Royal Commission on the Status of Women

I became involved [in the Women’s Movement] as I was reading the Royal Commission Report. I would sit in bed reading it at night and I would continually say to my husband, “Can you believe that …” and I would quote off something from the report … like “women make half as much as men doing the same work…” Things like that. I was just blown away by the report.

The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was set up on February 16, 1967 by the Prime Minister to “inquire into… the status of women in Canada… to ensure for women equal opportunities with men in all aspects of Canadian society.” To do this, the Royal Commission held hearings in 14 cities across Canada (including St. John’s), commissioned research studies, and reviewed approximately 1000 letters of opinion and 468 briefs from Canadians. Six of these briefs came from women’s groups and individuals in Newfoundland and Labrador: the St. John’s branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women; the Association of Registered Nurses; the Newfoundland Home Economics Association; Dorothy Wyatt, Ella Manuel, and Doris Janes.

The results of the Royal Commission’s efforts were 167 recommendations in a report that was presented to the House of Commons on December 7, 1970. These recommendations dealt with a range of issues including housing, daycare, sexual stereotyping, and labour standards – including counselling that Newfoundland (along with PEI and Nova Scotia) change its legislation to ensure that women received the same minimum wage as men did.

The Royal Commission’s report helped focus the energy of many Canadian women and more formal feminist women’s groups began to form. One of these was the Newfoundland Status of Women Council (later known as the St. John’s Status of Women Council), which grew out of a 1972 meeting of women in St. John’s who were interested in discussing the Royal Commission’s recommendations.