In 1891, the Women’s Alumnae Society of McGill — then consisting of 30 female graduates – established the Girls Club and Lunch Room, an organization dedicated to Montreal’s working women. Female shop and factory workers, some of whom earned just 60¢ for a 10-hour day, could buy meals for a few pennies at the club.
By 1899, the club was serving more than 40,000 meals a year and had established a lodging house for 14 women, creating a fund for unemployed women and providing dressmaking classes, children’s programs and even a library.
The Alumnae Society discontinued the Girls Club and Lunch Room in 1905, choosing instead to explore more comprehensive neighbourhood social programs. It established the Neighbourhood Club to provide social services where they were needed most, ranging from affordable meals for female shop and factory workers to scholarships and bursaries for women students. The MWAA still exists today, and celebrates its 130th anniversary in 2021.