Celebrating 125-126 Years
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.
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.
Oct 25: Form Follows Content: Designing Museum Exhibitions
When: Wednesday, October 25, 2023, 2 p.m.
Where: Alumni Hall
About this Event: In this talk, experiential designer Christine Elson reveals her process: she collaborates with curatorial, conservation, marketing, and other teams at museums and galleries while also conducting her own research. She then proposes colours, formats, and graphics, among other elements. From this, Christine develops a coherent story that she expresses three-dimensionally.
About the Speaker: Trained as an architect, Christine Elson has been working with museums, galleries, and other cultural clients for over 10 years, contributing to the development of engaging exhibitions, installations, and activations. Her studies in literature, as well as her experience in the theatre world and the film industry, have contributed to her deep understanding of the design of narrative spaces.
Nov. 22: Milestones and Monuments: Reflections on Women and Churches in Canada and Around the World
When: Wednesday, November 22, 2023, 2 p.m.
Where: Alumni Hall
About this Event: Emmanuel College Principal HyeRan Kim-Cragg addresses women's issues and leadership in theological education by drawing insights from the Crucified Woman statue, a hallmark of Emmanuel College.
About the Speaker: Principal and Timothy Eaton Memorial Church Professor of Preaching HyeRan Kim-Cragg is committed to an interdisciplinary approach to homiletics in practical theology. Her teaching and research encompass various topics, including biblical interpretation, postcolonial theories, feminist homiletics and liturgy, migration, and decolonizing practices. Her current research focuses on connecting the climate crisis with preaching.
Jan 24: Vic Now
When: Wednesday, January 24, 2024, 2 p.m.
Where: Alumni Hall
About this Event: "Vic Now" with Kelley Castle, dean of Students; Shane Joy, VUSAC president; Louise Yearwood, executive director, Alumni Affairs and Advancement, provides updates to the VWA on the current issues confronting the Office of the Dean of Students, the students, and the alumni.
About the Speaker: Dean Kelley Castle leads the Office of the Dean of Students and is responsible for the oversight and strategic leadership of all non-academic student life and affairs, including non-academic student conduct and crisis response.
Feb. 28: Un-settling Upper Canada: Real and Fictional Colonies in the 1820s
When: Wednesday, February 28, 2024, 2 p.m.
Where: Alumni Hall
About this Event: In a collaborative meeting with the Friends of Victoria University Library, "Un-settling Upper Canada: Real and Fictional Colonies in the 1820s" featuring Angela Esterhammer, principal of Victoria College, delves into the experiences of Scottish emigrants who made their journey 200 years ago between actual and imaginary colonies spanning from South America to southwestern Ontario. This presentation will scrutinize unsettling narratives of settlement, revealing how fiction, poetry, accident and delusion blended in early-nineteenth-century Canadian history.
About the Speaker: Professor Angela Esterhammer, principal of Victoria College, oversees all academic aspects of Victoria College, including academic programs, faculty, Fellows, and Victoria College Council. She is the author or editor of 15 books and over 80 articles in the field of British, German and European Romanticism and 19th-century culture, focusing primarily on performativity and performance. Her current research concerns experimental uses of textual, visual, and performative media during the 1820s and investigates the era's preoccupation with personal identity, celebrity, anonymity and pseudonymity.
March 27: Painted Out of the Picture: The Wives of the Group of Seven
When: Wednesday, March 27, 2024, 2 p.m.
Where: Alumni Hall
About this Event: While the husbands received acclaim for their contributions to Canadian art, the wives of the Group of Seven were largely overlooked. This talk, led by author/curator Angie Littlefield sheds light on the significant roles these women played in shaping their husbands' careers while also emphasizing their agency in carving out meaning in their own lives.
About the Speaker: Author/Curator Angie Littlefield has authored three books about Tom Thomson. Her most recent work, Tom Thomson's Fine Kettle of Friends, was shortlisted for the Whistler Independent Book Award in 2021. Additionally, she has written articles and curated exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, and the Lonsdale Gallery in Toronto.
April 17: Annual Luncheon
When: April 17, 2024, 11:40 a.m.
Where: Alumni Hall
Celebrate 126-7 years of the VWA with members, guests, and the Vic community, and listen to the talk, "The Citizen Lab: What Happens When Videos of Cute Cats Meet 'Big Brother'?" with Irene Poetranto, senior researcher, The Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto.
About this Event: Most people use the internet and social media for ordinary activities. Yet, these same tools have also been used by civil society and political opposition to criticize governments and mobilize against them. This talk focuses on the Munk School's The Citizen Lab's research on internet censorship and shutdowns.
About the speaker: Irene Poetranto is also a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto. Her research interests include the politics of internet regulation and countering terrorism, violent extremism, and hate speech online. Irene obtained her master's degree in Political Science and Asia Pacific Studies from the University of Toronto and her bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of British Columbia (UBC).
This lunch is a ticketed event and tickets must be purchased by Friday, April 5. The cost of the lunch will be posted in the new year.
The VWA Annual General Meeting follows at 2:00 p.m.
A Word of Thanks
The VWA is grateful for the support of Victoria’s administration, faculty, and staff, including Dean Kelley Castle and her office, those in events, hospitality, infrastructure, and sustainability office services and communications. We especially appreciate the assistance of Louise Yearwood, executive director of alumni affairs and advancement, and Elicia La Valle, alumni affairs and advancement coordinator, as well as other members of Victoria’s alumni office. They all make our work and commitment so much easier.
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 Victoria Women's Association. 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.
Mailing Address: VWA, c/o Victoria Alumni Office, 150 Charles St. W., Suite 300, Toronto, ON M5S 1K9
For web donations to the Victoria Women's Association Bursary Fund, see the Bursaries and Scholarships drop-down below.
Programme 2022-2023 (previous)
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 was 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.
*The Annual Luncheon is a ticketed event.
The VWA Annual General Meeting follows at 2:00 p.m.
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.
Read more about the 2023 Magaret Addison Scholarship recipient, Faith Wershba.
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; 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.
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.