New Canadian Women’s Movements Portal: documenting women's history from coast to coast

International Women’s Day
Archives and Special Collections
Women'S demonstration in front of Parliament Hill
Demonstration in front of Parliament Hill with women carrying signs, Ottawa, [197?]. Photographer unknown. Credit: uOttawa Archives and Special Collections
This new portal will make it easier to locate archival materials on women's history held by organizations across Canada.

The University of Ottawa Library is proud to launch Canadian Women’s Movements Portal, a bilingual pan-Canadian inventory of archival materials available in heritage institutions across the country.

Hosted by the Library, the Portal will help researchers locate archival collections that document the trajectory of feminist activism in Canada, since 1960. It also features a bilingual index as well as descriptions in both official languages to support researchers working in either French or English.

This new tool aims to make it easier to access archival materials, to showcase documentary heritage, and to strengthen collaboration from coast to coast.

The development of the Portal is part of the larger Women's Archives initiative, which aims to increase awareness of the Women’s Archives Collections held by the University of Ottawa Library's Archives and Special Collections, as well as the history of Canada’s feminist movements in general. This initiative was made possible by an anonymous gift of $1 million, that also allowed for the hiring of an archivist and a digital archivist to process materials related to the collection, as well as a storyteller. With this support, the Library, in collaboration with cultural organizations across the country, is linking researchers with original materials on the history of the women’s movements in Canada.

For Talia Chung, University Librarian and Vice-Provost (Knowledge Systems), the launch of the portal is an important step towards increasing the visibility of and access to these primary materials: “There are many untold stories of women and women’s activism in Canada. It is important to know the past so that the future can be shaped through progress which has already been made.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, she reminds us of the importance of documenting women's history: “Many contemporary challenges, such as reproductive rights and the recognition of gender equality rights as human rights, are a reminder that current women’s rights were gained through much effort and cannot be taken for granted. More than ever, we need to celebrate ‘firsts’ so that progress continues in bringing awareness and equality to historically marginalized groups.

Demonstration for women's rights
Credit: Louise de Grosbois. uOttawa Archives and Special Collections.

The Women's Archives: unique collections supporting change

The University of Ottawa Library’s Women’s Archives Collection was initially formed in 1992, after the donation of the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives Collection (CWMA). The CWMA was first established in Toronto as the Women's Information Centre in 1977 and was dedicated to collecting information on feminist activities across Canada. Over the years, the Centre preserved a wealth of newsletters, reports, posters, t-shirts and other materials that became one of the most important collections related to the second-wave feminist movements in Canada. When the CWMA collection was donated to the University of Ottawa in 1992, it sparked the Library to continue to collect in this area. 

Today, the University of Ottawa Library’s Women's Archives consists of nearly 170 archival fonds, representing both individuals and organizations. It also holds a feminist periodicals collection which includes approximately 1300 titles.

Learn more about the Women's Archives


Call for collaboration

The launch of the Portal is an opportunity to highlight the importance of collaboration.

The Library invites all Canadian archival centres (academic, institutional, and others) that hold significant collections related to women's history to participate in the Portal and to make their holdings accessible to as many people as possible.

The Centre de recherche sur les francophonies canadiennes (CRCCF) of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ottawa, is one of the organizations contributing to the Portal. This collaboration will help promote the history of Francophone women, as its Archives Manager Christine Dupuis explains: “The Centre de recherche sur les francophonies canadiennes (CRCCF) focuses on the society and culture of North America's Francophone communities, past and present. It conducts research and knowledge dissemination activities in addition to preserving and promoting a rich collection of documentary resources. The Archives Sector is pleased to collaborate with the University of Ottawa Library to highlight the documentary heritage of Francophone women in Canada. This partnership provides a great space to showcase their archives and learn about their stories.”

For more information on this initiative, please email [email protected].

Individuals or organizations who have been involved in feminist movements in Canada are also invited to contact the Library should they wish to donate their records. Thank you for sharing your story!  

Learn more about donations


Featured: “Our Bodies, Our Stories: The Evolving Meaning of Reproductive Justice in Canada” Online Exhibit

To highlight the launch of the Canadian Women’s Movements Portal, the Library is pleased to present a brand new online exhibit: “Our Bodies, Our Stories: The Evolving Meaning of Reproductive Justice in Canada”.

Reproductive justice is about having complete control over the decisions we make about our reproductive and sexual well-being, and it is foundational to gender equality. Using select records and items from the late 1960s to the early 1990s held at the University of Ottawa’s Archives and Special Collections, this exhibit offers an introduction to select topics in the evolving history of reproductive justice in Canada.

Poster Control of our bodies/control of our lives (British Columbia Federation of Women fonds)
Control of our bodies/control of our lives [event advertisement]. BC Federation of Women. Archives and Special Collections 10-045-S7-I2 (British Columbia Federation of Women fonds)
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