Celebrating a legacy 75 years in the making
By Meredith Dault, Senior Communications Officer
For Carol Sirman, being a member of the Queen’s Women’s Association provides more than a means of staying intellectually and socially engaged with the Queen’s community: it also ties her to an organization with a rich history of service on campus for 75 years.
“It’s impressive to think of everything they accomplished,” says Mrs. Sirman. “And when the war was over, they returned their attention to working on behalf of Queen’s.”“When it was founded in 1939, it was a club designed to serve the social, cultural and intellectual needs of Queen’s women, most of whom were the wives of professors and other figures at the university,” explains Mrs. Sirman, who is currently serving as president.
When war broke out that same year, however, the Faculty Women’s Club (as it was then known) refocused its attention on the war effort. Members staffed the Red Cross sewing rooms, sold war stamps, and sponsored dances for the British airmen stationed at Collins Bay.
Before organizations such as the University Club, faculty and staff associations, the Ban Righ Centre and Food Services existed on campus, it was the members of the Faculty Women’s Club who would step in to support university functions. From 1943 until 1970, for example, the organization provided refreshments for the university’s convocation ceremonies.
In 1946, the club organized activities in conjunction with the Faculty of Arts for the wives of the ex-servicemen who were pursuing studies on campus. Through the 1950s and 60s, they provided food and drink for student meetings, organized receptions to welcome new principals to campus, and hosted a number of distinguished guests, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt when she visited Kingston.
The club also hosted themed events at Grant Hall that were open to the entire Queen’s community, including a Queen’s Ceilidh and a St. Patrick’s Day-themed dinner party. In 2001, the Faculty Women’s Club changed its name to the Queen’s Women’s Association to more accurately reflect its role within the university.
“The history of the club resonates with us,” says Mrs. Sirman. “And while we aren’t making sandwiches or things like that anymore, we do work hard to support the Queen’s community.”
With 220 current members, including retired faculty members and the spouses of faculty members, the Queen’s Women’s Association currently supports four bursaries for Queen’s students. Each one is named for a past president or honorary president. Current members can join one of 18 interest groups in everything from play reading and hiking, to investing and bridge, and take part in a number of events throughout the year.
“The QWA has a long and impressive history serving the social, cultural and intellectual needs of the Queen’s women. Members and students alike have benefited from their collegiality and their generosity; the bursaries and awards they provide to students continue to inspire the next generation of Queen’s women. It is an honour to be associated with them.
Julie Gordon-Woolf, honorary president
The Queen’s Women’s Association, which is open to all women with a working association at Queen’s and to women whose spouses have a working relationship at Queen’s, will mark its 75th anniversary with a dinner and lecture by Queen’s historian Duncan McDowall on April 15.
For more information visit the Queen’s Women’s Association’s webpage.