member of Women's Model Parliament, which encouraged women to get involved in the political process.

·  In 1941 Council appeared before the provincial government accompanying hairdressers seeking improved hours and wages.

· Appointment of women to the Police Commission was urged in 1964. Local Council has always urged government to consider gender equality in the appointments to boards and agencies.

· Support was given in 1967 for the Joint Committee on Continuing Education for Women.

· Many of the federate members of the Council, such as the Junior League, the YM-YWCA, the University Women's Club, the Soroptimists, the Salvation Army, various church groups and alumni worked to promote the equality of women and have developed innovative programs and services mentoring and supporting women. The University Women's Club of Winnipeg for example, distributes over $10,000 per year as scholarship awards to women students in Manitoba.


· Council was asked to have a national program located here, "Girls as Perpetrators and Recipients of Violence" as part of the National Council Annual Meeting held here in early June of 1999. This initiative led to the Round Table, supported by the Manitoba · As early as 1956, Council made representation to government for equal pay for equal work. In 1934, Council was advocating for minimum wage laws. A brief was submitted in 1951 to the Minimum Wage Board on behalf of Council. Local Council supported the brief presented by Provincial Council at the recent hearings (1998) of the Manitoba Minimum Wage Board.



The history of the Council of Women of Winnipeg is full of stories of caring, sharing and hard work. There is probably no other organization that takes on the range of issues as effectively as Council. Members give of their time and of themselves to build communities that are supportive of women, of families and those whose voices are not normally heard by decision makers. They are the watch dogs who can do the research and present alternatives to government policy. They are practical and willing to work for the betterment of the community.


They truly are "Women of Distinction."

Award recipient YM-YWCA Women of Distinction 1999

Early History