History of the Ottawa Women’s Support Center

In 1972, the Women’s Center Association was formed in Ottawa. The Ottawa Women’s Support Center resulted from the Association’s activities. At this center, the women of Canada’s capital city could meet, get to know each other and come together to create something new, as well as provide counseling and training. The Ottawa Women’s Center has become a veritable support station for women and the feminist movement. Learn more at ottawanka.com.

The purpose of establishing the Ottawa Women’s Center

In the 1970s, there was a mass feminist movement in Canada’s capital. Various feminist and other organizations came into being. Among these organizations was the Ottawa Women’s Center. The principal purpose of establishing such a center was to change traditional organizational management methods. In feminist organizations, the Ottawa Women’s Center, in particular, all power remained in the hands of the members themselves. Thus, in the 1970s, the Ottawa Women’s Center was a collective run by its staff. The Ottawa Women’s Center staff consisted mainly of volunteers and activists who supported feminism. They made decisions about the center’s management policies based on a consensus among the leadership and the volunteer members of the women’s center themselves. 

The Women’s Center as such opened in Ottawa in 1972. The number of its members increased very quickly. For a whole year, both men and women were admitted, but in 1973 the Women’s Center Committee decided that men would no longer be admitted to the Women’s Center.

Ottawa Women’s Center services

The Ottawa Women’s Center has been providing various services since 1973. First and foremost, the services concern assistance in crises for women. The Ottawa Women’s Center provided counseling and shared different helpful information for women. These services were a kind of support for the women living in Ottawa.

Besides assisting, members of the Ottawa Women’s Center took an active part in the city’s public life. In the second half of the 20th century, they organized events on several occasions. Among their events was the Ottawa Native Women’s March. The Ottawa Women’s Center also spoke at protests against federal cuts that affected women.

The Women’s Center has also supported other feminist organizations in Ottawa, particularly their establishment and organization. Among these organizations are:

  • Rape Crisis Center
  • The Women’s Career Counseling Center 
  • Interval House of Ottawa
  • Upstream, a women’s newspaper.

Funding for the Ottawa Women’s Center has come from many sources over the years. Such sources have included:

  • Individual donations
  • Major fundraisers and charitable events
  • Grants through the International Women’s Year Program
  • Grants through the Local Initiatives Program
  • Grants from the City of Ottawa.

As of 1978, Ottawa Women’s Center members started working on their self-sufficiency. For this purpose, they established a Business Committee at the Women’s Center. A small café, Chez Nous, was opened by the Business Committee in 1979. Ottawa Women’s Center members relied on the idea that their center could survive without grants or donations but solely on the café.  But things got worse for the Women’s Center after the café opened. Problems arose with obtaining a license to sell alcoholic beverages. That caused even more financial problems for the Ottawa Women’s Center. The whole thing provoked its complete closure in 1980.

From 1972 until 1980, the Ottawa Women’s Center devoted considerable attention to women and their place in society, fighting for their rights and holding various demonstrations and protests.