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Nanaimo chapter of Canadian Federation of University Women celebrates 75th anniversary

Group gathered via Zoom earlier this month to recall its history in the area
Canadian Federation of University Women Nanaimo members Wendy Smiley, left, CFUW-Nanaimo president Karen Skarpnes, storyteller Margaret Murphy, and CFUW-Nanaimo members Jeri Manley and club treasurer Kathy Torhjelm gather in recognition of the club’s 75th anniversary. (Photo submitted)

Members of the Canadian Federation of University Women Nanaimo have been holding meetings for 75 years, and were able to acknowledge a milestone anniversary even in COVID-19 times.

The club held its 75th anniversary celebration via Zoom on Oct. 17, with storyteller Margaret Murphy presenting some of the highlights of the group’s history.

“She skillfully captured the spirit and resilience of members as they have responded to community concerns with action plans and projects since 1945,” noted a press release from the club.

CFUW-Nanaimo says it has been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, but has “responded well” and maintained strong membership numbers. The club issued extra summer newsletters and groups of members “found ways to meet, either virtually, or in back yards and parks [and] as winter approaches, hardy members plan to meet in garages and carports.”

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Historical information provided by the club shows that the first meeting of what was then called the University Women’s Club of Nanaimo was held in April 1945, with 13 invitees. Marjorie Neave was elected the first president, and membership dues were $4.

Club historians recall that in the early 1960s, the women worked for the institution of kindergartens and the establishment of a community college and licensed daycare centres. By the late ’60s and early ’70s, “women were concerned with their legal rights, their position in the economy, sex role stereotyping and bias in employment,” the CFUW-Nanaimo notes. “Club directories began to show members’ first names and surnames rather than ‘Mrs.,’ a topic of mixed views at the time.”

In 1975 the club’s status of women study group looked at girls’ physical education at Nanaimo schools and worked over the ensuing years to examine and propose alternatives. In 1982, club members responded to a provincial government report on gender and math/science instruction and worked to form an advisory committee to investigate and develop programs to encourage girls and women to continue math and science studies and pursue careers in those fields.

The club adopted the CFUW-Nanaimo name in the early 2000s to reflect its provincial and national affiliations, and soon after, it “adopted a set of priorities to guide its operations, adopted the national theme of action, advocacy and education,” it notes.

The club has advocated on many issues with local, provincial and federal government representatives and has had a very active status of women and human rights committee for several years.

To read more about the club and its history, visit

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