History of the National Council of Women of Canada in Ottawa

For a very long time, in many countries of the world, women had practically no rights. In Ottawa, the movement to protect and expand women’s rights began in the second half of the 19th century. Such a movement has led to the establishment of many human rights organizations for women, resulting in the expansion of women’s rights on an equal footing with men. Find out more on ottawanka.com.

Historical background of the Council of Women

The National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC), based in Ottawa, was founded through its membership in the International Council of Women. In turn, the International Council of Women (ICW) was founded in 1888 in the United States in Washington, DC. The members of this organization included women from all over the world, such as the United States, Ireland, India, England, Finland, Denmark and others. Moreover, a Council of Women from around the world had consultative status with the United Nations and other international organizations in the 19th century. It was a pivotal aspect in the empowerment and protection of women’s rights across the globe.

In America, in the second half of the 19th century, the women’s rights movement was quite successful. Therefore, in 1893, the ICW decided to expand, which led to the formation of the Council of Women of Canada. The National Council of Women of Canada was formally established in 1893 on the grounds of the Horticultural Pavilion in Allan Gardens, Toronto. Shortly after, the NCWC head office was moved to the Canadian capital. Over one and a half thousand Canadian women gathered at the first meeting of the National Council of Women of Canada. The first president of the National Council of Women of Canada was Lady Aberdeen.

What activities has the NCWC been engaged in? 

In Ottawa, the NCWC served as an advisory body. Women developed the policy of the NCWC organization, taking into account the resolutions. Resolutions, in turn, were developed during mass women’s meetings held both in Ottawa itself and in other Ontario cities. After drafting resolutions at the meeting, women discussed them and voted to accept or reject them. Over the years, the NCWC went further and tried to expand women’s rights at the legislative level as much as possible. Therefore, after a while, the National Council of Women of Canada started developing official documents based on Canadian law.

Representatives from the NCWC began to appear in various Canadian bodies and international organizations. In particular, the Council of Women sent its members to the League of Nations, an international organization dedicated to maintaining peace worldwide. Furthermore, the NCWC has been instrumental in the creation of such organizations with women members in Ottawa as:

  • Victorian Order of Nurses
  • Children’s Aid Society
  • Consumers’ Association of Canada
  • Women’s Art Association of Canada, the affiliated organization in Toronto
  • Labour Canada’s Women’s Bureau
  • Federal Bureau of Aging
  • Royal Commission on the Status of Women
  • Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

Primary goals of the NCWC

The Ottawa Council of Women had a single goal, namely, to permanently elevate the status of women across Canada. Initially, the Council fought for an expansion of rights for women without the right to vote in elections. Fighting for women’s rights in the late 19th century and early 20th century was not easy. The National Council of Women constantly grappled with a swathe of problems, discrimination and even racial arguments. Suffrage for women’s political participation was also essential, which the NCWC was gradually moving towards.

Women’s magazine

From 1914 through 1921, the NCWC started publishing the Women’s Century magazine across almost all of Canada. Through it, the Council of Women was able to inform Canadians about various developments in the country, problems, necessary reforms, women’s empowerment and so on. It was a real magazine for the learning and progress of women in Canada in absolutely different areas of life, both social and political and other areas. Women’s Century magazine came out every month. It was created on the model of a successful English and American feminist magazine. It was the only magazine across Canada that published articles on women’s rights.

Women’s empowerment in Canada

In 1918, in Ottawa, the NCWC finally achieved that the Canadian government granted suffrage to Canadian women. It was a genuine success for the Council of Women and a breakthrough in women’s empowerment. 

Besides that, in 1929, The Valiant Five, which consisted of Canadian women, of which three were members of NCWC, won the famous Persons Case, which made women eligible to sit in the Senate of Canada.

In the first half of the 20th century, the National Council of Women of Canada also ensured that measures were taken at the legislative level in Canada to protect children, including the prevention of abuse, encouragement in obtaining education, as well as receiving quality health care, including medical examinations in schools. The NCWC achieved the introduction of health measures in Canada, such as pasteurization and water purification.

Within the first half of the 20th century, the NCWC in Ottawa remained active in the fight for women’s rights.

Following the significant empowerment and participation of women in national political life, the Council of Women has undertaken to expand the grounds for women to divorce their husbands, the accessibility of birth control information in the country and the removal of abortion from the Criminal Code of Canada. In addition, the NCWC has been developing a program to protect and rehabilitate prostitutes.

NCWC in the 21st century

Year after year, the National Council of Women of Canada has fought for women’s rights. Although women’s and men’s rights are on an equal footing in the 21st century, the National Council of Women continues its work.

In the 21st century, the NCWC, headquartered in Ottawa, has a vast network of diverse organizations across the country that continue to protect and advocate for women’s rights. As in the 19th century, so in the 21st century, women’s organizations at various levels develop resolutions that the NCWC submits to the Government of Canada. These resolutions are approved at the national level and represent the consensus of thousands of Canadian women.

In the 21st century, NCWC continues to be actively engaged in the issues of women’s equality, family, women in politics, women’s empowerment and other topical issues.

Working with the Government of Canada became a regular feature of the NCWC’s work. Starting in 1924, formal annual meetings of the Council of Women with the Government of Canada began to take place. At their meetings, the NCWC presented the documents developed during the year to the Prime Minister of Canada, members of the House, committees, the Royal Commission and others. It was a very successful practice that consistently yielded good results. Owing to the well-coordinated work of the National Council of Women of Canada and the Parliament, in 1930, it was the first time that a woman was elected to the Senate of Canada from the Ottawa Council of Women.

Having worked for more than a century, the Ottawa Council of Women is, in the 21st century, rightfully the society with the most active and vibrant women. Over the years, NCWC has earned a highly respected and trusted reputation. Thanks to the NCWC, women in Canada can make policy decisions, conduct research, receive education, consult and cooperate. The National Council of Women of Canada in Ottawa has been granted the status of historical significance. It has played a crucial role in the history of women’s empowerment in Canada.