The McGill Women’s Alumnae Association (MWAA) is a society of McGill women graduates who are committed to the continued growth, development, and social conscience of McGill.
It is important to note that:
Every female graduate is an alumna of the University and automatically a member of the MWAA, as distinct from the McGill Alumni Association (MAA) which includes all alumnae and alumni of the University.
The mission of the MWAA is to advance the leadership role of both the MWAA and McGill University by contributing to excellence in educational achievement, continuous learning, and the improvement of the community at large.
The vision of the MWAA is to be the organization which is instrumental in demonstrating the positive impact of McGill alumnae on the University and its pluralistic community. The MWAA recognizes the need to nurture relationships which bolster the McGill alumni community as well as the importance of all its stakeholders, including communities external to McGill.
McGill began admitting women in 1884, and when the first class of eight graduated in 1888, these pioneers vowed to continue their intellectual fellowship and activism. According to Dr. Margaret Gillett's book, We Walked Very Warily, alumnae began to sponsor debates and lectures "with a strong emphasis on Canadian literature, history and science. The general question of Woman's role in society was also a major concern."
By 1891, there were 30 women graduates and their interest in the welfare of Montreal’s working women led them to establish a Girls Club and Lunch Room, where female shop and factory workers – some of whom earned 60¢ for a 10-hour day – could buy meals for a few pennies. Other services were added, including a fund for unemployed women, dressmaking classes, programs for children and a library. After 20 years, the Girls Club evolved into the University Settlement, and finally into a general welfare agency with a professional administration.
The First World War brought the Alumnae Society new responsibilities. While some graduates served as nurses overseas, the Society created a library service for patients in the military wards of Montreal’s hospitals. They also raised funds to support canteens and field hospitals in France.
At the beginning of the war in 1939, a Red Cross group was formed, meeting first in RVC and then in the Faculty Club, and by 1942-43 the women had sent 11,000 articles of clothing overseas. In addition, 18 homes were offered for guest children from the British Isles in 1940 and donations were collected for Mrs. Winston Churchill’s Fund “for girls in uniform.” In 1949, a Certificate of Merit was awarded to the Society by the Women’s Voluntary Service for work done during the war.
From time to time the Alumnae Society lent support to projects involving women’s rights. For example, in 1936-37 alumnae petitioned the Senate of the University to admit women to the School of Architecture, and sent a resolution to the Montreal School Board asking for improved salaries for elementary teachers. Another cause the Alumnae Society championed was securing the vote for women. Although the federal franchise was granted after the First World War, it wasn't until 1940 that Quebec women could vote. Through the years, McGill alumnae joined their francophone sisters in the battle for equal rights, employing ingenious tactics like dropping flyers from airplanes to further the cause. An even longer struggle ensued to end the men-only membership on the McGill’s Board of Governors. How could campus women’s issues be understood if they were not represented on the highest policy-making body? It would be 1970 before the first woman Governor was named.
The Alumnae Society worked to improve conditions for women students at McGill in more concrete ways. In 1932, they established a scholarship committee charged with building an endowment fund to support scholarships, loans and bursaries. The first scholarship was awarded in 1935, and since that time, hundreds of deserving students have realized their dream of a McGill education, thanks to the ongoing fundraising efforts of the organization now known as the McGill Women’s Alumnae Association. The MWAA currently awards around $40,000 annually to women studying at McGill.
Of course, the group also works for the benefit of women graduates through the Muriel V. Roscoe Lecture series, workshops on financial management, and frequent networking and mentoring events. And as a founding member of the Canadian Federation of University Women, the MWAA provides alumnae with access to groups representing women graduates around the world.
From the humble beginnings of eight dedicated women interested in staying connected and making contributions to their community, the MWAA has grown to include all female graduates as members. With the inspiring example of 125 years of activism and philanthropy, these members can be justly proud of the MWAA’s rich history and look forward to contributing to even greater accomplishments in the future.
Board of Directors for 2013-2014
Anelia Wright, Dip’57, BSc’58
Pina Marra, BCom’03, DPA’06
Sonia Mata, MSc’93
Marthe Kassouf, PhD’08
Kristy Wilson, MBA’09
Mara Quarin, BCom’92, DPA’94
Caroline Briand, BCL/LLB’07
Connie Contino, BA’74, Mgt.Cert.’94
Mai-Gee Hum, BA’98
Sylvia Piggott, BA’77, MA’79
Dorothy Thomas-Edding, MSc’75
Wanda Trineer, BSc (Agr)’76
Blossom Shaffer, MBA’81
Darlene Williams, MBA’93
Eleni Bakopanos, BA’76
Montreal Council of Women
Susan Czarnocki, MA’89
Canadian Federation of University Women
Members at large:
Fay Arnold, BLS’65
Keeley Doherty, BCom’09
Jennifer Kapsch-Essagian, BA’82
Danielle Lemieux, BA’09
Peggy Swaine, BA’51
Rita Tenenbaum, BA’62
Want more information? Looking to volunteer?
We are always thrilled to hear from you, and we welcome enthusiastic, energetic and engaged volunteers for our events. To get involved or for more information, please email Sonia Mata.
The MWAA have a proud tradition that dates back to 125 years, but we also remain relevant to today's Montreal. Among other activities, we organize the annual Muriel V. Roscoe lecture series, sponsor "toolbox" workshops that offer practical advice on careers, financial planning and other issues, bring accomplished speakers to campus through our Come and Be Inspired series; and provide networking opportunities.
These events are a great way to mingle and network with fellow Alumna’s and to remain connected to your Alma Mater – McGill.
Join us at one of our events and find out more about the MWAA.
Learn more about upcoming events >>
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To help us maintain our longstanding tradition of providing scholarships to young women at McGill, please consider making a donation. Online donations can be made here. In the “Gift details” section, indicate that your donation should be directed to the McGill Women’s Alumnae Association Scholarship Fund. Thank you!
The MWAA is represented on several University committees as well as on the Montreal Council of Women.
Social Media Outlets:
McGill Alumni365 Blog Posts:
Alumnae Association hosts lecture on violence against women
McGill Women's Alumnae Association Scholarship Reception 2012
125 Years of contributing to excellence in education and women’s participation in society