1894 – 2014

Montreal_panorama with water for wasm website

The WOMEN’S ART SOCIETY OF MONTREAL was founded in 1894 by two Montreal women, Mary Martha Phillips and and Mrs. James H. Peck (nee Mary Alice Skelton), with the goal of integrating women into the art world at a time in history when women had few rights and were relegated to other roles.   The parent body was incorporated in Toronto in 1892.

In the mid-nineteenth century, women were not considered to be serious contributors to the field of art and had enormous  difficulty  obtaining a public showing, some even having to hide their true identities for fear of social recrimination. 
Mary Peck was the first president (1894-1896)  of the Montreal branch of the Women’s Art Association and remained on the Executive Committee for several years.   Phillips, herself a talented painter and teacher, succeeded Peck as the president in 1897 and served in this capacity until 1906.  Click  here for more.

In 1907, the Montreal branch of the Women’s Art Association of Canada broke away from the mother organization based in Toronto to form their own independent Women’s Art Society of Montreal.   In the years that followed, the Association reached unprecedented levels of popularity, necessitating a cap on membership of 350 in 1911.  (Holowach-Amiot, 1993, p. 8)   During World War I,  the Society threw its efforts behind Canada’s homefront efforts, fundraising through art sales and theatrical entertainments  and establishing the Home Relief Fund (later known as the Artists’ War Fund, which provided financial aid to impoverished artists and musicians in Montreal).

Running parallel,  in 1920, the Beaver Hall Hill Group became an informal association of Montreal artists, men and women,  who shared studio space on Beaver Hall Hill.    Also in 1920, it was interesting to note that National Gallery in Ottawa purchased two landscape paintings by  members Jean MacLean and Mary Grant.  

After the war, the philanthropic efforts of the Women’s Art Society continued with the establishment of the Soldiers’ Fund, which provided assistance to disabled veterans.   Members regularly paid visits to convalescing ex-servicemen at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue military hospital bringing gifts.   Moving into the Depression years (1929-1938), these services for veterans and their families continued. The Society also fostered close relationships with organizations such as the Montreal Children’s Library (by giving grants)  and the Montreal Council of Women. 

After 1938, the Society’s efforts shifted towards entertainment and other branches of the arts, such as theatre, music and studio art.

Growing and evolving over the years, the Women’s Art Society of Montreal has remained faithful to its basic ideals  and as the organization enters its second century of activity, the tradition of promoting the literary, musical and visual arts remains one of its primary goals.

 With the evolution of women’s rights and the fact that many opportunities and avenues of support are now open to female artists, the Women’s Art Society has evolved with the times.   The organization was incorporated on April 11th, 1968 under the authority of the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec. In 1981, the Society officially adopted a French name: l’Association culturelle des femmes de Montréal  but the organization remained essentially an English support group.    In the late 1990’s it began to accept men as members. 

Some of the famous names who spoke at our events:   artist William Brymner, architect Percy Nobbs, Anna Leonowens (governess to the children of the King of Siam),  A. Y. Jackson, Anne Savage,  Stephen Leacock,  Wilfred Pelletier.  There were others – Maurice Cullen, Arthur Lismer, G. Horne Russell, Adam Sherriff Scott, Edmund Dyonnet, Lilias Torrance Newton – who gladly gave out advice to The Studio Group between 1915 and 1957.    Recitals featured Montreal performers like Maureen Forrester, Ronald Turini, Alexander and Lotta Brott no doubt related to Dennis Brott of the present and ever popular Montreal Chamber Music Festival.     

The above crest was designed for the Society’s 100th anniversary in 1994.

 References:  Holowach-Amiot, Elaine. The Women’s Art Society of Montreal: a Century of Commitment to the Arts. Montreal: McCord Museum of Canadian History, 1993.



Events in the form of lectures and concerts given by  invited guests   (free for members, $10 for guests)    take place in the fall and spring most Tuesday afternoons at 1.30 pm at the Armand Bombardier Theatre of the historic McCord Museum on Sherbrooke Street.    Across from McGill University,  the  McCord  opened its doors on October 13, 1921 with the mission to ‘mirror the city; a city that mirrors the world’.      The McCord has always supported the Women’s Art Society of Montreal and now houses most of our historical records.   

During the Christmas season,  a holiday luncheon is an annual celebration for the membership.  Members are also invited to provide themed hand-made decorations for a Christmas tree at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts that is displayed along with many others in a long-standing tradition of the museum.  

 In early spring,  a MEMBER’S ONLY JURIED ART EXHIBIT has traditionally been  held at Tudor Hall on the 5th floor of Ogilvy,  fondly  known as  ‘la grande dame de la rue Ste. Catherine’ which is yet another cultural icon in our exciting city.  Sadly, due to changes in the administration, it can no longer accommodate us.

wasm 120 years



 Membership to the Women’s Art Society of Montreal costs $60 for the season.  You can mail your cheque to our address or pay using PayPal (send us an e-mail requesting an invoice)

POSTAL ADDRESS:  WASM, P.O. Box 77706, 1675 St. Catherine West, Montreal H3H-0A4

Here are some of the highlights:  Please note that ALL EVENTS TAKE PLACE ON TUESDAYS:

Join the Women’s Art Society of Montreal

and Connect with like-minded people who enjoy the Arts!

Our Activities Include:

  • Speaking Events or Entertainment every second Tuesday from Sept. to Dec. then from March to May from 1:30 to 2:30pm at the McCord Museum, 690 Sherbrooke West
  • Socializing over Coffee after the events at the Van Houtte nearby at Lotto QC Building
  • A “Meet & Greet” in October where we celebrate our Members and share what we are up to
  • A great Holiday Luncheon in December with entertainment
  • Our Annual Members’ Juried Art Exhibit & Sale in the spring
  • Numerous Cultural Outings and Socializing over Coffee on the Off Tuesdays & the Off Season


  • If you wish us to publicize your art exhibits, members may email the information in a  ready to forward format to womensartsociety@gmail.com