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Events & Speakers

The first Open Meeting of the club was held in the Technical School on March 4, 1910. Mr. J.S. McKinnon spoke on the resources of Canada in a lecture titled “Problems of Interest to Canadians”. Mr. Cheal then addressed the Club on “General Conditions of Business Men and Women”, the object being to produce “Good Citizens”.

In June 1910, the speaker came all the way from New York City. She was Miss Stover, who spoke on her work in the Settlements there.

In October 1911, the Mayor of Toronto spoke on “Government of a City” and explained methods being taken to make Toronto a healthy city by improving water drainage systems, and a safe city by introducing hydro-electric power to light its streets.

Dr. C.O. Hastings, M.O.H., talked on “Industrial Hygiene” on November 4, 1913 stating that conditions in Canada were much ahead of the U.S. although not as good as in England.

In association with the Housewives League, a meeting was held on June 24, 1914 to hear Mrs. Frederick, Counseling and Household Editor of The Ladies' Home Journal, speak on “The Business of Housekeeping”. Mrs. Frederick pointed out that there is just as much need for system in the home as in the office and factory. She said that housekeeping is only a means to an end whereas home keeping is the important thing; it is just s important to apply the various sciences in the home as in, for instance, a school; and there is just as much business in the home as in any other industry.

1918
Some topics of speeches made to the Club:

  • Mrs. McMichael, a manager from the Gossard Corset Co., spoke on “Over the Top in Business”.
  • A talk on VD by a doctor
  • Buying and selling real estate
  • Salesmanship: “importance of health; ability to take direction; personal appearance; don't be afraid of making mistakes; loyalty to one's employer; know your goods; know your opponents; above all, work, work, twice as hard as you care to work”.
  • Women and the Law; “although we didn't have the same rights (as men), a woman could not be prosecuted under criminal law (if married) as it was assumed (her) husband had coerced (her).”
  • How to write a short story
  • Stocks and bonds
  • Advertising as a career – “after all, 80% of buying is done by women.”
  • Rules for success from a speech to members;

Want something very much
Know what you want
Know how to get it
Get it


1920
Finding speakers for Club meetings was seldom problem in the 1920s. In fact, more speakers were rejected than accepted in the period. The 'flu' season in March often caused meeting nights to be changed to accommodate speakers who had succumbed to the “bug”.

Programmes included: how to dress for business; how to write letters; handwriting analysis; the then innovative use of graphic charts as an aid to sales.

No speakers were permitted whose talks might conclude with an appeal for funds.

1933
The Friday lunch hour became an occasion for cultural and intellectual stimulation for Club members. Guest speakers were invited to present short addresses on a variety of topics. Featured speakers and their subject matter were:

Mrs. Vandervoort
Burgess & Company

Stocks and bonds

Miss O'Brien
Heintzman & Company

Played a musical selection

Miss M. Brown
Marketing Publisher

The Future of Women

Miss Jane Little
Edith L. Groves School

Underprivileged Children

Miss A. Cool
Progress Exhibition

Adventures at the Chicago Century of


1934
Guest speakers for Friday luncheons continued to be successful. Among the interesting topics presented on these occasions were: mortgages and loans; psychology and types of people; the use of leisure time; the National Council of the YWCA and its work; lumber camp activities of the Frontier College; and, last but not least, how to arrange and wear flowers.

1935
The first in a series of lectures entitled “Following Our Dollars” was held at the Club Quarters at 67 Yonge Street on October 7. Officially opened by Mayor Simpson, the series included a wide range of speakers. As the following list of male speakers testifies, women still had some strides to make before being considered worthy to listen to for financial advice:

  • Commissioner R.C. Harris, Department of Works
  • Dr. Gordon Jackson, Medical Office of Health
  • Fred L. Bartlett, Board of Education
  • Frank Denton, Magistrate
  • W.A. Laver, Department of Welfare
  • George Wilson, Finance Commissioner
  • Professor McPhee, University of Toronto.

1944
Miss Aitken of the Telegram, addressed the Club at a noon luncheon on the subject of “Pre-invasion Britain”. Miss Aitken represented the Telegram at the Prime Minister’s Conference in London that year.

The decade of the ’50s saw the rise of the professional woman speaker. The Club was quick to engage leading speakers, such as: Lisa Sergio – first woman commentator in Europe; Kathleen Graham, M.B.E., - British Deputy Consul General, New York – holder of the most important post ever given to a woman in the

1954
A contribution was made to the United Nations after the meeting in Toronto when Eleanor Roosevelt addressed the Club.

1963
William Davis, then Minister of Education, addressed the Club on his new outlook and approach to education.

1964
At the Ontario Provincial Conference, Pauline Jewett M.P., remarked how far we had travelled since the vote for women was introduced. Said Pauline, “It is a great waste when the brain power of women is not utilized. Not because they are women, but because it is a waste.”

1965
It is interesting to note that at one of the meetings the speaker was Dr. Jennie Huie of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She spoke at that time of the emergence of women into executive positions during the past few years in South-East Asia.

1970
Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau said to our delegation when BPW presented the Federation’s brief to cabinet in February 1970:

“The 70’s will probably constitute a period in which the position of women as workers and as part of the social fabric will advance greatly.”

“His words are inadequate to describe what actually happened – but it took a bit longer and much more effort that many of us thought possible. Although “we’re come a long way ….” Most of us would say we are not fully arrived yet. “Even in Canada --- EH!!!” – Liz Neville, Past Toronto and Ontario Club President

By the end of 1970, the Toronto Club’s celebrated its 60th Anniversary, and Liz Neville changed jobs to the Ontario Women’s Bureau as an Investigating Officer for the first Canadian law to prohibit discrimination on the bases of sex/gender or marital status, in employment. The WEEO Act. This was based on the US Civil Rights Act “Title VII’ which we learned had only covered gender discrimination as a ploy to defeat its enactment!

The Canadian Human Rights Codes covered only discrimination by Race, Colour or Creed.

1972
The WEEO (i.e.: of Ontario) Act and the Royal Commission Report with its 137 recommendations fired up women’s groups of all kinds. It took a year before a crucial meeting of women from across Canada met at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto in February 1972. But this was the start of interaction between groups like BPW, University Women’s Clubs, YWCA’s, women teachers, Nurses Associations, Union Women, textiles, telephonists, clerical workers especially from the public service unions; native women, farm women, immigrant women and from which sprang more women’s groups. The voluntary National Action Committee NAC on the status of women was formed, followed in 1972, 1973 by Women’s Advisory Offices within Federal and Provincial government structures.

The range of activity in the 70’s on which BPW Toronto actively “lobbied” was impressive. Now we used not only the Resolution/Brief presentation process, but attended or cosponsored local gatherings of women and were represented at the “umbrella” groups such as NAC or the Ontario Status of Women Committee, or by invitation or request attended the governments’ Advisory Councils.

Decisions were also being made on the basis of the RCSWC report or as in the case of Family Law – being made by the Court and challenged by the women’s groups. The Murdoch case in Alberta was the first to trigger this reaction and led to a major Family Law reform process – not finalized until the 80’s and still flawed.

Alongside this was the debate on repatriation of the Canadian Constitution – Quebec’s position in Canada, and issues of Native Indian rights. The issue of Native women’s property rights crossed both spectrums and needed support from non native women. (BPW friend of Court per Margaret Hyndman).

In 1972, ratification of ILO Convention 100 (EPWEV), Commissions on Pensions, Child Care Enquiries ad nauseam, Affirmative action/reverse discrimination debate generated in their turn response/lobby groups by women. Example: Equal Pay Coalition. Implementation of Federal Human Rights Code and Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value provisions in 1976.

1975
BPW Toronto Club members continue to be active politically and sponsor training programs for leadership, management and non-traditional jobs. Not to mention the 1975 International Women’s Year. The start of one then two decades of international activity culminates in Beijing in 1995.

1977
Two hundred attended a seminar on Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value when Elsie Gregory MacGill was one of the panelists. Barrie Cable T.V. station was approached to run an interview with Elsie, but they wanted her to talk about herself rather than the Ontario Women's Resource Centre and she declined to do this.

In March, Joe Clark sent a letter that he was unable to speak to the Club. That month, Abbie Hoffman was the speaker on the subject of “Fitness and Women in Sport”. She pointed out that most public recreation areas are highly male oriented and that there is a lack of facilities for women at the intermediate level. In a study in the schools it was found that boys were allocated 235 hours of physical education compared to 130 hours for girls, which included such sporting activities as cooking and serving.

1979
The United Nations “Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women” was passed in December 1979.

Since 1979 the federal government has recognized “Person’s Day” on 18th October the anniversary of the day in 1929 when “Famous Five” Alberta women – especially Nellie McClung, gained the amendment from the Privy Council of England so that women were recognized as PERSONS in the British North American Act and able to become Senators in the Canadian Senate.

1980
The 80’s environment was an exciting environment:

  • Networking groups for women evolved
  • The Canadian Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • Legal Education Action Fund LEAF
  • Pay Equity
  • Employment Equity Participation
  • LEAF established and spearheaded Charter cases
  • NAC organized and precedent setting televised debate of 3 party leaders in the federal election interviewed on issues of concern to women
  • The Abella Report called for “Employment Equity Programs” to:
    • “Oblige employers develop and maintain practices designed to eliminate discriminatory barriers.”

Supposedly the so-called quotas of Affirmative Action programs were not part of this – instead, Canadian employment equity programs are to set “Goals and Timetables” to improve a balance in all levels of their workforce.

An innovation for BPW since the mid eighties was to ensure that Clubs or Provinces across Canada would speak locally or to visiting Commissions etc… One of these was the Commission on Reproductive Rights – very contentious. The Canadian President and Resolution and Public Affairs Chairs/Committees generally work very closely and sometimes quite informally with bureaucrats and politicians. The participation of then President Sharon Salkirk as a member of the Canadian NGO team at the Beijing Conference was a result (1995) of this continuous effort. BPW Canada was also very proud to present the Canadian Government with IFBPW’s award for the nation that has made the most progress on women’s issues in the decade. The on-going recognition of the responsible efforts of BPW.

The 80’s were not only remarkable for consultation of women but also for the consideration as well as support of women for each other: Many Women of the Year – or Women of Distinction Awards. The biggy by the Metro Toronto YWCA launched in 1981.

Programs to support female students to make Non-Trad career choices set up example: Open Doors. Networking groups and Investment/Estate planning courses tended to replace the 60-70’s efforts to help women returning to the workforce and the lower key – managing finances.

The 80’s on the whole was a decade of action – we finally had new laws on nearly all the major issues – especially on Pension Reform, and Pay Equity in Ontario, both in 1987.

The biggest new issue that emerged in the late eighties came from grass roots efforts of the BPW Clubs and many other women’s groups dealing locally with the many facets of violence – as well as working to improve legal support services. I believe that the “zero-tolerance” approach to this issue came from Canada. Like all buzzwords it can become overused – but its initial impact was very powerful with our judiciary, police and community leaders.

BPW members as well as the whole country tackled the thorny issues of language, culture, self determination by Quebec. On of my last memories was the dash to Ottawa for a Women’s Conference before the Meech Lake Accord was finalized, and at which native women’s issues were so much at stake as those of Quebec.

You will see that our magazine has become totally bilingual and that was a ten year struggle. Language and procedures have changed in other respects too – and coping with these changes is yet another story.

1980
There were many seminars in 1980. In January, “Personal Budgeting”; in February, “An Introduction to Time Management”; and in March, “Women in Politics”.

1981
Lobbied the Prime Minister’s office to remove the “notwithstanding” clause and include gender in the definition of rights under the Charter of Rights   Sections 15 and 28 now reinforce equality of the sexes.

In February members enjoyed a weekend at Cedar Glen, learning how to be more successful and get more out of life in a seminar entitled “Problem-solving – family communications and support systems”. Other seminars that year were “An Introduction to Assertiveness”, “Investment Seminar”, “Stress Seminar” and “Women and the Law”.

No speakers were permitted whose talks might conclude with an appeal for funds.

The 50th Anniversary of the Founding Federations in Montreal, Canada

Death of Elsie Gregory MacGill

1981 BPW Conference Extraordinaire “Women in the Eighties” in Lake Louise with Government of Canada funding financial support!

The spontaneous “Butterfly” conference of 2,000 women in Ottawa to ensure the full protection under the proposed Charter of Rights and Freedoms – the ‘notwithstanding” clause. A very last ditch affair.

1982
Canadian Constitution patriated from U.K. with its own C or R ** See 1986

1983
Toronto City Council and the Mayor’s Task Force on Violence against Women and Children were lobbied by the four BPW Clubs in Toronto.

1985
Eaton’s was boycotted in support of the Retain Wholesale and Depart Store Union, where the majority of member were women working part time asking for better working conditions.

1986
BPW Canada, led by Toronto Club President Liz Neville, presented a brief on Pay Equity to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Administration of Justice.

1986 Charter of Rights and Freedoms proclaimed

1987
A Petition on the need for daycare funding was sent to Ottawa.

Pension Reform and Pay Equity finally established. Many BPW Toronto resolutions prior to this year were submitted to the respective governments lobbying for this.

1988
A brief was presented to Toronto City Council on the City’s Goals and Timetable Action plans for implementing employment equity.  At that time targets for managerial positions were low and there were none for the Fire Department

1989
Montreal Massacre takes place on December 6th, Nancy Jackman is the speaker at the December meeting. Several resolutions continue to evolve from this event.

1990
The province of Ontario asked that the mandatory retirement age be removed from the Ontario Human Rights Code.

The Ontario government asked that personal sick leave and family care provision be put under the Employment Standards Act.  Employers with more than 50 employees must allow for sick leave under certain conditions; up to eight weeks Family Medical Leave is also required.

1991
International Women’s Day was celebration with the Women’s Intercultural Network.

Toronto presents a resolution on respite care to the Provincial government.

1992
Toronto club reinstates respite care resolution to Provincial government.

Doris Guyatt is presented with her life membership.

1993
Mina Di Domenico is selected to present BPW Canada and BPW Toronto in Nagoya, Japan for the International Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Congress and served on the Canadian Federation board.

1994
Resolutions submitted to the Ontario and Federal organizations included Funding for Anger Management; lobbied for stalking to be incorporated into the Canadian criminal code.

1995
85th Anniversary Celebration on the Toronto Harbour

Resolutions submitted to the Ontario and Federal BPW organizations included Crime Prevention, Anger Management Funding, Female Mutilation to be included in the Canadian criminal code and Intoxication as a Defense.

Liz Neville presented with her Life Membership.

1996
Toronto Club members gave a presentation on the Employment Standards Act, the Child Care System and the Tenant Protection Act.

Toronto Club drafted, debated and passed a Resolution present to Toronto City Council on the Lap Dancing.  The City passed a By-law. Forbidding touching.

A Resolution passed by BPWC on Female Genital Mutilation resulted in a change to the Criminal Code, outlawing the practice.

1998
Toronto Club presented a resolution on Crime Prevention through Social Development at both the provincial and national levels

Leaf Person’s Day Breakfast

Pay Equity Coalition Sanka presents updates

Hold garage sale and raise $1,000 for bursaries.

1999
Nancy Jackman attends dinner meeting to discuss the December 6th Montreal Massacre of 14 female engineering students

Mary Lou McPhedran International Night Celebration

Marilou McPhedran is a founder of METRAC (Metropolitan action committee on violence against women and children), having done research on pornography and violence against women for the 1982 Task Force on Public Violence Against Women and Children, chaired by Jane Pepino, which laid the foundation for launching METRAC some 15 year ago. Given membership in the Order of Canada for her leadership in the constitutional equality initiatives by Canadian women, Marilou has practiced law for 20 years with emphasis on the rights of women and children. Marilou currently directs the International Women’s Rights Project at York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies.

Toronto Club supports “The December 6 Fund” Annual Remembrance Day Banquet

2000
Mina Di Domenico serves as the CFPBW representative for the Canadian National Exhibition.

Roseann Runte, President, Victoria University provided an update on the UN activities.

International Women’s Day celebration with the Women’s Intercultural Network

Toronto Club sponsors a Leadership Seminar

The Club’s 90th Anniversary is held at the Granite Club

Toronto Club supports “The December 6 Fund” Annual Remembrance Day Banquet

2001
Mina Di Domenico is asked to serve another year as the CFPBW representative for the Canadian National Exhibition.

Canada’s Role in NATO Speaker: Dr. Doris Guyatt Member of BPW Toronto Club

Dr. Guyatt will discuss Canada’s role in NATO

Toronto Club supports “The December 6 Fund” 6th Annual Remembrance Day Banquet

2002
Toronto Club supports “The December 6 Fund” Annual Remembrance Day Banquet

The following resolutions were presented to the Ontario BPW organization: "Patient Restraint" and "Domestic Violence - Community Based Services for men, women and children.” The

"Disclosure of personal records in sexual assault cases (Bill C-46)" resolution was presented to the Canadian Federation by the Toronto Club.

2003
Daniel Rutley speaks on “How Women Think Differently than Men”

Barbara Hall, Candidate for Mayor speaks on City of Toronto's Future

Melanie Cishecki of MediaWatch speaks on the impact of Media Images on Women and Girls

Mina Di Domenico, Past President BPW conducts a “How to Develop Resolutions” workshop

Pamela Cross, Director of the Ontario Women’s Justice Network provides an update. Toronto BPW develops resolutions addressing…

Jan Divok presents the WOMEN'S FUTURE FUND

Toronto Club supports “The December 6 Fund” Annual Remembrance Day Banquet

2004
Mark Cooper from the Toronto Water Works speaks on Is Toronto’s Water Safe to Drink?

Wendy Cukier, Chair of the Coalition for Gun Control speaks on What’s the Latest with Gun Control? Toronto Club develops resolutions to present at the National Conference.

Henrietta Green is presented with her Life Membership.

Toronto BPW co-sponsors W.I.N. (Woman’s Intercultural Network) International Women’s Day event.

Patricia Prez represented BPW Canada and BPW Toronto in Venice, Italy at the United Nations Session on Women.

2005
Two bursaries have been committed to the Working Skills Centre to further educate immigrant women into the Canadian workplace.

2006
Sgt. Mariangeles Najlis speaks on A Canadian Woman Soldier’s Role in Kabul, Afghanistan

2007
Held a workshop on Identity Theft

Sponsor a High Tea for the Sistering Organization

Law Society of Canada – International Women’s Day

Workshop à Campaign School What does it take to get women elected?

BPW Toronto Website Launch and Proportional Representation à How do we encourage more women to be elected into government?

Partnership event with Equal Voice, Fair Vote Canada, Toronto Women’s City Alliance &

Women’s Future Fund

2008
Mary Cornish dinner meeting discussing Pay Equity

Celebrating International Night with the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign The guest speaker was Andrea Beal, of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Grandmothers to Grandmothers’ Campaign. Stephen Lewis speech on the tremendous crisis of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa inspired 190 Grandmothers to Grandmothers groups to be formed in many areas to fundraise to help pay the cost of these programs. The club presented Andrea with an honorarium with our thanks and a donation box was available for club members to also donate.

Sponsor a High Tea for Sistering Organization

International BPW Meeting with the UN 51st Session of Commission on Status of Women

International Night Celebration, Devyani Saltzman, author of Shooting Water

High Tea event for the Sistering Organization.  

In April, a meeting was held at the Columbus Centre’s Boccaccio Restaurant with Tom Hancock and his co-worker, Lisa MacKenzie, on the hot topic of “Identity Theft – How to Protect Yourself”. 

2009
A “Straight to the Point” breakfast workshop was held

A High Tea with the Sistering Organization

Doris Hall, First Vice President of BPW Canada was there to present to Dormer Ellis (50 years), Henrietta Green (35 years) and Doris Guyatt (30 years) with their CFBPW certificates and hanger pins for the decades of service.

On International Women’s Day, Sunday, March 8th, 2009 guest speaker was Fran Donaldson, immediate BPW Canada past president. Fran provided an update from the United Nations event that took place a week earlier.

Toronto BPW donates $1,500 towards the National AGM towards the CFBBW events Mentoring For Success and Networking workshops

2010
After 100 years, the Toronto Club members continue to make an impact locally, provincially and nationally. 

At the November 1st board meeting, the Toronto BPW Club board made a decision to sponsor two events at the joint June 2010 BPW Ontario/BPW Canada Conference/Convention being held at the Horseshoe Resort in Barrie, Ontario.

For the National Convention, the Toronto Club donated $4,000 to celebrate the Club’s 100th anniversary. The objective of the donation was to cover the attendee dinner and subsequently reduce the registration fee. The guest speaker was Dr. Dormer Ellis.  Please see her speech on the last 100 years on the Toronto Club website www.bpwtoronto.com (Herstory tab).

For the Provincial Conference, the Toronto Club donated $500 towards a networking session.

A High Tea with the Sistering Organization was held on November 29th at the Park Hyatt Hotel. In total, there were 40 attendees including many friends and North Toronto BPW members.  A new member Marie Mathai was installed, good food was enjoyed and hundreds of dollars and toiletries were donated to the Sistering Organization. Sistering is a women’s agency serving homeless, marginalized and low-income women in Toronto. Their programs and services help women gain greater control over their life circumstances.

While the Toronto Business & Professional Women’s Club (BPW Toronto) had awarded bursaries over the years, the present program was inaugurated in 1976. This year, the Toronto Club donated $30,000 to the University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. The goal of this new program is to provide a comprehensive grounding in leadership skills, financial and human resources management and research and quality improvement in social service organizations. An additional bonus is that a matching amount of funds ($30,000) from money provided by the Ontario government to double donations to the University so the Veira Simmonds (Toronto BPW) Bursary Fund would have $60,000 to assist women in business knowledge.

Applicants must have a Master’s of Social Work or master’s degree in a related social service field and at least five years experience in the social services. It is a one year program or two years on a part time basis. The diploma can also be completed as a specialization in the Faculty’s MSW program. Course content will emphasize management and administration skills to provide graduates with both the theoretical and practical knowledge they need to move into any supervisory, management or leadership role.

The club’s website www.bpwtoronto.com continues to be a major focus. As mentioned in last year’s report, the club’s herstory (history) the first 75 years has been posted on the website and Olga Gil a former Toronto Club President assisted with compiling the last 25 years of Toronto BPW information.

Patricia Prez, a Toronto Club Past President is now on the Provincial board as a Vice President of Personal Development and Leadership Awards. She attended the Committee on the Status of Women at United Nations in New York City held in March as a BPW International member.

The Club is now preparing for its 100th Anniversary High Tea to be held in November 2010.