Since 1887

In September 1887, an enthusiastic group of young women artists organized an art club based on the Art Student’s League of New York. In a studio in the Yonge Street Arcade building they met to work together in painting, drawing, modeling and sketching from still life and living models.

An early studio session

No instruction was given, the objective was to provide an incentive and help towards self-development, to draw out (independent of the instructor) personal resources, which are necessary to individual effort.

By 1890 the informal club had became a “women’s art club” for the purpose of creating general interest in art and encouragement of women’s work, through the exchange of ideas and cooperation among its members, as well as the holding of art exhibitions and lectures.

In 1893 the Association became affiliated with the National Council of Women, founded by the wife of the Governor General, Lady Aberdeen. In the late 1880’s Lady Aberdeen had invited Mary Ella Dignam to Government House to discuss the possibility of continuing to organize groups of women artists and “handicrafters” in order to assist them and promote interest in their work.

In 1907 the association was incorporated by a bill passed in the House of Commons, Ottawa incorporating it officially as the Women’s Art Association of Canada.
Bill No.30 An Act To Incorporate The Women’s Art Association of Canada

“The objects of the Association shall be the creating of a general interest in art and the encouragement of women’s work for the purpose of mutual help and co-operation of its members, the establishment of art lectures and reading clubs, the holding of exhibitions of painting, designs, sculpture, engraving and the industrial arts, and the encouragement and development of the art handicrafts and home industries of Canada.”

The motto chosen was that of the old Plantin Printers of Antwerp “Labore et Constantia” meaning “By Work and Perseverance”. The crest with the motto is still commonly used, the colours of the Association are red and white and the emblem the wild rose.

In April 1930, the Association was affiliated with the Lyceum Club of London, England, and became known as the Lyceum Club and Women’s Art Association of Canada until after the Second World War when the name was changed back to its original title.

You can access the WAAC fonds at the City of Toronto Archives here.


Mary Ella Dignam, was the founder and first president of the Women’s Art Association of Canada, was a pioneer in this country’s arts and crafts movement. She was a versatile artist who studied in London Ontario, New York and Paris in 1886. Upon return to Toronto she founded the Women’s Art Club, later renamed the Women’s Art Association of Canada. She established and maintained close friendships with The Group of Seven, who included 15 WAAC artists in their 1923-30 shows.

The Arcade Building (left) was one of a number of venues that the Women’s Art Association occupied before settling on its current premises at 21/23 Prince Arthur Av. For a short video of its history, please click on the arrow.

The WAAC Library

WAAC members, this is your library!

Members who visit our Library will discover a collection of over 2,000 art books in a number of diverse categories. The library was refurbished in 2016 to provide members with a welcoming atmosphere and comfortable seating areas for reflection and relaxation.

The library plays an important role in fulfilling WAAC’s education mandate. Members of the public are welcome to access our collection for research purposes through prior arrangement with the office or the first and third Saturdays of each month from 1 pm to 4 pm.

When is the library open?

The library is open to members and guests during regular gallery hours from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm, Tuesdays–Saturday. WAAC members and their guests are encouraged to enjoy our library during regular WAAC hours unless a scheduled meeting is taking place. Check with the office ahead of time. The Library is open to the Public the first and third Saturdays of each month from 1 pm to 4 pm.

What is in the library?

The collection includes 1600 art books, art magazines and a small collection of art-related DVDs, and historical documents. A Guide to the collection is located in a plastic holder on the wall to the left of the entrance.


The Catalogue of our collection is online which you can access anytime from home or on the laptop provided in the Library.
Go directly to or through the link in the Library section of the WAAC website.


The laptop is located on the desk in the far north corner of the Library next to the
Old & Rare Books Cabinet. It can be used to browse our online catalogue, research on the internet and check your emails.


We have a remarkable collection of artwork on the library walls. Many works are by former WAAC members. There is a Guide to the Art Collection in the plastic holder to the left of the entrance.


Each cabinet is numbered in sequence. If the subject matter of a book is specific to a country or region, it is located in the cabinet so named, e.g., Cabinet #1 CANADA

In each “country” cabinet, books are placed in the following order.
General – history, art movements, various aspects of art in that country/region; arranged alphabetically by book title.
Artists – Artists of that country arranged alphabetically by artist’s name, not book title.
Groups of Artists arranged alphabetically by book title
Collections – Catalogues of private and public collections and/or exhibitions held within that country; arranged alphabetically by book title.

If a book addresses a general topic not specific to a country, then it will appear in the cabinet labelled with the category to which it belongs, e.g. Cabinet #4 THEORY AND TECHNIQUES.

A LIST OF THE CABINETS, their location, and contents follows below.

Abbreviations: arr. – arranged, alpha. = alphabetically

Who may borrow materials?
WAAC members and staff may borrow books and DVDs. As noted above, members of the public may arrange to access materials while in the library but not remove them.

For how long may books or DVDs be borrowed?
Items may be borrowed for four weeks. If you are unable to return a book in person, please arrange for a friend to drop it off. Books borrowed in June may be held until the first event in September.

May materials that are identified as “For Reference Only” or are stored in Cabinet #10 be borrowed?
No, reference materials which include fragile books, WAAC memorabilia, dictionaries, encyclopedias etc., are available as a resource to be enjoyed while in the library.

How many items may be taken out at one time?
You may borrow up to five items at one time except between June and September when you may borrow up to ten items.

What is the procedure for borrowing books or DVDs?
There is a “Sign Out” book in the library to the left of the entrance in which you record the date, title of the book/DVD, your name and your email address or phone number. Please PRINT.

May borrowed items be renewed?
Most items can be renewed twice unless there is a request for them from another member. In order to renew, please sign the item out again in the “Sign Out” book or email the Library Chair or her designee who will either do that for you or inform you if someone is waiting for that item.

What is the procedure for returning materials? Place the item(s) in the basket on the table outside the library door. A member of the Library Committee will collect material from the basket and record its return in the “Sign Out” book. Please do not leave returning material on tables or shelves or anywhere else in the library.

Donations to the Collection

Donations of art-related books and DVDs are welcome. We do want to concentrate on building our collection in under-represented areas, for instance Africa, Middle East, S.E Asia, Central and South America, and 21st Century art.

Donations to the Library Fund

Donations are appreciated because they allow us to continue to improve the library. Please speak with Cheryl Gorman, the Library Chair, to discuss Library priorities.

Your Library Committee:

Cheryl Gorman, Chair
Carol Cormier
Gillian Morden
Elva Palo
Sandra Papas
Don Wilkins

FOR MORE INFORMATION, please email or text:

Cheryl Gorman at

Cell #: 416-458-1136


arr. = arranged, alpha. = alphabetically*

1 Directly across from entrance, on east wall Canada – arr. alpha by Title and alpha by Artist Surname
2 Cupboard far corner east wall Encyclopedias and Oversize books from all categories, countries and regions arr. alpha by title
3 Far corner, south wall Fiction – arr. alpha by author; Non-fiction – arr. alpha by title – mostly donated by Book Club
4 Between windows south wall Art Theory & Techniques, arr. alpha by title
5 Large Cabinet west wall to right of entrance Great Britain & Europe;

Museum Collections

6 First cabinet to the left of the entrance on west wall The U.S.A, arr. by alpha by artist; American Collections
7 Second cabinet west wall Mexico, Central & South America & the Caribbean,

Middle East, Africa, S.E. Asia, Australia/New Zealand & the South Pacific

8 Last cabinet West wall Art General – books on general art topics, not specific to a country or region
9 North wall, to left of the window DVDs, arr. alpha by title;

Books about art theft, fraud and forgery, Photography; and Architecture, arr. alpha by title

10 North wall, to the right of

the window

Rare and older books from earlier

Collections – arr. alpha by title

Reference only – to be read in the Library

Cabinets Outside Library

11 Alcove in hall outside Library Art Design/Fashion Design; Crafts/Ceramics;

Flower in Art/Gardening; arr. alpha by Title

WAAC History and Memorabilia,

12 To the left of the Library entrance, on the north wall A “Selection of 20th Century Artists”, arr. alpha by artist surname

* There are exceptions: Books on general art topics not specific to a country or region are found in Cabinet 8.

Books about art theft, fraud and forgery are found in Cabinet 9. Oversize books are found in Cupboard 2.

Works of fiction (many donated by the Book Club) are in Cabinet 3.

WAAC member BOOK CLUB 2021 -2022

ZOOM BOOK CLUB 11:00 a.m.


May 12, 2021
Thomas King

September 22, 2021
Beverley McLachlin

November 24, 2021
Margaret Atwood

January 12, 2022
Nicholas Sparks

March 9, 2022
Alistair MacLeod

May 11, 2022
Tracy Kidder


The Women’s Art Association of Canada offers a variety of arts-related educational programs to the public and to our members. The Association hosts lectures throughout the year presented by members and outside individuals and groups, such as the Artist’s Voice Lecture Series. The majority of these events are open to the public. For further information on what’s on and upcoming events, please visit the Events Calendar. Members of the public are welcome to access the Library Collection for research purposes.

Members have a number of special resources available to them including a printing press, a Library with a broad collection of materials related to the arts, information on current arts activities in the Greater Toronto Area, and discounts at local art stores.

Board of Directors

Anita Stein


Alexandra Bratton

Co-President, Finance

Ingrid Hamilton

1st Vice President, Chair Marketing

Libby Hunter

2nd Vice President

Barbara Mitchell

Permanent Collection, Secretary

Marilyn Halley

Chair Membership

Nina Tschupikow

Scholarships & Awards

Marion Yanase

Chair Events

Helga Scott

Co-Chair House

Sara Petroff

Co-Chair House

Meral Atlinbilek

Chair Programs

Suzanne Miller


Jocelyn Shaw


Virginia Trieloff


Joanna Taylor


Past Presidents

Maggie Broda

President 2019-2023

Danielle Fraser

Co-President 2018-2019

Dale Butterill

President 2013-18, Co-President 2018-2019

Barbara Mitchell

Co-President 2009-10, President 2011-2013

Heather Beecroft

Co-President 2009-2010



Association Manager


Assistant Manager