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Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

The Canadian Club

In September 1892 Charles McCullough and several friends met in Hamilton to discuss the lack of Canadian content in organizations, the number of professional people going to the US and the lack of pride in being Canadian.

Following the September meeting, McCullough met with five other men in December 1892 to issue invitations to a meeting of the first Canadian Club on February 1, 1893. The meeting attracted forty-eight attendees.

Purpose: The encouragement of the study of history, literature, and resources of Canards, the recognition of native worth and talent, and the fostering of a patriotic Canadian sentiment.

Dream of Charles McCullough: The organization would be geared toward encouraging members to serve Canada as best they could. The organization would be non-partisan, nonsectarian, and nonpolitical.

For two years, the club was mainly a literary society, and slowly the addition of guest speakers was accepted. Fourteen Canadian Clubs were formed across Canada in the first thirteen years. The (men’s) Canadian Club of Ottawa was formed in 1903.

The National Canadian Club Association was formed in 1909 and an office was set up in 1920 and disbanded in 2007.

The Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club

A group of 30 women met at the home of Mrs. Archibald Parker on January 17, 1910 to discuss the formation of a Women’s Canadian Club. Mrs. R. G. McConnell moved a motion that a club be formed and the motion was seconded by Mrs. Clifford Sifton. The motion passed unanimously with Mrs. Adam Shortt being appointed to the Chair. An interim constitution was presented by Mrs. McConnell. A membership fee of one dollar per year was set. The first public meeting of the club took place on December 3, 1910 in the Assembly Hall of the Collegiate Institute and the speaker was Sir George W. Ross who spoke about “What every Canadian should know.”

The Chateau Laurier opened in 1912. The OWCC had its first meeting there on October 19, 1912 and on May 20, 1914 Mrs. Herridge, the President, announced that as a result of an interview with Mr. Folger of the Chateau Laurier the Club would be able to secure the ball-room for lecture purposes at a nominal rental. Mr. Folger also offered the use of the ball-room for the addresses after the luncheons. The executive decided to accept the offer and have the Chateau as headquarters of the club. The Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club has been meeting at the Chateau Laurier ever since.

Ninety-one members attended the first Annual General Meeting in January 1911. By the beginning of World War I the membership stood at about 500. At the outset of war the President, Mrs. Herridge wrote to Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden offering the services of the club in war work. Mrs Herridge also wrote to every women’s organization in Ottawa requesting that their members join the OWCC so that there would be enough volunteers to form the necessary committees. The OWCC membership climbed to just over 1600 members.

The Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club threw itself wholeheartedly into necessary war work. Over 61,000 letters were written to soldiers on the front line. Fund raising events were held for Belgian and Serbian relief. Thousands of pairs of socks were knitted, thousands of comfort parcels were sent to wounded servicemen. Funds were raised for three motor ambulances and to pay the wages of a nurse for one year. In all, well over $300,000 was raised to fund charities such as Belgian and Serbian Relief during the course of the war. The Club incorporated under the War Charities Act in 1918.

A lasting legacy was established at the close of World War I. A “sum of $4,000 raised by entertainments, sale of service flags and special donations was devoted to the foundation of a scholarship at Queen’s University for Prisoners of War enlisted from, or resident in Military District #3 and their descendants, or failing these, veterans of the great war and their descendants.” Today, in 2009, the Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club is still awarding scholarships each year. The program has been expanded and scholarships are awarded at Ottawa and Carleton Universities as well as at Queen’s.

Following the Great War membership fell from a high of about 1,600 to 600 and the club returned to being a group organizing lectures and luncheons, many of the women involved found the transition extremely difficult.

During the years between the Wars, event organizers became very imaginative. One year they wrote to every Premier in Canada as well as the Prime Minister, inviting them to speak to the Club. Several of the Premiers accepted the invitation.

At the onset of World War II the Club once again went into high gear, registering under the War Charities Act to enable them to raise necessary funds. At the beginning of the 1914-18 war Sir George Perley came to the aid of the Club, supplying them with a house at 270 Cooper Street in which to carry out most of the day-to-day war work. In 1939 the Estate of Sir George Perley came to the rescue of the club giving offices at 55 Metcalfe Street for the club to carry out necessary work.

In 1946 the Club’s annual membership fee was raised from $1 to $2 – the first time in the Club’s history that the fee had been raised.

Over the past 100 years guest speakers at Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club meetings and luncheons have spoken on many wide ranging subjects. The Club has welcomed Canadian Prime Ministers, Statesmen and politicians. Women explorers from the 1930s and Astronauts from the 1990s. Governors General, Princesses and authors have graced the Club’s meetings and enthralled the members with their stories.

More information from Candian Archives