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Women's History at RBSC

A guide to women's archival materials at UBC's Rare Books and Special Collections

About These Collections

The fonds and collections included here include the records of organizations created by and/or for women.

"What can AUCE fight for?" illustration of woman typing

Illustration printed in an AUCE union leaflet published in 1974, available to be viewed in person at RBSC or online at UBC Open Collections using the links below.

Image source: Association of University and College Employees (AUCE) fonds, UBC Open Collections

Association of University and College Employees. (1974). [Publications, leaflets and other materials] [Broadsides]. doi:


The Association of University and College Employees (AUCE) began in 1973 when library and clerical workers on university and college campuses across British Columbia began organizing as a union in order to represent their collective interests. When the union formed, over ninety percent of its members were women and one of their top concerns was equal pay for what was at the time considered “women’s work”. Over the next decade, they fought for wages to match the rising cost of living, transparent job classifications, maternity leave, childcare, and other employee benefits. They also demanded a discrimination free workplace for people of all genders, sexualities, races, and ethnicities. They disbanded in 1985 and eventually became a chartered local union of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) in 1987.

The fonds consists of records related to the AUCE's provincial and local chapters' activities, efforts, publications, and ephemera. Records span the provincial and local unions' initial accreditation in 1973, to the provincial union disbanding in 1985, and then follow the Local 1 (University of British Columbia) chapter through to its merger with CUPE in 1985 and forward into the late 2000's.

Digitized versions of the materials in the fonds are available here at UBC Open Collections.

The B.C. Federation of Women is an umbrella group for women's organizations in B.C. Its goal is to organize province-wide action on women's issues, and it is particularly concerned with health, childcare, education, and employment. The fonds consists primarily of printed material from 1977-1980 relating to the Federation's decision to become a non-profit organization. Included are guidelines for society incorporation, surveys given to Federation members to ascertain their opinions about becoming a non-profit organization, and literature on non-profit societies. Further material transferred in 2014 from the City of Vancouver Archives consists of surveys sent to various women's organizations asking their views on feminism, in preparation for the “Day of Feminism.”

The British Columbia Home Economics Association was created in 1975 with a principle goal of promoting the well-being of individuals and families in B.C. through the advancement, determination, and encouragement of the skills and knowledge of family life and care by trained home economists. The Association participates in various projects such as training other in leadership, providing scholarships, staging conferences, and selling cookbooks. The fonds consists of minutes, correspondence, and printed material relating to the activities of the organization and its predecessor, the Vancouver and District Home Economics Association (1958-1972).

The current B.C. Lawn Bowling Association was established in 1990, following a vote to amalgamate the former B.C. Lawn Bowling Association and the B.C. Ladies Lawn Bowling Association. The Associations main activities include promotion of, financial support for, and participation in lawn bowling competitions at the provincial and national levels. The fonds consists of material from the B.C. Lawn Bowling Association, the B.C. Ladies Lawn Bowling Association, and the Ladies' Lawn Bowling Association of B.C. The records include correspondence, minutes, financial records, constitutions and bylaws, reports, lists, memoranda, publications, and a photograph. Although the bulk of the records document the period 1977 to 1997, there are also minutes of the Ladies' Lawn Bowling Association of B.C. for the period 1924 to 1973.

The British Columbia Provincial CCF Women's Council supported the aims of the greater Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. The fonds consists of a bound minute book reflecting the administrative and operational activities of the Council between 1958 and 1961.

Established in 1960, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) is a non-partisan Non-Governmental Organization comprised of a network of diverse women with consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council. VOW works to provide women the opportunity to appeal to national governments and international diplomats, attend conferences like the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and to write and present briefs and statements to political heads of state and nations worldwide on women and peace issues. They respond to calls for guidance and research on peace and women’s issues locally, nationally, and internationally. The fonds consists of the records of the B.C. chapter of VOW (1960-1978) and local chapters (Powell River, Vancouver, North Vancouver, and West Vancouver branches). It includes subject files, correspondence, minutes, scrapbooks, newsletters, conference proceedings, press clippings, president's papers, and financial reports reflecting the organization's involvement with disarmament, human rights issues, ecology, and politics.

The National Association of Marine Engineers (NAME) was founded in the 1880s. Its membership included the steamship and associated workers employed by companies such as British Yukon Navigation Company, Canadian National Railways, Canadian National Steamship Company, and Shell Oil of British Columbia. The NAME was affiliated with the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway and Transport Workers prior to its merger with the Canadian Merchant Service Guild in 1966. File 6-11 contains minutes, reports, constitution/by-laws, and misc. materials from its Ladies' Auxiliary.

The Women's Rights Committee was officially established in 1971 as a standing committee of the provincial NDP, but its roots date back to the 1962 Women's Committee. The general function of the Women's Rights Committee is to develop policy on women's issues and to encourage the participation of women in the political process. The fonds consists of records pertaining to B.C. Women's Rights committees as well as to the Task Force on Older Women in British Columbia. Included are sound recordings, steering committee annual files (1975-1983), correspondence, committees, conferences, subject files, newsletters (1973-1984), publications, ephemera and resource files.

The Positive Women's Network (PWN) was formed in 1991 in Vancouver, B.C. as a support group run by and for women living with HIV/AIDS and/or Hepatitis C. PWN offered free programs and resources to women living with HIV and Hepatitis C as well as women who were vulnerable to those diseases, health care workers, and service providers throughout the province. These programs supported communities by providing a full spectrum of non-judgmental care to women and their families. The PWN provided support and education in the form of advocacy, retreats, a drop-in centre, food bank, hospital visits, a hot lunch program, information and referrals, one-on-one support sessions, support groups, and telephone counselling. The organization eventually closed in April 2017 due to lack of funding and the changing landscape of HIV/AIDS services in B.C. The fonds consists of records related to PWN’s various programs and projects, support and educational resources, and operations and administrative activities.

The Pro-Choice Action Network was a pro-choice advocacy society that was active in B.C. from 1987-2009. Throughout its run, Pro-CAN was responsible for the creation and operation of the Everywoman’s Health Clinic, a freestanding clinic that offered abortion services in Vancouver and continues to function today. Before it shut its doors in 2009, Pro-CAN was a productive and successful coalition headed by women who were passionate about ensuring that all women would have access to safe, fully-funded, high-quality abortion services in a society where such choice is funded and ensured by the government.

Materials in the fonds include some of the following: minutes and agendas; legal documents; correspondence; event ephemera; the organization’s quarterly newsletter entitled The Pro-Choice Press; safety and security files; files on organizations with similar goals; and resource and subject files that span a broad number of topics Pro-CAN found to be useful to its operation.

The Service, Office and Retail Workers Union of Canada (SORWUC) was an independent union, established in 1972 by a Founding Convention of 24 women, with the intention of representing and organizing occupations that were not included in the traditional trade unions of the time. The union developed out of the Working Women’s Association, an organization that sought to provide support to the adversities facing working women, such as obtaining equal pay, day care provision, and job security. SORWUC was an unaffiliated, feminist, member-controlled union, and the constitution stated their aims as being: to bargain collectively on behalf of members; to improve working conditions; and to help provide job security.

The fonds consists of records related to SORWUC’s local chapters 2 and 4 administrative activities, organizing endeavours, and legal proceedings. Although the records are primarily related to the United Bank Works (UBW) local 2 and Bank and Finance Workers Union local 4, many records are related to SORWUC’s national activities as a trade union.

The University Hill Book Club was formed in 1939 as a circulating book group for women in the area. Members lived in the University Hill area, paid a membership fee, and chose a list of newly published books which would appeal to all members. The fonds consists of reports from the annual meetings of the club, which include minutes, treasurer's reports, financial records, and lists of book selections (1946-1984).

The Council of Women concept originated at the Women's Congress held at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. There, women from thirty nations decided to form an International Council of Women to promote "the welfare of mankind, the family and individual" and "to work for removal of disabilities of women". The formation of a Canadian Council quickly followed, and in 1894, seventeen women in Vancouver organized a local chapter. Over the years, the Vancouver Council of Women has addressed issues affecting women and has lobbied governments on matters relating to education, housing, public health and recreation. The fonds consists of correspondence, minutes, scrapbooks, subject files, reports, briefs, lists, printed material (including annual reports) and photographs pertaining to the activities of the Vancouver Council and of the Provincial and National Councils of Women. 

Vancouver Status of Women (VSW) was formed in 1971 in response to the Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women set up by Prime Minister Lester Pearson in 1967. VSW’s goals were to ensure that the recommendations of the Royal Commission were implemented, foster public knowledge of women’s issues, and facilitate communication amongst individuals and groups concerned with the status of women. 

The fonds consists of records related to VSW’s administrative activities, projects, and lobbying endeavours, as well as research and reference resources. Although the nature of VSW’s activities has changed over time, the organization has consistently maintained a commitment to addressing social issues related to women, including gender discrimination, pay equity, familial violence, and many more topics. VSW has addressed these issues through a variety of avenues, including publications, press releases, lobbying of governments, a television program, workshops, and services for individuals in Vancouver.

The Vancouver Women in Focus Society, commonly known as Women in Focus, was established as a non-profit society in 1974 when two members of the University of British Columbia’s Women's Office Collective taught a workshop in video skills and produced a special series of half hour programmes entitled “Women in Focus.” The original function of the group was to “support the production of feminist video and film, and to encourage women artists in the making of images which reflected their lives and experiences.” The group officially disbanded in 1993. The materials in the fonds reflect their activities in video production and distribution, gallery exhibitions, activism and lobbying, community engagement, and research.

The Women's Committee of the New Democratic Party of British Columbia (1961-1963) discussed issues relating to women and brought resolutions forward to conventions. The fonds consists of a handwritten minute book into which some loose typed and handwritten material have been inserted, comprised chiefly of correspondence as well as some lists of names.

The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) is a world-wide Christian lay organization open to girls and women. It was founded in England in 1855 and the first Canadian branch was formed in St. John, New Brunswick in 1870. The Vancouver YWCA was organized in 1897. It offers such services as women's study courses and craft classes as well as operating a hostel for young men and women. The fonds consists of minutes, reports, correspondence, lists, clippings, scrapbooks, and printed material relating to the works of the YWCA in Vancouver.

The fonds consists of minutes and membership rolls of the Methodist Church of Canada’s Woman's Missionary Society Japanese Auxiliary from 1911 to 1925.

The American National Women's Christian Temperance Union was formed in Cleveland, Ohio in 1874 and its Canadian branch was established in Ontario in 1875. The organization enjoyed some success in North America with the passage of Prohibition laws in 1918. As of 1985, there were fewer than 4,000 members in Canada. The fonds consists of convention reports (1963-1969), some correspondence, a script for a CBC broadcast (1953), two essays, an article and scrapbooks of clippings (1938-1960).

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) was founded in 1915 at The Hague by women active in the European and American suffrage movements who wished to end the WWI and to ensure that no further wars occurred. The League began its work in Canada in 1920 in Vancouver, led by Dorothy Steeves and Laura Jamieson. The League's work has been to promote peace education and to campaign for disarmament and anti-militarism. During WWII, it opposed the introduction of military cadet training in schools and it has investigated textbooks which glorify war. In 2001, the Vancouver branch joined with the Toronto branch to start a Canadian section. The fonds consists of correspondence, much of it by or addressed to Sheila Young, concerning various international issues. Accruals added in later years contain printed materials, minutes, operational records, ephemera, and video recordings.