A Brief History of the League

from the Handbook for Past President

Catholic women of Canada were first organized in Edmonton Archdiocese in November 1912 to assist with the care and placement of the ever-increasing influx of immigrants from Europe and elsewhere. The movement gradually spread to the port cities and other major centres across Canada–Montreal−1917, Toronto−1918, Halifax−1919, then to Ottawa, Sherbrooke, and Saint John, N.B.

In 1920, these groups were invited to meet in Montreal to try to establish a national group of Catholic women. The name “Catholic Women’s League” originated in England in 1912 in response to a perceived need for Catholic lay action and was adopted by the Canadian group.

On June 17, 1920, The Catholic Women’s League of Canada was formally established with Miss Bellelle Guerin of Montreal elected first national president. In 1921, the League affiliated with the International Union of Catholic Women, now known as the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO), an affiliation still enjoyed today.

The first annual national convention of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada was held in Toronto in 1921. The delegates at that convention worked hard producing a constitution, a set of bylaws and the beginnings of a publication–The Canadian League. From its organizational beginnings, as now, the League perceived the need for Catholic lay women’s action in all aspects of Canadian life.

The League crest and seal–the cross surmounting the maple leaves with the words “The Catholic Women’s League of Canada–For God and Canada” in the surrounding circle was designed by Mrs. Emmett Mullally.


The Catholic Women's League of Canada was organized nationally on June 17, 1920 and granted federal incorporation on December 12, 1923.

The League is officially recognized by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) as a lay association of women and is affiliated with the World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations (WUCWO), a world-wide federation holding membership in the conference of International Catholic Organizations (ICO) and having consultative status with agencies of the United Nations.


The objects of the League shall be to unite Catholic women of Canada:

  • to achieve individual and collective spiritual development.
  • to promote the teachings of the Catholic church.
  • to exemplify the Christian ideal in home and family life.
  • to protect the sanctity of human life.
  • to enhance the role of women in church and society.
  • to recognize the human dignity of all people everywhere.
  • to uphold and defend Christian education and values in the modern world.
  • to contribute to the understanding and growth of religious freedom, social justice, peace and harmony.

The main thrust of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada is, and has always been, the spiritual development of its members, both individually and collectively. The activities of the League, since its original purpose of aiding immigrants, have broadened and, in recent years, the emphasis has been on issues concerning the sanctity of life from conception to natural death, social justice, human dignity, the preservation of Christian family life and the concept of a preferential option for the poor. In 1992, the League’s Mission Statement was adopted as follows:

The Catholic Women’s League of Canada is a national organization rooted in gospel values calling its members to holiness through service to the People of God.