Almanda Walker-Marchand and the Fédération nationale des Femmes Canadiennes-Françaises

The provincial plaque commemorating Almanda Walker-Marchand and the Fédération nationale des Femmes Canadiennes-Françaises was unveiled by the Ontario Heritage Trust and the Alliance des femmes de la Francophonie Canadienne at the Ottawa Embassy Hotel & Suites on September 28, 2018.

The plaque reads as follows in English and French:


    Almanda Walker-Marchand was the founder and president of the Fédération des femmes canadiennes-françaises (FFCF). Born in Quebec City in 1868, she moved with her family first to Montreal and then to Ottawa. Her last home overlooked this park. In 1914, days after the declaration of the First World War, Walker-Marchand encouraged a group of more than 400 French-Canadian women to form an organization dedicated to helping French-Canadian soldiers and their families both during and after the war. From 1918-45 they contributed to the relief of poverty, advancement of health and education and the promotion of francophone culture. During Walker-Marchand’s 32 years as its president, the FFCF expanded beyond Ottawa to form many chapters in francophone communities across Canada. In 1943, Walker-Marchand was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire. She died in 1949, but the group continued and evolved to champion the political, social and economic rights of francophone women throughout Canada. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014, it is known today as the Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne.


    Almanda Walker-Marchand était la fondatrice et présidente de la Fédération des femmes canadiennes-françaises (FFCF). Née à Québec en 1868, elle déménagea avec sa famille tout d’abord à Montréal, puis à Ottawa. Sa dernière maison donnait sur ce parc. En 1914, quelques jours après la déclaration de la Première Guerre mondiale, Walker-Marchand encouragea un groupe de plus de 400 Franco-Canadiennes à former une organisation se consacrant à aider les soldats canadiens-français et leur famille pendant et après la guerre. De 1918 à 1945, elles contribuèrent à soulager la pauvreté, à faire avancer la santé et l’éducation et à promouvoir la culture francophone. Durant les 32 années où Walker-Marchand en assura la présidence, la FFCF s’est étendue au-delà d’Ottawa pour former de nombreuses sections régionales dans les communautés francophones partout au Canada. En 1943, Walker-Marchand a été nommée officière de l’Ordre de l’Empire britannique. Elle s’est éteinte en 1949, mais le groupe a continué pour se faire le champion des droits politiques, sociaux et économiques des femmes francophones d’un océan à l’autre. Il a célébré son 100e anniversaire en 2014, et s’appelle aujourd’hui l’Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne.

Historical background

Born in Quebec City on November 16, 1868, Almanda Walker-Marchand was the daughter of John Walker and Aimée-Eugénie Stanford. She was perfectly bilingual and understood both cultures. She followed her family first to Montreal, then to Ottawa. In 1892, she married an electrical engineer, Paul-Eugène Marchand and, with him, the Franco-Ontarian cause.1 Mother of nine children, she lived all of her adult life in Sandy Hill, a neighbourhood in Ottawa. A few months after the beginning of the First World War, in response to an appeal from the wife of the Governor General, the Duchess of Connaught, to help equip the first Canadian hospital ship, Almanda Walker-Marchand gathered a group of women that would later become the Fédération des femmes canadiennes-française (FFCF).2 Almanda Walker-Marchand was its first president and her tenure lasted for 32 years.

On August 16, 1914,3 under the tutelage of Lady Laurier, wife of Wilfrid Laurier, a group of 400 French-Canadian women met for the first time. On that night, this group of women decided to form a society dedicated to helping the victims of the war, the Canadian soldiers and the works of the Red Cross. They also contributed the sum of $300. Within days, their efforts to amass sufficient money to complete the building of a hospital ship led to a donation of $2,500.4 From 1914 to 1918, the activities of this group of women ranged from fundraising for soldiers for layettes and socks for the victims abroad. They also took part in specific war relief charities, most notably the Belgian Relief Fund or the French Relief Fund.5

Already organized to send help in Europe through the Red Cross, they extended their efforts to different victims on Canadian soil. They collected clothing for victims of the Great Fire of 1916 in Northern Ontario. Likewise, they contributed funding for the victims of the Halifax Explosion of 1917.6

This group of patriotic French-Canadian women also shared the common goal of preserving Francophone culture within Ontario. They struggled against Regulation 17, which, from 1912 to 1927, prohibited instruction in French after Grade 2. They guarded the doors of the schools to avoid their closures and provided the money for their heating.7

In 1917, the society until then known as L’Association des dames canadiennes-française8 requested their letters patent, which were granted to the society in February 1918 under the name of the Fédération des femmes canadiennes-françaises (FFCF). These letters exposed the mission of the Fédération around three primary goals — namely, as a charitable, patriotic society devoted to the French-Canadian population. Part of these letters read as follows: "caring for charitable and patriotic of all kinds and especially anything that can [...] improve the lot of French-Canadian soldiers and their families, both during the war and after the war”.9 Now officially recognized, the Fédération was allowed to expand its activities throughout the Canadian territory. In the course of the following years, around 20 chapters took form, first in Ottawa and its vicinity, then elsewhere in Ontario, the Prairies and British Columbia, with its main office and direction still in Ottawa. Its motto was “Pour nos foyers” (For our home).

Generally speaking, before the Great Depression of the 1930s, most social services were provided by religious charities and other private groups. In the absence of social programs in Canada, the works of organizations like the FFCF, both at its national and chapter levels, were essential to the welfare of large sections of the population. Between 1918 and 1945, their numerous activities — volunteering, fundraising, bingos, bazaars and bursary allocation — contributed to the relief of poverty or to the advancement of education and health, as well as the promotion of the arts and culture.10 The financial hardship brought by the Great Depression gave the FFCF another occasion to rally in support of those in need in the Prairies, but also in Ottawa where the number of homeless and unemployed had increased.11

With the outbreak of the Second World War, under the leadership of Almanda Walker-Marchand, the members of the FFCF embarked once more on the war effort. They participated to the Victory Loan campaign and its sales apparatus. Through their funding, they were also able to buy a military ambulance (which bore the name of the organization) for Canadian soldiers stationed in England. They contributed to children’s aid either by distributing ration booklets or through fundraising to send milk to children in Europe. During those years, they supported soldiers and their families with donations in the form of money or goods (clothing, candy, food, etc.).12

In 1946, Almanda Walker-Marchand declined to seek the presidency of the Fédération for a new term. Agnès Gauthier succeeded her. The work of Walker-Marchand was acknowledged by numerous honours, most notably by the Kingdom of Belgium with a Decoration of Honour for her help to children and mothers of the country during the First World War. In 1925, the Association of the Great War Veterans awarded her the Dominion Command of FWVA for her work with widows, the sick and veterans and their families. Other honours followed. In 1930, she received the decoration Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice by Pope Pius XI. In 1943, she was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire. Walker-Marchand died in 1949.

The Fédération has outlived Walker-Marchand to this day, first in a similar way as attended by its first president, but in the following decades the organization evolved with the society around it. If the revised Constitution of 1975 reaffirmed the original goal of the organization — "to promote French culture, [...] keep the Catholic faith, [...]” — it also specified that: “issues pertaining to women contribute to the full development of women and built the intellectual point of view, cultural, spiritual, moral and physical".13 The FFCF took a more political leadership and was increasingly an organization that promoted the political, social and economic rights of Francophone women in minority communities in Canada. In 1985, the FFCF became the Fédération nationale des femmes canadiennes-françaises (FNFCF). In 1989, more than 40 chapters were part of the FNFCF across Canada.14 In 2005, the Fédération nationale des femmes canadiennes-françaises and the Réseau national d'action éducation femmes merged in order to form the Alliance des femmes de la francophonie canadienne. Since 1990, in honour of the woman who began the Fédération des femmes canadiennes-française, the Almanda Walker-Marchand bursary is given to a woman going back to school each year.

The Ontario Heritage Trust gratefully acknowledges the research of Ghislain Thibault in preparing this paper.

© Ontario Heritage Trust, 2018

1 Emilia Boivin-Allaire. Profils Féminins: Trente Figures De Proue Canadiennes (Québec: Éditions Garneau, 1967), 210.

2 Album-Souvenir, Jubilé d’Or, p.9, C53/1/6, Notes historiques, s.d. 1914-1984, C53, Fédération nationale des femmes canadiennes-françaises, Centre de recherche en civilisation canadienne-française, Université d’Ottawa.

3 Ibid.

4 Lucie Brunet. Almanda Walker-Marchand (1868-1949) : Une féministe franco-ontarienne de la première heure (Ottawa : Les Éditions L’Interligne, 1992),39.

5 Michèle Desjardins. Les femmes de la diaspora canadienne-française : brève histoire de la FNFCF de 1914 à 1991 (Ottawa : Fédération nationale des femmes canadiennes-française, 1991), 27.

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid., 26.

9 Lettres patentes 1918, Fédération nationale des femmes canadiennes-françaises.

10 For a list of different institutions with which the FFCF were involved, see Desjardins' Les femmes de la diaspora canadienne-française, 35.

11 Brunet, Almanda Walker-Marchand (1868-1949), 105.

12 Desjardins, Les femmes de la diaspora canadienne-française, 30.

13 Statuts et Règlements Révisés 1964 et 1975, p.1., Fédération nationale des femmes canadiennes-françaises.

14 Brunet, “La part des femmes, il faut le dire…,”, 13.