There might have been a scarcity of university-educated women across the prairies in 1923 but, undaunted, in October of that year a group of local women founded the Canadian Federation of University Women of Calgary. And that was before we had a university here.
The 20th club to join the CFUW is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a tea and vintage fashion show the afternoon of Oct. 14 at the Scarboro Community Association facility, behind the Calgary Tennis Club.
Over the years, the Calgary club has continued its advocacy for women’s rights, support for students through scholarships, and community involvement and fellowship.
Current club president Susan Miller says CFUW of Calgary has carried on its original vision to facilitate both social and intellectual pursuits among members, to stimulate their interest and participation in public affairs in the political, social and cultural fields.
Miller first joined a CFUW club in Fredericton, N.B., in the mid-1970s. Moving to Calgary in 1982, she joined the local club a few years later and has been a keen supporter ever since.
She says the clubs were first formed as a place for women who felt the need for a post-degree home where they could discuss women’s rights and social justice in local communities.
Listening to speakers, the monthly meetings were not only informative but spurred members to be very active. They have been happy to partner with other women’s clubs, with delegations and letters to the city, provincial and federal ministers to support pay equity for women, marital property and support, teachers’ salaries and affordable daycare.
It was not until 1958 that women lawyers, thanks to pressure, had space in a provincial courtroom to change into their robes — which were mandatory to face a judge, but the most vigorous local campaign was to get a degree-granting university in Calgary.
The University of Calgary was established in 1944 as a branch of the University of Alberta, but it didn’t get status as an autonomous university until 1966.
According to Miller, education and the well-being of students has always been a key part of the club’s mission. It was tireless in the pursuit of the importance of putting libraries and qualified librarians in Calgary’s elementary schools. The importance of childhood literacy continues to be of great concern and the CFUW has responded with the donation of hundreds of books, for both children and parents, to the Calgary Urban Project Society when it opened its One Child Development Centre. Donations have also been given to Calgary Reads, CanLearn Society and Little Red Reading House.
CFUW Calgary was very involved in the establishment of the first model daycare facility in Bowness-Montgomery, and is supportive of the national group in Ottawa that is making great strides in daycare legislation.
In its focus on furthering education, its scholarship fund has been effective in supporting various fields of study for decades, with nine endowed at the University of Calgary and two others. Scholarships are also given at Mount Royal University and at Faculté St. Jean at the University of Alberta. Miller says her members enjoy a great sense of pride in meeting the students who are recipients of the scholarships.
CFUW Calgary has been a driver for 100 years, and today its membership is open to all women interested in working together to improve the status of women and provide support for education at all levels.
In response to the many questions as to what is happening to the former Viscount Bennett School, which has been rather an eyesore overlooking Crowchild Trail S. for too long, the 11.49-acre site has been purchased by Minto. Representing the Calgary Board of Education, Marc Rosso and Brad Kroeker of Cushman Wakefield sold the prime developable land to Minto that is currently preparing an application to the city for land-use rezoning to develop it for multi-family residential use. Minto opened an office in Calgary in 2014; its first multi-family project was the mid-rise Era in Bridgeland and it has since built many quality homes in Calgary and Airdrie.
David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at [email protected]