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My Memories of the Toronto Business & Professional Women’s Club

by Laura M. Haferkorn, Past President, 1986

What I learned during my 22 year membership in this wonderful organization has helped me tremendously over the years, and surprisingly, even in retirement! When I lived in Toronto, most of my working life was spent as a freelancer, which can be a lonely existence so I was happy to find a place where I could be with other working women.

When I first joined Toronto Club in the late ‘70s, I needed a lot of help, as I was suffering from what has become recognized as a ‘midlife crisis’. Impossible for me to relate how much support I got from the members, for which I’m eternally grateful. It was like having older sisters, the sisters that I never had. Not only was there caring support, but we also held informative sessions on, for example, how to write a resumé; how to handle yourself in a job interview; how to market your product; how to use a microphone. This last has been of infinite help to me as, since retirement in 1991, I’ve been asked to speak to a variety of groups on different topics such as my trips to places like Antarctica and China, or histories of everyday things like roses or even shoes! Seven years ago, I ‘got the call’ to Lay Ministry and have served as Pulpit Supply to three churches. In both of these speaking situations, knowing the proper use of the microphone has given more confidence than I might have had otherwise.

Besides learning new things and sharing our work-related problems with others, we loved to socialize. Back in the early ‘80s, our favourite place to do that was after the Club meetings which, at that time, were held in the Royal York Hotel: down on the main floor there was a most relaxing area called the Library Bar. We enjoyed ourselves there so much that we were often stared at by sober-suited businessmen who were trying, rather unsuccessfully we thought, to unwind.

By far the best and most productive times were the Annual Provincial Conferences which were held all over Ontario. We worked hard during the day-long business sessions, and after socializing over dinner, we’d start work again in our rooms, getting together to thrash out the finer points of resolutions involving ‘women and work’ that we were determined to bring forward and have passed. By the time we were satisfied that we’d done the best job we could, we’d be so wound up that sleep became next to impossible, but we’d be up bright and early for breakfast, all ready to start another day’s work. We were proud that many of our resolutions were presented to the governments involved and many eventually became part of legislation which would improve the lot of the working woman. Some of our members ran for public office; many of our members made history by being the first women to take positions in fields which, up until then, were traditionally held exclusively by men. Other members were encouraged to start their own businesses, giving them a chance for independence, even if it meant more responsibilities and longer hours. We also learned how to network, how to lobby, and other useful skills.

So, from my vantage point in the small town of Brighton, Ontario, I salute the Toronto Business and Professional Women’s Club on its 100 years of life. Long may the organization continue to benefit working women, not only in Ontario, but in the whole of this wonderful country of Canada.