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The Ottawa Women's Canadian Club

Photo of packaging at the Women's Canadian Club.

Without organized effort, without the turmoil of a national conflict, without any special stirring of political life or feeling, the steady growth of Canadian Clubs throughout Canada has, at the end of 1907, assumed the form and force of a national movement. These Clubs have no very definite platform, no decided purpose of a political kind, no uniform aim excepting a desire for information.

A Historical Sketch of the Canadian Club Movement, by J. Castell Hopkins, 1907

In the novel, both Katherine MacNutt and Mrs. Ramsey were members of the Ottawa Women's Canadian Club which was important part of the social scene in Ottawa during this time period.

The Canadian Club first started in Hamilton Ontario by Charles R. McCullough, a teacher and a businessman, in February 1893. The basic idea was that local Canadians would get together once a month and hear prominent speakers who were experts in their fields, to discuss their thoughts, and opinions on the hottest topics of the day.

It spread slowly. The Toronto branch didn’t start until 1897 and the men's Canadian Club of Ottawa wasn't formed until 1903. The first president of the Ottawa chapter was Commissioner Sherwood of the Dominion Police.

It wasn't until 1910 that Ottawa Women's Canadian Club was formed. The first president was Mrs. Adam Shortt, the wife of Adam Shortt, the Commissioner of the Civil Service Commission of Canada.

Photo of packaging at the Women''s Canadian Club.

The first meetings of the women's club were held at the Collegiate Institute on Lisger St. In 1912, the meetings were moved to the new Château Laurier and were held in the Château's ball room. They have been held there ever since.

By 1914, the Ottawa’s women's branch had 460 members and membership dues were a $1.00 a year.

When the war started in August of 1914, the Club quickly became involved in charity work. In September 1914, they formed the Belgian Relief Fund committee with an office on Bank St. The women held numerous fund raising events during the war years for Belgian Relief, prepared and sent thousands of care packages to Canadian soldiers at the front and captured prisoners of war.

Closer to home, the Ottawa Women's Club sponsored and supported a ward at the Sir Sandford Fleming Convalescent Home for returning wounded Canadian soldiers.

The men's and women's Ottawa Canadian Clubs are still very active today and continue to hold monthly speaking engagements.

Sources and further reading


The Canadian Club of Ottawa — A dynamic forum to explore the issues that matter to Canada

Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club - Our History


Hopkins, J. Castell, A Historical Sketch of the Canadian Club Movement, The Canadian Annual Review, 1907