Through the Chateau Door: A History of the Zonta Club of Ottawa

Through the Chateau Door: A History of the Zonta Club of Ottawa

The Zonta Club of Ottawa, which was founded in 1929, is a branch of Zonta International, a business and professional women’s service organization that was formally launched in Buffalo, New York in November 1919. Commissioned by the Zonta Club of Ottawa, this history describes the circumstances surrounding the Ottawa club’s founding and chronicles its development from 1919 to 1989, when it marked its sixtieth anniversary with a dinner that highlighted the many outstanding service projects it had undertaken over the years.

Through the Chateau Door (ISBN 0-9698795-0-4) is currently out of print.


Chapter One: How It All Began

The Zonta Club of Ottawa traces its formal launching to the spring of 1929, a time when optimism reigned supreme in Canada. In those buoyant, carefree days before the onset of the Great Depression, Ottawa had a population of over 165,000 and a skyline dominated by the impressive peace tower. Striking an exuberant note so typical of the time, the city directory boasted “Everything that makes life worthwhile is to be found in Ottawa.” Notwithstanding such hyperbole, the city was then a shabby place with drab downtown streets and slums crisscrossed by railway lines. It was a national capital, where, day in and day out, the screeching of numerous lumber mills filled the air, and the stench of Hull’s E.B. Eddy pulp and paper factory assailed one’s nostrils. It would take the Second World War, post-war reconstruction, and the eclipse of Ottawa’s woodproducts industry to confirm the city as a government town and an even longer time for it to take on the air of a world capital worthy of the name.

But all this would have been far from the minds of the twelve Zontians who assembled for their “opening meeting,” as it has been described, at the venerable Chateau Laurier on May 15, 1929. According to the now defunct Ottawa Evening Journal, the event took the form of a “delightful” luncheon featuring tables “prettily” adorned with Zonta International’s official flower, the yellow rose. A gift from the Zonta Club of Hamilton, the roses not only linked the infant club with its parent, they also symbolized the heady optimism surrounding this occasion, for which the organizers had chosen a prominent male speaker. He was Karl Conger, past president of the Rotary Club of Ottawa, which had been partly responsible for the founding of Zonta Ottawa.