Julie White, our first Board Chair

“Now, there are thousands of us...”

The Canadian Women’s Foundation started twenty years ago with a small group of women who shared a dream – to create a Foundation that would result in real changes for women, that would be run by women, for women.

We asked women across the country what they thought of our idea and where they thought we should focus. They gave us their opinions and told us their stories, and they sent us letters, with two dollars, five dollars, ten dollars enclosed. They wanted to be a part of it, and they wanted to use their experience and their resources to make a difference for other women.

We agreed from the start we wouldn’t compete with other women’s organizations for scarce government funding.

Our plan was to find new money and create a broad funding base. This strategy would be more sustainable, and free us up to work on systemic change.

Another fundamental principle was to be truly national – we wanted to represent Canada’s full racial, cultural, economic, and geographic diversity. We didn’t want it run by just a few women in Toronto, but to be grounded in the experiences of women from all across the country.

We also wanted to move the money out to places it normally wouldn’t go – small towns and villages, reserves, cities that were struggling, and places many of us have never heard of.

There were eight of us at that first meeting. Then there were dozens, then hundreds. Now, there are thousands of us - women who live paycheque to paycheque, women who earn good money, women who have inherited wealth, and all the women in between.

Today, due to changing government priorities and values, there are hardly any national women’s organizations left in Canada. But we remain a strong voice for women in Canada. We have to take that responsibility seriously, and fight even harder to keep women’s issues front and centre, and to strategize on how to create real change for women.

I’m proud I was there at the beginning, part of the thinking and dreaming. It’s a joy to look back, but we need to keep looking – and moving – forward.

Julie White, Donor, Inaugural Board Chair, Canadian Women’s Foundation (1989 - 1995)