Some History of Progressive Work of NDCW Since 1918

The Niagara District Council of Women (formerly the St Catharines and District Council of Women) is an affiliate of the Provincial Council of Women of Ontario (PCWO 1923) and the National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC 1893).

The St. Catharines and District Council of Women (NDCW) was formed in 1918 and its first president was Mary Malcolmson, an active community leader in St. Catharines, especially recognized for starting the Girl Guides in Canada in 1910.

In the early years, the Council of Women initiated Child Welfare Centres which eventually became Well Baby Clinics and supervised playgrounds were established. Women were encouraged to take political office and join committees with much success.

Throughout the depression, the Council of Women gave money and clothing to the unemployed and in 1932 they started a Maternal Welfare programme with Mothers' Meetings held weekly with various speakers from the Public Health Department.

Undertakings in the 1950’s included visiting the residents of Linhaven Home for the Aged and Linwell Hall for the Blind.

In 1967, a survey of Day Care Nurseries was completed and a City Safety Council was formed with the Council of Women represented on the executive.

In 1970, a survey of the poverty of the unemployed was undertaken and the Council of Women began to serve refreshments at Canadian Citizenship Courts, a tradition that continued for many years.

To commemorate International Women's Year in 1975 and the Centennial Year of the City of St. Catharines in 1976, the Council of Women published the book Women of Action featuring women such as Laura Sabia, a well-known advocate for women’s political and social equity and many others who contributed to the life of the community from 1876 to 1976.

The Council of Women was actively involved in the 1978-81 OMB hearings on the regional urban boundaries and fruit-land preservation, and spoke to all levels of Government on this issue.

In the 1980’s, the Council of Women worked with the St. Catharines branch of the Elementary School Teachers of Ontario (ETFO) to develop a 3 R’s Program in schools and successfully persuaded the St. Catharines City Council to start a multi-material curbside recycling programme. The Council of Women received the Mayor's Award of Merit for their work.

In 1988, the St. Catharines Council of Women joined with the Hamilton and Niagara Falls Councils of Women to present a one-day symposium on Sexual Assault and in 1991, a Read Canada project was set up in St. Catharines with reading groups in two non-profit housing projects and a Reading Tent at ‘A Day in the Park’.

In 1995, the Council of Women became a "Friend of Malcolmson Park" and later produced a book on its history. The Malcomson Eco Park is a unique natural park in the City of St. Catharines named after Mary Malcomson, first president of the Council of Women. A Council of Women Board member, Mary Potter, served as the Chair of Friends of Malcolmson Eco-Park for several years.

In 1998, the Council of Women hosted the National Council of Women of Canada’s Annual Meeting at Brock University, which included Indigenous issues and the OKA crisis.

In 2000, the Council of Women joined with the YWCA and the Canadian Federation of University Women in St. Catharines to have a sculpture built to honour women's groups who had served the community for over 34 years with new groups to be added as they reach 35 years. That year the Council of Women also hosted a forum called “Securing Our Future”, a program instituted by the National Council of Women to teach young women ages 16 to 24 about money management.

In 2014, the Council of Women used a 1995 Provincial Council of Women of Ontario (PCWO) policy opposing incineration, up-to-date research, briefs and the video Road to Zero Waste to help with the successful community efforts to persuade the Niagara Regional Council to drop Hamilton-Niagara plans for a municipal waste incinerator.

In 2015, using PCWO policy it had helped develop, the Council of Women held a panel discussion on the planned transportation of very dangerous extremely long-lasting liquid high-level nuclear waste through farmlands, communities, over rivers and streams and near the Great Lakes. Past president Susan Pruyn, led the Council of Women’s successful lobby of the Niagara Regional Council, who unanimously ratified a motion in opposition to these shipments.

In 2016, the Council of Women co-sponsored a meeting on the Basic Income Guarantee with the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network.  The guest speaker was Dr. Lisa Simon, Associate Medical Officer of Health Simcoe/Muskoka District Health Unit and close to 100 poverty activists attended. In December 2016, Lori Kleinsmith of the Bridges Community Health Centre spoke on the need for comprehensive dental care.

In June 2017, the Council of Women held a very well-attended public meeting on Transporting Liquid Radioactive Nuclear Waste featuring Dr. Gordon Edwards, president of the Canadian Centre for Nuclear Responsibility. Throughout 2017, Council of Women board members, Susan Pruyn and Environment Convenor, Ann Porter Bonilla, led a letter-writing campaign against this transportation with hundreds of form letters distributed, signed and mailed to Prime Minister Trudeau, Cabinet Ministers and MPs.

Since 1988, the Council of Women, with Board Member Gracia Janes as chair, has been part of the Social Assistance Reform Network of Niagara (SARNN), a group of front-line social welfare agencies, churches, community organizations and individuals receiving social assistance who advise the Region of Niagara Community Services Department. The Council of Women has held several public forums to alert the public in the areas of poverty, homelessness and the social and economic determinants of health and wellbeing.

As the Niagara District Council of Women celebrates its 100th Year Anniversary in 2018, we are planning several community events which will include hosting the National Council of Women of Canada’s Annual General Meeting in June 2018, the theme of which is Eradicating Poverty.