Sixty five years. Hundreds of women. Countless community initiatives and scholarships.
One club. The St Thomas Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) who recently
celebrated their 65th anniversary at the Elgin Military Museum last Thursday, November
10th. The club gathered to commemorate the years of service the organization has
given to the City of St Thomas and the County of Elgin for the past six decades.
Since 1951, the CFUW has been active in the community. At the forefront being a
scholarship awarded to one female per year from each high school in Elgin County
attending post-secondary education.
To celebrate the 65th anniversary, member Barb Green gave an enlightening presentation
of the club's progress throughout the decades. President, Lisa VanderWallen played
the top songs from each decade leading up to present day to showcase the evolution
of music and fashion. All members were dressed in fifties style outfits and had
a great time reminiscing about the past and former members of the club.
1951 was the inaugural year of the St Thomas University Women's club chapter, the
same year that the Korean War was taking place, Holden Caufield narrated Catcher
in the Rye, and Humphrey Bogart and Catherine Hepburn were stars on the silver screen.
At the end of 1951, the club had raised a grand total of $161.59. Not a lot by today's
standard, but enough to start the scholarship fund for women pursuing post-secondary
education from St Thomas and surrounding area that continues today. The original
members held nineteen Arts degrees, two from Home-Economics, two library degrees,
one Doctor of Letters (PhD), and seven degrees in housewifery. Member Florence Martin
held the earliest degree from Queens in 1913. In the second year of the club, 1952-1953,
Mrs. Clark MacDougall acted as treasurer married to the artist famous known for
his St Thomas and Elgin County landscapes.
In the sixties, wine and cheese events were popular prior to political elections
where the members would gather to interview prospective candidates. One of the largest
achievements of the club during this period was their active role in founding the
St. Thomas Art Gallery in 1968. Key club members, Lois Farley, Bert McKay, Margaret
Thorman and Cela Sloan organized fundraisers and met with donors to develop the
funds and enthusiasm needed to steer this project. The first piece of art of the
gallery's collection, "Talbot Street" by Clark MacDougall was purchased in 1969.
Members of the club assisted in fundraising for the Art Gallery building purchased
in 1970 which remains located at the west end of Talbot Street to this day.
Some other fundraising efforts by the club during this time period include the "Mother
and Child" sculpture outside the St Thomas library that was donated thanks to the
fundraising efforts of Mrs. Little and Mrs. Mckay who raised $4,519 in 1974. Additionally,
the plaque on Woodworth Ave where Jumbo was struck by a train was donated by the
University Women of St Thomas.
In the eighties and early nineties, the Children's Fun Series began which was instrumental
for the scholarship program and included famous performers like Robert Munch and
Fred Penner performing at Arthur Voaden Secondary School in St Thomas to large crowds.
Member Marg Carroll who joined the club in 1958 says, "It's a great way to meet
new people-I've had friendships that have continued over years and it's an easy
way to meet community members when you're new to the area."
The St Thomas Federation of University Women is part of a national organization
whose main goal is to ensure all girls and women have equal opportunity and access
to quality education. The University Women's Club meets one Thursday per month,
but also consists of special interest groups including a Fundraising Club, an Out
to Lunch Bunch, an In Between the Lines book club and a Bridge Club. The group is
always looking to expand, so if you have any questions or would like to come out
and meet the club, contact President, Lisa VanderWallen by email at