International Women’s Week

<strong>Class of &rsquo;57</strong></p>

1962: Back when the University of Waterloo was the Waterloo College Associate Faculties, its first class graduated in 1962. Students paid only $54.29 for their term’s textbooks and sat through their lectures in temporary buildings. The class of ’57 was a group of 74 male engineering students.


First women to graduate from engineering 

1966:  The first woman to graduate with an engineering degree from UW was Gabriella Casonato, now deceased (BASc 1966, Civil Engineering).

1969: The second woman to graduate from engineering was Jana Havard (MASc 1969, Civil Engineering). 

1975: The first female PhD graduate from UW’s faculty of engineering was Mona Zaghloul, who earned a doctorate in electrical engineering. She is the founder of the Institute of MEMS and VLSI Technologies at George Washington University, and has worked extensively in the areas of sensors and their circuits, interfaces, and microelectronic systems. 


Women's Studies

1971: Women’s studies first began at UW in the fall when Margrit Eichler offered a course called “The Sociology of Women” (SOC 215).

1976-77: Dr. Sandra Burt (Political Science) became the first co-ordinator of women’s studies, which was comprised of 11 undergraduate and several graduate courses.

1986: Christine Hoffman, became the first student to graduate with a women’s studies option. The women’s studies diploma was approved by Senate in the fall.


Women's Centre

1980-85: The Women’s Centre first opened at the University of Waterloo.

1993: Women’s Centre changed its title to “Womyn’s Centre.” The term “womyn” was seen as significant because it “evolved out of a radical feminism that emphasized patriarchy as the cause of women’s oppression and resolved to separate from men,” according to 

2006 : The title was reversed back to “Women’s Centre” following a student council resolution which involved 45 minutes of intense debate. Some saw this change was long overdue, while others were more critical, such as the then co-ordinater of the centre, Margarita Osipian. Osipian described the University of Waterloo as being less than welcoming to feminism, and questioned the climate of the council debate that left many centre attendees feeling bullied.


Godiva Ride

Circa 1985: Engineering students have been notorious for their pranks and traditions, and UW is no exception.

A controversial ritual by the University of Waterloo engineering students used to involve the students hiring a female stripper to ride a horse around the UW campus  —  nude. This event was inspired by Lady Godiva, an 11 Century Anglo-Saxon noblewoman and wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, who rode the streets of Coventry naked on a horse to urge her husband to lower the oppressive taxes imposed on his tenants. 

Beth Cotter, associate director of marketing and communications in the faculty of engineering, stated that there is no evidence of the Godiva Ride occurring at UW and it is simply an urban myth. Other sources have stated it to be true, including David Morris, a writer from The Iron Warrior, and UW professor, Diana Lobb.

The legend is also the basis of the current Waterloo engineering hymn, which includes phrases such as, “Godiva was a lady, who through Coventry did ride, to show to all the villagers her lovely bare white hide.”


Misogynist activism

February 2011: Zamir Nathoo, former engineering student at UW, engaged in misogynistic propaganda, covering up election posters of female candidates for the Feds elections with posters of physicist and chemist Marie Curie next to a photograph of an exploding atomic bomb, with the words: “The brightest woman this Earth ever created was Marie Curie, The mother of the nuclear bomb. You tell me if the plan on women leading men is still a good idea!” The attacker later sent out fake emails impersonating President Hamdullahpur attacking Curie and women in general. The entire campaign lasted for four months. 

The threat prompted the closing of the Women’s Centre and GLOW out of safety concerns, and brought back memories of the 1989 Montreal Massacre, when 14 female engineering students were shot to death by Marc Lepine.

2012 : Zamir Nathoo was convicted of criminal harassment, pled guilty, and was sentenced to eight months in custody plus two years on probation. 


First female dean of engineering

July 2012: Breaking the men-only streak of past deans of engineering, Prof. Pearl Sullivan was appointed as dean July 1, 2012. She is also the fourth woman in the whole of Canada to head an engineering faculty and she is set to serve as dean until 2017. Sullivan came to the University of Waterloo in 2004 as a professor of mechanical engineering and served as chair of the mechanical and mechatronics engineering department from 2006 until 2012.


Equity Office

2013: The Equity Office is created, and begins working towards a more equitable environment at UW among students, faculty, and staff. 

2013: The advisor of women’s and gender issues position is created to work with senior administration including president Hamdullahpur, faculty members, and the director of equity to advise on structural gender equity issues. Prof. Diana Parry is appointed to the position.


Anti-abortion MP's speech

March 2013:  Anti-abortion Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth, invited by the anti-abortion club Students for Life, attempted to give a speech at UW regarding the legality of abortion. However, the speech was disrupted by protesters from Wilfrid Laurier University. Led by Ethan Jackson, who arrived dressed as a giant vagina (he called his costume “Vulveta”), he stated, “That kind of speech and those kind of facts are not acceptable. We decided to go by the route of using satire instead of intimidation … We decided to make [Woodworth] feel as uncomfortable as he makes us feel.”

The talk had to be cancelled and the protestors left, but Woodworth was able to stay and have a discussion with a few people. 

However, Ellen Rethore, associate vice-president of communications and public affairs of UW, deemed the disruptive behavior as “unacceptable,” and stated that the school would welcome Woodworth back.



May 2015: President Hamdullahpur accepted an invitation from the United Nations Women’s HeForShe campaign for the University of Waterloo to participate in their Impact 10x10x10 framework alongside governments, leading universities, and global businesses. 



2015: As part of the 16 Days of Activism campaign held worldwide, the women’s studies department at UW hosted #SafeonCampus, an initiative which involved an interactive poster display that invited members of the campus community to document where they felt safe or unsafe on campus. The campaign ran between Nov. 25 and Dec. 10. 


International Women's Week

2016: The Women’s Centre this year spent a memorable week celebrating International Women’s Day, through events such as the popular Feminist Poetry Slam, with an appearance from Janice Lee, a poet from the KW Poetry Slam. It also hosted a period party, feminism and disability discussion, colonialism discussion night, as well as its bust casting event which is held every term. 


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