Canadian Voice of Women for Peace | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Canadian Voice of Women for Peace

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW) is a feminist, non-partisan, non-profit, non-governmental organization founded in 1960. The organization opposes violence and war and promotes nuclear disarmament, peace and social justice. It does so through education, advocacy and strengthening the voices of women. Famous members include politician Thérèse Casgrain, activist Grace Hartman and physicist Ursula Franklin.

Casgrain, Thérèse
Casgrain was a leading 20th-century Canadian reformer (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-68509).
Thérèse Casgrain (The Voice of Women)
Peace Movement in Canada (Voice of Women)
Women on steps holding signs "No Nuclear Arms for Canada - Pas d'armes nucléaires pour le Canada," September 25, 1961
Voice of Women for Vietnamese Children meeting, circa 1970

Voice of Women (VOW) was established in 1960, not long after the Cold War began. Increasing tensions between the United States and USSR led to fears of nuclear war. As the American government developed and tested atomic weapons (nearly 200 between 1945 and 1958), many people became concerned about nuclear radiation. These fears led to the creation of groups devoted to peace and disarmament, including VOW.

Did you know?
In the early 1960s, VOW was involved in a project to test baby teeth for radioactive substances, especially strontium-90. Led by Ursula Franklin, the project aimed to determine whether children were affected by atomic testing. From 1962 to 1965, thousands of women across Canada collected their children’s baby teeth. These were sent to Dr. A. Murray Hunt, professor of dental public health at the University of Toronto. Hunt reported increased levels of strontium-90 in the teeth but not at dangerous levels.

Ursula Franklin
Ursula Franklin, University of Toronto

Since its foundation in 1960, VOW has organized extensive educational campaigns and lobbied all levels of government. It has also held meetings and conferences, including several international women’s peace conferences, and sent representatives to other countries to consider the mutual concerns of women and promote action.

VOW is a member group of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women and Project Ploughshares and a representative on the federal government’s Consultative Group on Disarmament and Arms Control.

VOW partners with many other feminist and peace organizations. It also has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). VOW was part of an international alliance that successfully pressed for adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security in 2000. The resolution called for the increased participation of women in peace and security efforts and measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence during armed conflict.