72 Year-Old St. John’s-based University Women’s Club Hopes To Attract A Younger Crowd

A new generation of women joining the Club would be a unique opportunity to help bolster intergenerational feminism in our city.

The St. John’s Club of The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW St. John’s) is the local branch of a national non-profit that aims to improve the status of women and girls in Canada and internationally.

At the local level, the organization’s main focus is fundraising for scholarships and bursaries that help women access post-secondary education. They are also involved in local and international advocacy work around women rights.

The St. John’s Club was founded in 1945, and at 72 years old, it’s looking to expand its membership and get more young people involved.  CFUW St. John’s has about 110 members who get together regularly for book clubs, tap dancing lessons, crafting sessions, bowling, art appreciation, and a slew of other activities.

Each month the group has a club meeting where a featured speaker is brought in to present on their area of expertise. Recent speakers have included Dale Jarvis on Ghosts of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dr. Katherine Side on Women’s Civil Society Organizing in Northern Ireland, and Gemma Hickey on LGBTQ Issues, Advances and Opportunities.

“I’m 27 and I believe I’m the youngest member … I’m loving every minute of it but I do hope more students and young people get involved,” said Karen Gill, the Club’s Secretary.

Gill completed her first degree in Ontario and moved to St. John’s to continue her studies at Memorial University. Her mother lives in Carbonear and they joined the Club as a way to spend sometime together.

“Once a month we’ve got a reason for her to come into town and stay at my house and we go to a meeting,” Gill said.

Since joining, Gill has become a dedicated member of the group, she’s been the Club’s secretary for about three years. She is one of two members of CFUW St. John’s who will be part of a 20-person delegation of the Canadian Federation of University Women attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York this week.

The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

“One of my big concerns as a feminist is making sure that feminism is intersectional, making sure that it involves people of every walk of life, and that it’s not just white women or able-bodied women or affluent women or cis-gendered women who benefit from it. That trans women, queer women, women of colour and women of all differing abilities are included in feminism, and that men and gender non-conforming people are also part of feminism. It’s all about equity across the board…” Gill said.

This is Gill’s second time attending the CSW as a member of CFUW St. John’s and she is thrilled to be returning to hear people from all over the world share their ideas about feminism.

She urges other young people to become a part CFUW St. John’s and add their voices to the conversations about feminism happening within the organization here in St. John’s. A new generation of women joining the Club would be a unique opportunity to help bolster intergenerational feminism in our city.

“We have lots of ways for people to get involved and experience the fellowship of like-minded women,” Gill said.

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