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National Council of Women of Canada

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National Council of Women of Canada

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Detail of statue of Henrietta Muir Edwards by Barbara Paterson, on Parliament Hill in OttawaThe National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) was established in 1893 by Lady Aberdeen, in cooperation with Henrietta Muir Edwards.

A non-sectarian group, the Council sought to advance the good of the the homes and the nation of Canada by bringing women together in a "unity of thought, sympathy and purpose." Its founders wanted to create a national organization in which people could work together to achieve the common goal of social reform—regardless of their faith, political allegiances, class or race.

As of 1901, 21 Local Councils of Women existed across Canada and numerous local women's groups and societies were affiliated with the Councils.

Some of the Council's achievements include:

  • Having domestic science and manual training included in the curriculum in Ontario public schools, as well as teacher training in those subjects
  • Obtaining the appointment of Women Factory Inspectors for factories and workshops employing women
    • Having the provisions of the Factory Act and the Shops Act in Ontario extended to the supervision of women workers, as well as working to improve such conditions across the country
  • Obtained prison reform for female prisoners, including having them supervised by matrons
    • Organized or cooperated with various relief organizations, including those aimed at assisting immigrants; concerned itself in the care of the aged poor and feeble-minded
  • In cooperation with the Red Cross and the Victorian Order of Nurses, established hospitals in smaller centers, spread sanitary knowledge by organizing Health Talks for Mothers and other health education campaigns
  • Obtained the appointment of women to Boards of School Trustees in New Brunswick, and worked towards it in other provinces
    • Studied laws relating to women and children, and recommended reforms to the Minister of Justice
      • Sponsored conferences on subjects ranging from "The duty of Canadian Women in regard to the voting privileges already accorded to them to "How to Read and What to Read" to "What Women may do in Agriculture" to "Humour as it affects Character"

The NCWC sought to bring together women and women's groups under a larger umbrella organization so that they might work more effectively to achieve social reforms, but the Council recognized the importance of cooperating with men as well.

The importance of cooperating with men to achieve reforms is evident in Women of Canada: Their Life and Work. Lady Aberdeen quotes words of support from a number of prominent government officials, including:

  • Sir John Thompson, "the late regretted Premier of Canada,"
  • Sir Wilfred Laurier, "Premier of the Dominion" at the time
  • Sir Charles Tupper, Minister of Justice in the previous Conservative Government
  • Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior

She also quotes words of support from prominent church leaders; thus, high level support among prominent men have long helped the National Council. It certainly did not hurt that Lady Aberdeen's husband was the Governor-General of Canada (1893-98), and that he too was interested in establishing hospitals, schools, and clubs to make life better for people who needed help.

 
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