Women’s Canadian Club, London, Canada: History in the Making
In 1910, The Canadian Club movement was arousing interest all over Canada and rapidly enlisting the active support of men and women in Canadian cities and towns. The women of London were no exception; and when Mrs. Fanny Edwards took the initiative and gathered a group of women to discuss the idea over a cup of tea at her home, the result was an announcement in the local papers calling for a public meeting at the Free Library Hall on April 11, 1910 at 4:15 p.m. At that meeting, it was a unanimous decision to organize a Women’s Canadian Club in London.
Mrs. George C. Gibbons, later Lady Gibbons, was the first President, and Mrs. Fanny Edwards was the Treasurer for the next 25 years. The fee was set at $2 dollars; and tea was served after the meeting, a practice that is still kept today.
The minutes, records and a letter book are held at Western University`s archival library. Typewriters and carbon copies were not universal then; thus, every letter written was copied in the book in beautiful handwriting for invitations to speakers and routine business.
The purpose of the Men’s and Women’s Canadian Clubs then, as it is today, was to inform the mind and to broaden the understanding on matters pertaining to Canada. In the early years, there were fifteen to eighteen meetings annually, a garden party in May or June, as well as a Dominion Day program at Victoria Park in which the Women’s Canadian Club assisted, along with the Men’s Canadian Club, Guides, Scouts and the Military.
The London Women’s Canadian Club was a great supporter of many relief funds, such as the 1917 Halifax disaster, the Serbian fund, the Red Cross and the YWCA. In 1926 as a war memorial, two stone pillars were erected at the city boundary at the intersection of Richmond St. and Huron St. A Past President, Miss Grace Blackburn, wrote the inscriptions in memory of the men who fought in the Great War. The pillars cost $1,200 dollars, which was raised by a garden party and by subscriptions from the members.
In 1964, because of increased traffic on Richmond St., the pillars were moved to the East entrance of Springbank Park. Bronze plaques were added in 2000 (the Club’s 90th anniversary) to commemorate the memory of the men and women who fought in WW2, Korea and peace-keeping missions. Members donated loonies to cover the cost of the plaque. Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco was present at the ceremony.
By 1923, meetings were held in larger venues, as membership had increased. Central Collegiate, H.B. Beal Collegiate, the Masonic Temple, as well as the Colborne Culture Centre were used as meeting places. Today, Centennial Hall is our place to meet.
Canada has changed vastly since the Canadian Club movement began its spread. Both the nation and the world have changed. Now, television, new technology, increased leisure activities and a host of associations all clamour for our time.
In the 21st century, Canadian Clubs continue to make history and are committed to preserve and protect our precious heritage.