The Coloured Women’s Club
The oldest Black women’s organization in Canada, the Coloured
Women’s Club of Montreal was founded in 1902, by a group of American women whose husbands worked, as porters.
Montreal, at the turn of the century, was marked with the advent of
capitalism and the replication of solidarity groups. These groups were created, in part, to counter the social and negative
consequences of industrialisation. They consisted mainly of religion-oriented women from the community and the well-to-do.
Black women, themselves living in difficult conditions were excluded from these charity groups. These ladies of colour, who
worked as domestics or labourers, were the wives of railroad workers so it was quite natural for that time, that they be left
out of these cloistered circles. It was in response to specific needs of their community (St. Antoine district, today called
‘Little Burgundy’) that the Coloured Women’s Club was created. This was to be an organization dedicated
to mutual aid and the fighting of poverty and social exclusion.
Over the many decades, these dedicated women have welcomed and helped many Black
families in difficulty with such deeds as providing winter clothing for newly arrived families from the Caribbean. With their
insight they have responded to the spiritual, material and emotional needs of the community as a whole. With the guidance
of their very first President, Anne Greenup, they organized temporary shelters for the soldiers coming back from the Boer
War. During that time they took care of the injured, made bandages and organized soup kitchens. It was also at that time of
the epidemics in 1902 and 1904 that the Coloured Women’s Club emerged from being a social club to a self-help organization.
In 1907 The Coloured Women’s Club contributed to the inception of the Union
United Church (Montreal’s oldest Black Church) and in conjunction with the church has put together scholarships for
Black students. These women have done voluntary work in the Montreal area hospitals, counselled unwed mothers and helped the
homeless and the unemployed. The C.W. C. has even purchased burial plots at a cemetery so that the needy could be buried with
The Coloured Women’s Club of Montreal is a beacon in the Black community.
Their benevolent and charitable work was recognized in 1997 by the Ministere des Relations avec les Citoyens et de L’Immigration
du Quebec. The "Anne Greenup Award" handed out by the Quebec Government was named in honour of the club’s first
president. This recognition underlined the exemplary contribution of these women to help to eliminate social and economic
ostracism, to fight for the equality and to bridge the gap between all communities and social gatherings. Each year the Quebec
Government's awards the Anne Greenup Award - fight against racism citizenship prize to individuals or organizations who
are instrumental in building support networks to prevent and combat prejudice, discrimination and intolerance, racism and
exclusion based on an individual's skin colour, ethnic or national origin and cultural or religious affiliation., establishing
a strong solidarity between generations and reinforcing citizens belief in belonging to the national community.
Social conditions and exisiting programs do not warrant the same sort of need
that brought these women together so many years ago, but in keeping with the theme of helping out in the community the club
decided to concentrate their focus on education and the raising of funds to help struggling Black students. In
1999, the group of mostly senior citizens, the oldest being 93 years old, compiled and published a cookbook ‘The
CWC Millennium Cookbook’ which has sold over 1200 copies to date. This added much needed capital to their
The club continues to be instrumental in the dynamic teachings of the Black experience
in North America. Since 1999, they have conducted African Canadian/American Heritage Tours to southern Ontario, Nova
Scotia and the United States, following the path and visiting sites along the route of the Underground Railroad. These trips
have been very insightful and informative and have helped to broaden everyone’s knowledge of the Black Diaspora in Canada.
On June 9th, 2000 the president and the vice-president went to Ottawa,
where at Rideau Hall, Governor-General, Adrienne Clarkson opened Canada’s official ‘Centennial Rose Garden’
with its Bench, inscribed in honour of the Montreal Coloured Women’s Club’, founded in 1902. They have been featured
in the Montreal Gazette and on Global TV. In 2002, during Black History Month they were awarded the ‘Trailblazers Award’
from the Black History Month Round Table.
As part of their centennial celebrations the club hosted a banquet and
ball on September 14th , 2002 at the Omni Hotel and in november of that same year, the President, Mrs. Shirley
Gyles was awarded Woman of the Year by the Montreal Council of Women. In 2003 and 2004 as part of their heritage tour, they
went to the United States and the Bahamas where at that time they visited as the southern states such as Atlanta
Georga, Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery Alabama, Memphis and Nashville Tennessee, and Charleston South Carolina.
Although the club started out with American women, it now boasts and on October
11, 2004 they hosted a dinner and dance in honour of Dr. Oliver Jones. women from various backgrounds from all
parts of the Caribbean, Canada and the U.S. Today, we are a group of nineteen active members.
Some Interesting Facts