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at UWO Timeline
Timeline of Western's Women's Achievements
Women at Western have achieved notable successes in the fields of education, administration work, teaching, research, sports and social issues. Although incomplete, the following timeline highlights important dates and events which marked women's leadership and contributions within the university community and beyond.
-1920 l 1921 - 1945
l 1946 - 1965 l 1966
- 1985 l 1986 -
Present Sources Consulted
l Back to Caucus
1878 - 1920
Nearly 20 years after the establishment of UWO, the first young woman enters academic life at Western. Mary L. Cowan, was the first and many followed in her footsteps taking an active part in student life and activities. The inclusion of women lecturers was also evident with the growing female student population.
- The University of Western Ontario
is officially established.
- Mary L. Cowan is admitted to Western.
She is the first woman enrolled as a student.
- Mary L. Cowan is the first woman
to graduate from Western.
- Susan M. Blackburn and Jessie Murdoch
graduate from Western becoming the next women to graduate from
Western in the Arts.
- An issue of "In Cap and Gown" is created
by female students.
- Miss H. McMillan graduated in Arts,
1907. She goes to the University of Toronto's Medical School to
become the first Western woman to take up Medicine.
- Women's basketball is established.
- Hilda Baynes is appointed a lecturing
position in French.
- War time enrolment is at an all
time low. From 62 students enrolled, 45 are women. Until the later
part of the century, this is the only time women students out-number
- Miss Mary Manly is the first Director
of Athletics for women.
- Marjorie Ross, a secretary to President
Braithwaite, is sent to Library School and becomes the first trained
librarian at Western.
- Brescia College, formerly Ursuline
College, begins its affiliation with Western. Classes start with
seven young women.
- Miss Margaret E. McDermid RN, directs
Western's first graduate program in nursing.
1921 - 1945
In response to the increasing number of female students, the university offered more courses, likely to interest women, in the Arts curriculum. At the same time, the University hired more female faculty, and young ambitious female students earned degrees in areas which had once traditionally been male-dominated. During the war years, student life saw women taking an active leadership role in voluntary efforts aimed at supporting the war effort.
- Dr. Madge Thurlow Macklin becomes
the first woman to become a member of the Medical faculty.
- Ethel Sullivan is appointed the
first Medical School librarian.
- Jessie McFarlane is the first woman to achieve
an athletic letter. She is not awarded one because of her gender.
McFarlane takes the requirements and fights for it. Eventually,
McFarlane becomes a woman of distinction in education and a member
of the Board of Governors.
- The Brescia College sees its first
- A degree of Bachelor of Science
in Nursing is introduced.
- Ruby C. Mason, is appointed Dean
of Women and organizes the introduction of sororities to Western.
- B.Sc in Nursing is awarded for the
- A course in secretarial sciences is instituted
under Miss Margaret Thompson.
- Women's basketball was awarded a
two year intercollegiate trial period. They win the "Bronze
Baby" and go on to win 15 more times.
- Western's women's hockey takes to
the ice for the first time.
- The Undergraduate Women's Organization
holds a "Leap Year" Co-ed Ball, the first of its kind
where women had to pay for their dates. Written about for many
years, it is an event dubbed as "topsy-turvy".
- Dr. Olive J. Steward, first woman
to win the Alpha Kappa Kappa Gold Medal, heads her class in all
subjects in final examinations. She goes on to receive the J.B.
Campbell Memorial Scholarship in Medicine.
- Leola Neal is one of the first
three students to earn an MA degree in Psychology at Western. She
becomes the last Dean of Women in the 1970's.
- Western Medicine has 232 registered
students, 14 are women and one woman is enrolled as a freshman.
- The earliest photo of
Miss Western is recorded in Occidentalia. The crowning
of a young Western woman becomes a campus tradition for many years.
- The beginning of women on campus
helping the war effort. The
Undergraduate Women's Organization (a.k.a. Women's Council)
engages in activities such as knitting garments for women
and babies in Britain and hosting a Co-ed Prom to generate funds
for war relief. These activities, and more, are a way for women
at Western to help with Canada's war effort.
- The Gazettee and Occidentalia sponsor
a "Cover Girl" contest for Western's women. The three
winners join a local photographer on a trip to New York. Of the
three, Petra Coates, an Arts student, was considered by Hollywood
for a role in "The Robe".
1946 - 1965
With the end of war, the University experienced a significant expansion of programs and facilities. Student life took on a new social flamboyance with annual “gala” events, which were marked by the crowning of young Western women. Gradually, women at Western found employment as Heads of Departments and at top administrative positions.
- Gretta Wong, a UWO women's athlete
is the first Asian-Canadian woman called to the bar. She serves
as the director of Ontario Legal Aid Plan for 20 years.
- Norma Sybil McCreery is appointed
head of the Department of Economics. She is the first woman to
occupy the post.
- The Powder Puff Pansies and the
Lipstick Lilies attempt a football game that is first protested
by parents and administration. In the end, the
Bowl” game commences with a successful turnout
- Dr. Helen Rossiter becomes the University's
physicians. She holds this post until 1955.
- A new Nursing School is established
with Miss Edith McDowell appointed as its Dean.
- Helen M.B. Allison, a western graduate, becomes
registrar after being a member of the registrar’s staff
for 23 years.
- First women's Purple Blanket winner.
The award is given to athletes who achieve national success.
- After the Department of Psychology and Department
of Philosophy are separated, Allison Johnson becomes the new head
- Spencer Hall is the first official
women's residence at the university.
- One year after the Business School
is affiliated with Western, Catherine A. Laird and Marianne Schlegel
graduate with HBA's. They are among 84 other Business School graduates
pictured in Occidentalia.
- Elfrida Berezins, director of women's
physical education, set out to show the true physical abilities
women possess. Many argue that she is responsible for the solid
women's athletic program at Western. Berezins changes the way
women's sports and physical education at Western are run and perceived.
Prior to being hired at Western, she was a former Latvian Olympian.
- Western's women's volleyball begins
at a 13 year win streak.
- Kay Easun (Miles) is the first woman
"White Blanket" winner at UWO. She also is the first
and only female Dr. Claude Brown trophy award winner, recognizing
Western's top athlete. After this episode within Western's athletics,
an award specifically for the top female athlete is established.
- Mary J. Wright is Chair of the Department
of Psychology at Middlesex College. She becomes the first woman
appointed Chair of an academic department at Western.
- Catherine Ridley from the university's
registrar's staff becomes registrar of Huron College.
- Margaret A. Banks is the first Law Librarian.
- The first female student graduates from the
- Mary J. Wright heads the re-united Departments
- Plans for a new women's residence
have been awarded. The construction of Delaware Hall is divided
into four houses, each named after a woman who contributed to
Western. Dr. Ada Dorothy Turville, second Dean of Women and professor
of French; Miss Kate M. Gillespie, assistant librarian from 1922
to 1961; Miss Olga Alice Miller of the registrar's office; and
Miss Ruby Mason, first dean of women.
1966 - 1985
In greater numbers, female students were earning degrees from many different departments on campus. Similarly, faculty women were also entering departments, which had not yet included women. The social rise of feminism was noticeable on campus with women demanding equal pay and opportunity.
- Faculty women are finally allowed
to retire at 65 along with their male teaching counterparts. Prior
to the administrative change, they were forced to retire at 60.
- Ms. M. V. Wheeler graduates with
a degree in mechanical engineering. She becomes the first woman
to graduate from the Engineering school eight years after the
school was established.
- Miss Marion F. Wood is appointed
the manager of the Talbot College theatre. She also becomes the
co-ordinator of the university's theatres, including the one in
Alumni Hall. Wood is responsible for enriching the cultural life
- Dr. Margaret A. Banks, Law librarian,
is given the ranks of assistant professor at the Law School. She
becomes the first woman faculty member.
- Diana Mary Priestly, a former Law
librarian, is the first woman appointed full-time teaching faculty
status at the Law School.
- Anne Bolgan, English professor,
threatens to sue Western for salary, promotion and entitlement
to sabbatical leave disputes. She receives an undisclosed settlement
from the University from what is believed to be the first gender-discrimination
- A student run organization sets
up a Women's Centre. Women students can obtain free literature
information and assistance on birth control, pregnancy and /or
care of unwanted pregnancies, pregnancy tests, and the "morning
after pill". The Centre is serviced by trained and interested
protest on behalf of Dr.
Susan Hunter-Harvey in a contract dispute and barricade
the Sociology Departments offices.
- An Ad hoc Committee from the President's
Advisory Committee on the status of women is established. The
following year they release a report on the Status of Women at
Western. Members of the committee included B. Campbell (chairperson),
E. Bieman, G. Brent, S. Desmond, L. Forsyth and D. Nutt. This
report addresses issues of Western's women not yet being full
participants in the University's activities and that the same
women on campus are at a serious disadvantage in the circumstances
of their employment.
- Women's rowing is established and
began its OUA domination ever since.
- Dr. Leola Neal, last Dean of Women, retires
after 42 years of affiliation with Western.
- Lesley Thompson leads Western's
rowing team as a coxswain before going to the Olympics. She goes
on to represent Canada at three Olympics and earned three medals.
- Western's Caucus on Women's Issues
firmly establishes itself on campus with Anne Bolgan as its first
- Women's cross-country team begins
a seven national title championship streak.
- At Western, women students constitute
approximately 50% of the student population. (Source: Western
1986 - Present
With the establishment of the Centre for Women's Studies and Feminist Research along with a greater number of women employed at many different levels of employment at Western, the benefits have been felt throughout the University's community. Female student enrolment reaching nearly 60% proves that women are a leading part of Western.
- Louise Tamblyn is one of Western's
first sexual harassment officers.
- The Centre for Women's Studies and
Feminist Research is established. Kathleen Okruhlik, philosophy
professor, is the first Director of the new centre.
- Connie Backhouse, Roma Harris,
Gill Mitchell, and Alison Wylie release the Chilly Climate Report.
This report "chills" the university community with details on the
treatment of some women on campus.
- Western's Caucus on Women's Issues
lead the way for the President of Western to publish a Policy
on Employment Equity and establishes a Standing Committee on Employment
- CAUT established a Sarah Shorten
Award in honour of Sarah Shorten, a Philosophy professor at Western.
Sarah's outstanding achievements and commitment in the promotion
of the advancement of women in Canadian universities and at Western
leaves a legacy for many women to follow.
- The first graduates of Women's Studies
are Geraldine Stephenson and Jennifer Tiller.
- Western's Caucus on Women's Issues
releases a video Chilly Climate for Women in Colleges and Universities
as a follow up to the Chilly Climate Report. The video production
is done by Kem Murch Productions.
- Reva Gerstein is the first woman
Chancellor at Western. Earlier in her academic career, she is
the first woman to become a member of the Government's Committee
on University Affairs.
- Elizabeth (Libby) Fowler, is the
first woman to Chair the Board of Governors.
- Women celebrate 100 years of education
at Western. A well-attended reception marks the event with Dr.
Leola Neal, last Dean of Women, being remembered.
- Western's women faculty members
make up 6.1% of full professors, 25.1% of associate professors
and 33.6% assistant professors. This is compared to the national
average, women comprise 14.4% of full professors, 30.5% associate
professors and 41.8% assistant professors. (Source: Western Facts
- President Paul Davenport releases a Strategic Plan,"Making Choices: Western's Commitment as a Research-Intensive University" with one of its targets to increase the proportion of women faculty members of all levels on campus.
- There are 927 full-time faculty
members at Western; women hold 279 positions. (Source: Western
- Women's cross-country team wins
first women's national title in more than a decade.
- 60% of degrees awarded by UWO are
given to women. (Source: Western Facts)
- Western's women athletics celebrate
75 years of great success.
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Organization - 1940
Bowl Newspaper Clipping
Frosh Queen Anne Walker
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Advertising Women's Studies at UWO