Archives and Special Collections

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Women's Archives

The Women’s Archives contains more than 170 archival fonds and collections related to the history of women in Canada, with particular emphasis on the feminist movement since the 1960s.

Many organizations are represented in the records, but also included are the individuals who worked to improve the political, social and economic conditions of Canadian women. The Canadian Women’s Movement Collection (10-001) and the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives (10-002), both acquired from the Women’s Information Centre in 1992, provide an excellent introduction to this extensive body of material.

The Women’s Information Centre was established in 1977 by a group of women who wanted to collect information about feminist activities across Canada. The group sent letters to women’s organizations requesting copies of their publications and other documents, emphasizing the importance of preserving the memory of the women’s movement. As a result, various groups sent their newsletters, reports, posters, t-shirts, banners, buttons, and some groups and individuals even sent their archives. In 1992, all of this material was donated to the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Ottawa.

More than 350 grassroots organizations are represented in both the Women’s Movement Archives and the other fonds and collections. Included in the archives are papers of diverse women’s groups such as the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, Women’s Press, Mothers are Women, Wages for Housework, Lesbian Mother’s Defence Fund, Branching Out, Montreal Health Press, National Association of Women and the Law, etc.

The archives also contain papers from significant women involved in the women’s movement in Canada including Nancy Adamson, Nancy Ruth (lawyer, activist), Pat Petrala (community organizer), Lou Nelson, Monique Frize (engineer), and Dawna Gallagher (artist).

In addition, we have the largest collection of feminist publications and newsletters in Canada with over 900 titles. Included are national publications like Branching Out, and Broadside, as well as newsletters from various smaller groups such as the Open Door, and Rural Lesbian Newsletter of British Columbia. These periodicals represent women from diverse regions of the country and concern social action in all its forms, including subjects like women’s health, the right to abortion, child-care services, literature, art, culture, and assistance for immigrants. They represent women’s groups of diverse affiliations and orientations. The coverage of these periodicals varies from several years of issues to other times just one or two issues.

Descriptions of the records are available in our online searchable database which can be accessed here.  Please note that not all the fonds have been added to the database, but finding aids are available as pdfs below. 

Women's Archives Finding Aids

When an archival fonds has been processed and described, a detailed finding aid is created which provides specific information on the documents and the context. A number of our finding aids are now available in our online database AtoM.  Please click on the link or on the image on the top right hand to access our finding aids.  

Some archival fonds and collections are not yet fully described. In these cases, a preliminary inventory in PDF is available and provides a general overview of the content.

The preliminary inventories are available here: 

AtoM Archival Database

Thematic Guides

These guides index approximately 2,000 women’s groups and events that are documented in the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives Collection (10-001). They also cross-reference other fonds relating to each particular theme.