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Councils of Women

Inspired by formation of the International Council of Women in 1888, women created local councils across Canada during the 1890s. They were umbrella organizations that brought together women's societies and associations. In 1893 the National Council of Women of Canada was founded; it brought together nationally organized associations, and saw itself as the reform-oriented, organized voice of Canadian womanhood. In 1895, Regina women founded a Local Council of Women; in 1916 others followed in Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw; and in 1918 one was founded in Swift Current. In 1919, the Provincial Council of Women in Saskatchewan was organized; its president was W.C. (Christina) Murray, wife of the University of Saskatchewan president and western vice-president of the National Council of Women. In 1923 local councils were formed in Estevan and Weyburn; in 1945 one was organized in Mossbank; and a final one appeared in Yorkton in 1965.

Women's groups could affiliate with the organization at any or all of the local, provincial or national levels, and included church groups, political associations, professional associations, ethnic societies, and service clubs. Representatives of affiliated groups attended council meetings and sat on the executive or committees. The councils offered members a chance to tackle women's issues in a coordinated way. Though some affiliated groups had conflicting ideologies, the councils helped them to find common elements in their mandates and coordinated work towards common goals that concentrated upon community betterment. The Provincial Council of Women was a powerful force in mobilizing Saskatchewan women. One of its first major projects was raising funds for tuberculosis sanatoria; within six years it had raised $50,000, an impressive amount for 1926. Over the decades particular projects undertaken by the councils have varied, but the over-riding themes - improving women's and Children's lives and addressing social issues - have endured.

Lisa Dale-Burnett

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Further Reading

Griffiths, N.E.S. 1993. The Splendid Vision: Centennial History of the National Council of Women of Canada, 1893-1993. Ottawa: Carleton University Press.
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University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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