History of our Club

“CFUW has always been in the forefront of progress in Newfoundland. We have strongly advocated many reforms and changes in our society, particularly in the field of education. Many of these changes are now regarded as the norm, although at one time they were thought of as visionary.”

CFUW St. John’s was formed on November 8, 1945 as the University Women’ Club of St. John’s. Eighteen women, all university graduates, were present at the inaugural meeting where three noteworthy items were discussed. The first was that the Club should join the Canadian Federation of University Women. This was not a simple matter of petitioning CFUW for membership because Newfoundland was not yet part of Canada. Members wanted to amalgamate with the Canadian organization because many of the university graduates in St. John’s had completed their degrees in Canadian Universities and there were close ties between them and Canadian female academics. The Club had to receive permission from both the British Federation of Women Graduates and the International Federation of University Women before it could join the Canadian group. Permission was duly received and our club sent delegates to the CFUW AGM in May, 1946.
The second item of interest was the decision to admit graduates of Memorial University College as Associate Members, as MUN did not become a degree-granting University until August 13, 1949 when the bill creating The Memorial University of Newfoundland was given Royal Assent.
The third item of interest was the decision to raise money for a scholarship for Newfoundland girls. In May, 1946 a musical tea raised $67.50 for this initiative. At a subsequent meeting, the group decided to add an additional $7.50 to the scholarship and, in 1946, CFUW donated its first scholarship to MUN – valued at $75.00. The winner was a Miss Olive Bugden. To put our $75 in perspective, in 1946 the selling price of a new Ford sedan was $1,400 and bread went for about 10 cents a loaf, so a $75.00 scholarship was not too shabby..

CFUW St. John’s has been active in the community for over 65 years.Here are just a few examples of the type of work we have done.
In the early post-WWII years the club sent parcels of food to women in Europe who were suffering from the after effects of the war, and provided funding for a senior refugee woman. Our club put in place programs for Newfoundland students from out-of-town to facilitate their social transition to post-secondary studies in St. John’s.
In 1952 we spearheaded a coalition of 15 women’s groups that raised a considerable sum of money towards the construction of Memorial Stadium.
In 1967, with the assistance of volunteers from other community and educational groups, we organized and operated a Saturday Head Start Intervention program for pre-schoolers at St. John Bosco School, Blackhead Rd.
In 1970 we formed the Early Childhood Development Association.
From 1962 to 1982, working with local teachers, we offered children’s films to the public. This project won a national award sponsored by Chatelaine Magazine in 1964 for its combination of “fund-raising with imaginative public service.”
In 1964, following an intense lobbying and publicity campaign, we persuaded the St. John’s City Council to fund the establishment of the first two Children’s Branch Libraries. CFUW members were appointed to the Library Board.
In 1973, in co-operation with the Continuing Medical Education group at MUN, we organized a Conference on Learning Disabilities, attended by 300 persons. Following this, the Newfoundland Association for Learning Disabilities was formed; three CFUW members sat on the Executive.

Almost from the beginning of the Club’s existence, either in response to perceived community needs, by specific request, or both, CFUW members researched, wrote and presented many Briefs to government. In 1949, we first considered the issue of pay equity and the status of women under the Civil Service and Shop and Office Act and in 1950 recognized the importance of child care when we noted the urgent need for day nurseries. We have an impressive history of advocacy in the areas of women’s issues, health and safety, citizenship and the environment, but our greatest and most extensive involvement has been in the area of education at all levels – from a head-start program for pre-schoolers, to helping university students make the transition to university life away from home. And of course, we have a scholarship program.

Fundraising for scholarships at Memorial University has been an integral part of part of our Club’s contribution to Education since that first musical tea in 1946. In recent years, our fundraising efforts have been confined to our giant used book fair, held each spring at the Arts and Culture Centre. This event has been a great success for us thanks to the generosity of the public in donating books and to the management of the Arts and Culture Centre for allowing us the use of their space. And of course to the participation of those who come to buy books!

CFUW provides scholarships and funds educational initiatives because we believe in the importance of education. We believe that education contributes to the prosperity of our communities, our province and ultimately, our world. We believe that education combats ignorance and prejudice and fosters the understanding of and tolerance for other viewpoints and opinions. We believe that education makes better citizens.