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Celebrating 125 Years

Who We Are

One of the oldest volunteer organizations at Victoria University, the VWA has had and continues to have a positive impact on Vic. It was founded in 1897 to encourage and help women attend university and it provided them with a safe home when Annesley Hall opened in 1903. Today, we continue our purpose by supporting and contributing financially so that all students may enjoy an inclusive future. In addition to serving Victoria students, the VWA also champions Vic and higher education.

What We Do

Throughout the academic year, the VWA hosts five afternoon programmes, presented primarily by Vic faculty and staff. Here you will find speakers who are prominent in their field; they discuss a variety of topics, from science to the arts and beyond (see the Programme below). In addition to hearing stimulating speakers, you meet friendly members of our Association and the Vic community who take advantage of these occasions to socialize, network and build connections. The VWA year concludes in April with a lunch, at a cost-recovery price, along with a noted speaker.

The VWA also raises money annually for The Endowed Bursary Fund for Vic students who are in financial need. This bursary has aided those from low-income families as well as first-generation University students – all aiming to make their mark in their specialties (see Bursaries and Scholarships below).

Come Join Us!

Bring your friends, neighbours and relatives! The VWA is a cordial open community that welcomes everyone. There is no requirement to be a university graduate or even to have any connection to Vic in order to be a VWA member. Members and donors include the public who enjoy being in an academic atmosphere, Vic grads, friends and relatives of current students and alumni, and Vic faculty, staff and their family and friends. Present-day Vic students are a critical part of the VWA and are always welcome to attend our programmes, enjoy complimentary refreshments, and network with our members, guests and speakers.

We invite you to become part of a friendly Association that promotes Victoria and assists current and future Vic students through its financial aid and presents opportunities to build long-lasting relationships and networks that have a positive impact on the future of the students. At the VWA meetings you also see friends, make new ones and listen to splendid speakers. Please see the Membership and Contact Information drop-down below.

Programme 2022-2023

The VWA has organized in-person meetings and lunches in Alumni Hall, Old Vic. If there is a return to virtual meetings, it will be posted here and members will be notified. Please note that the February joint meeting with Friends of the Victoria University Library is virtual and its access codes will be posted later.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022, 2 p.m.: “The Rise of the Codpiece in Renaissance Portraits” with Prof. Konrad Eisenbichler, Renaissance Studies. This is a requested reprise of Prof. Eisenbichler’s memorable February 2000 presentation.

You are invited to attend the 2020-22 AGMs that follow this October meeting.

Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, 2 p.m.: “Meeting Julia: A New Muppet on the Autism Spectrum in Your Neighbourhood” with Vic’s new President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Rhonda McEwen

Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, 2 p.m.: “Vic Now,” with the Rev. Dr. HyeRan Kim-Cragg, Emmanuel’s new Principal; Kelley Castle, Dean of Students; and Sooyeon Lee, VUSAC (Student) President.

*Please note, the January 25th "Vic Now" lecture has been cancelled due to inclement weather.

Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, 2 p.m.: “The Magic and Beauty of Endpapers” with Iona Whatford, Vic alumna and winner of the Hoeniger Book Collection Prize 2021. This is a joint virtual meeting with Friends of the Victoria University Library.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023, 2 p.m.: “Current Issues in International Politics” with Ambassador David S. Wright, Kenneth and Patricia Taylor Distinguished Professor of Foreign Affairs, Victoria College

Wednesday, April 19, 2023, 11:40 for 12 noon: Annual Luncheon. Celebrate 125 years of the VWA with members, guests and the Vic community. Pratt archivist Jess Todd is speaking on the VWA 125 exhibit in the Pratt Library, and VWA Honorary President Rick (Massey) Somerville will say a few words about the Masseys, key contributors to Vic and the VWA. In 1896, Rick’s great-great-great-grandfather, businessman and philanthropist Hart Massey, bequeathed $150,000 to Vic and $50,000 for the first purpose-built women’s residence in Canada. (Annesley Hall opened in 1903.) This $50,000 was a factor in the formation of the predecessor of the VWA the following year in 1897.

Please purchase tickets and specify any food requirements by Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

The cost of lunch is $35, which must be pre-paid at the March 22 meeting by cash or by cheque, payable to the VWA. Alternatively, a cheque may be sent to the VWA, c/o the Victoria Alumni Office, 150 Charles St.W., Toronto  M5S 1K9 by Tuesday, April 4th. 

The VWA Annual General Meeting follows at 2:00 p.m.

VWA 125 Exhibit: This exhibit is on view in the Pratt Library, Victoria College, from Wednesday, April 19 until Friday, June 2, 2023.


Programme 2023-2024

Wednesdays, 2 p.m., October 25, November 22, January 24, February 28 (joint meeting with Friends of Victoria University Library), March 27, and lunch, 12 noon, April 17.

More information to come!

A Word of Thanks

The VWA is grateful for the support of Victoria’s administration, faculty, and staff, including those in Conference, Food and Physical Plant Services and in Communications. We especially appreciate the assistance of Louise Yearwood, Executive Director of Alumni Affairs and Advancement, Sinitta D’Souza, Alumni Affairs and Advancement Coordinator, and Bonette Valdez Cruzada, Donations and Database Coordinator, as well as the other members of Victoria’s Alumni Office. They all make our work and commitment so much easier.

A Peek at Our Beginnings

In March 1897, Margaret Burwash, wife of Vic’s Chancellor-President, took the chair of a meeting over the objections of some men who were convinced that women were incapable of acting as chair. This meeting took place in the Vic chapel in order to form a group that became known as the VWA. One of its purposes was to raise money for land and furnishings for a residence for women students who were lacking a safe home after Vic’s move from Cobourg to Toronto in 1892. This had worried some women, among whom were alumnae, wives of Vic faculty and administrators, and Methodists. However, they were encouraged when Vic received a bequest of $50,000 from businessman, philanthropist, and reliable Vic benefactor, Hart Massey, for such a residence in 1896. After intensive and sometimes difficult fundraising, the determined and dedicated women successfully raised enough so that in 1903, Annesley Hall opened under the management of the VWA with Margaret Addison as Dean of Residence.

For more information on VWA history and other topics, including Membership and Contact Information and Bursaries and Scholarships, please see our drop-down options below.

Membership and Contact Information


Every fall, the VWA sends members and donors the Membership/Donation form, the new Programme along with the newsletter. The annual membership fee is $20 which may be paid at meetings by cash or by cheque, payable to the VWA. A cheque may also be mailed to the VWA mailing address below. If you wish to receive a receipt, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The VWA Executive keeps in touch with members and reminds them of up-coming meetings, if a member so wishes. If informed, the Corresponding Secretary also sends cards to members for diverse reasons.


Contact Information

Mailing Address: VWA, c/o Victoria Alumni Office, 150 Charles St. W., Suite 300, Toronto, ON M5S 1K9



For web donations to the VWA Bursary Fund, click on VWA Bursary.

Programme 2021-2022

Wednesday, November 24, 2021, 2 p.m.:  “Who Can You Trust These Days? Listening to Politicians, Scientists, and Other Would-Be Experts in the Information Age,” with Vic President Emeritus, Prof. Paul Gooch

Wednesday, January 26, 2022, 2 p.m.: “Vic Now,” with Kelley Castle, Dean of Students; Scott Johnston, Associate Dean of Students; and Jerico Raguindin, VUSAC (student) President.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022, 2 p.m.: “Norman Jewison: From Vic to Hollywood and Beyond,” with Prof. Ira Wells, Victoria College

Wednesday, March 23, 2022, 2 p.m.: Please join Friends of Victoria University Library at their Annual Prof. F. David Hoeniger Lecture with Lynne Golding, Vic 8T4. Her topic is “A Walk through Time: The Life of a 1925 Victoria College Undergraduate.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2022: For safety reasons, the VWA has cancelled this annual lunch.

Bursaries and Scholarships

Our Constitution states that “The purpose of this Association shall be to promote the interests of students of Victoria University and to advance the cause of student education.”  Our contributions to bursaries and scholarships are an important part of our mandate.

The Endowed Bursary Fund: From its beginnings in the 1890s, the Association has helped students in need; it formed the first fund for that purpose in 1909. Today the VWA raises money annually for its Bursary Fund through which it continues to assist Vic students financially. Please note that Victoria College, and not the VWA, selects the recipients of these bursaries.

Donations may be sent to our mailing address at:

VWA, c/o the Victoria Alumni Office, 150 Charles St. W., Suite 300, Toronto, ON M5S 1K9.

Please enclose a cheque, payable to the VWA Bursary Fund. A tax receipt will be sent to you.

Charitable Registration No.: 119285419RR0001

If you choose to donate online, click on VWA Bursary. Donors receive Vic Visionaries, the Victoria University donor newsletter.

Ethel Bennett Scholarship: In 1978, the VWA established a scholarship in honour of Ethel Granger Bennett, a long-time VWA member and the President of the organization from 1949 to 1958. This scholarship is now part of the Harold and Ethel Bennett Scholarship.

Margaret Addison Scholarship: Margaret Addison, who was instrumental in the founding of the VWA along with Margaret Burwash, served as the VWA President from 1921 to 1933. The first Dean of Residence and then Dean of Students, she retired as Dean in 1931, and the VWA established a fund of $5,000 for her use. After Addison’s death in 1940, this fund and the money that the Alumnae Association had raised were combined to form this scholarship. As a result, every other year the income is awarded to a Vic woman for graduate study outside of Canada.

Other Contributions: The Association also contributes financially to new Scholarships and Bursaries established by Vic administrators and faculty members, such as those formed by Larry Davies, former Alumni Affairs Executive Director, or, those founded in their honour, such as the one for Prof. Sheila Cook, a VWA Executive member who died in 2019.

Over the years, the VWA has raised an enormous amount of money for the benefit of Victoria and Vic students. These financial contributions were acknowledged when the VWA was granted lifetime membership in U of T’s Presidents’ Circle recognition society. It also received the prestigious Arbor Award from U of T in 2013 “in recognition of the organization’s service and impact” and “because [of] the generosity and dedication of its members.” The VWA is also a member of Victoria University’s Ivy Society that recognizes donors who have given $100,000 or more since 1903.

Presidents of the VWA

The VWA is pleased to celebrate the leadership and contributions of all the presidents of the Association. Until 1964 the presidents were the wives of Vic administrators or, in the case of Margaret Addison, an administrator herself. Marguerite Fidler was the first president not connected to the administration and insisted that men were welcome as members. She served with great enthusiasm from 1964 to 1966.

Honorary Presidents: Joan Breukelman, Past VWA President and Bursary Treasurer; Anne Christie; Prof. Eva Kushner, Vic President Emerita; Rick (Massey) Somerville; Prof. Pauline Thompson


1897-1912      Margaret Burwash

1912-1921      Julia Graham

1921-1933      Margaret Addison

1933-1949     Maud Brown

1949-1958     Ethel Bennett

1958-1964     Helen Frye

1964-1966    Marguerite Fidler

1966-1968    Ruth Fallis

1968-1971     Dorothy Crummey

1971-1974      Alice Jackson

1974-1975     Ruth Hodgetts

1975-1978     Suse Eggert

1978-1980    Doris Stokes

1980-1982    Audrey McCullough

1982-1985     Joan Breukelman

1985-1988     Audrey Chapple

1988-1991     Joyce Clarke

1991-1994     Margaret Roots

1994-1999    Marian Gibson

1999-2000    Joan Breukelman & Audrey McCullough

2000-2004   Anne Sinclair

2004-            Diane Dyer

History of the VWA

In looking back at some of the achievements of the VWA (Victoria Women’s Association), we recognize the remarkable impact that the Association has had on the education of women, particularly in the early years: the Association not only encouraged women to attend university but also aided them financially whenever possible.

Read More About the History of the VWA