The CFUW Kingston Club A. Vibert Douglas Award

Since its founding in 1919 the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) has championed issues and supported programs that enhance the education, health, human rights and social well-being of women and girls in particular and of society as a whole. Its members are committed to the pursuit of knowledge, the promotion of education, and the improvement of the status of women through active participation in public affairs at the local, national and international levels, in a spirit of cooperation and friendship.

The CFUW Kingston Club A. Vibert Douglas Award was established in July 2011 in memory of Allie Vibert Douglas and Caroline Mitchell.

Allie Vibert Douglas

Allie Vibert Douglas was one of the first women astrophysicists in the world, an outstanding role model of both a professional woman and a female scientist.

She was born Allie Vibert in Montreal in 1894. When her mother died shortly after her birth, and her father several years later, the widow of her maternal grandfather, Reverend George Douglas, founder and Principal of the Wesleyan Theological College at McGill, undertook the care of Allie and her brother George. Grandmother Douglas with two maiden aunts moved to England in 1902 with Allie and George where the children began their elementary education. They returned to Montreal in 1905 to continue their schooling, eventually enrolling at McGill University. During summers the family cottage on an island in the St. Lawrence River near Gananoque was the beloved summer residence of Allie and her family. When her brother enrolled in the army in 1914 and left for England, his grandmother, aunts and sister followed him to England. Allie's work in the War Office in these years resulted in the remarkable achievement of her being named at the age of 23 a Member of the British Empire for her wartime work in the field of statistics.

In 1918 Allie returned to McGill University to finish her degree and her Master of Science in 1920, the first woman to receive a degree in astrophysics in Quebec. Because of her close ties with her mother's family, Allie and her brother legally changed their surname to Douglas.

An IODE scholarship enabled Allie to enrol at Cambridge University where she worked with the world-renowned astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington. Later in life she was requested by his family to write his biography, a greatly esteemed literary contribution to science. In 1926 she received her PhD from McGill, and taught on the McGill faculty for the next 13 years. On the eve of the war in 1939 she accepted the post of Dean of Women at Queen's. In addition to her mentoring and inspirational support of the 500 women students, she was required to oversee the domestic details of the residences for women at a time of wartime shortages and increasing enrolments. She became, also, a Professor of Astronomy in 1946, continuing to combine her early duties as Dean with her scholarly studies until she retired as Dean in 1958. She continued to teach for the next six years.

As Dean she was kind and supportive and, in the words of one of her students, "somewhat otherworldly". She was quick to observe the social and academic restrictions for women students, and enquired of the Principal in 1940 "why are not women equally acceptable at Queen's?" When she noted the refusal to admit women to medicine and engineering, she became a fierce and ongoing advocate of the acceptance of women in professional courses. At this time women were excluded from philosophy, political science, and medicine courses (though two were admitted to medicine in wartime). Throughout her life her dedication to scholarship in her field was a significant influence on many women students at a time when women were not perceived as having interest or aptitude in science.

Her dedication to sharing knowledge was illustrated in 1954 during a brief conversation with Albert Einstein when she disagreed with him as he stated that scientists should not attempt to make their theories understandable to lay people. Dr. Douglas maintained that scientists had a duty to educate the public. Her independence of mind was illustrated again when, in 1964 at the height of the fear and tension created by the Berlin Wall, leaving her colleagues behind, she walked through Checkpoint Charlie alone, criss-crossing the city of East Berlin for the day on public conveyances, saying later, "I think that is the best way to see a city".

When Dr. Douglas received an Honorary Doctorate in 1975 from Queen's she was recognized as an "inveterate internationalist" because of her lifelong interest in international affairs. During her lifetime she attended all twelve triennial meetings of the International Astronomical Union, and represented Canada at a UNESCO conference in Montevideo in 1954. In 1947 she was elected President of the International Federation of University Women, the first and only Canadian in this post. As Chair and member of the Fellowship Committee of IFUW, she organized assistance for refugee women scholars in establishing themselves in Europe after WWII. In recognition of her international work the International Federation of University Women established a scholarship in her name in 1969 whose purpose was to support women students in need globally.

In 1943 the CFUW established a Kingston Club in which Dr. Douglas was one of 52 charter members representing 16 universities; she became the inaugural speaker in Ban Righ Hall. Her interest in supporting scholarship in women was unending, and was reflected in a series of bursaries given by the Club in the next fifty years to Queen's students. In 1989, following her death, the Kingston Club established the A. Vibert Douglas Scholarship in memory of a remarkable and beloved long time member.

Dr. Douglas' achievements were recognized by honorary doctorates from Queen's, McGill and Queensland, Australia. She was elected President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 1947-50, the first woman President, and locally assisted in the establishment of the Kingston Centre of the RASC. The National Council of Jewish Women named her one of the "Ten Women of the Century" in 1967, and a year later she became an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1988 an asteroid was named Vibert Douglas, and later a crater on Venus was named in her honour by the International Astronomical Union.

Dr. Allie Vibert Douglas was one of the most outstanding women in Canada in the 20th century. Her scientific achievements as one of the first women astrophysicists in the world were renowned internationally, and in her role as Dean of Women and mentor at Queen's University she left a memorable and inspiring imprint on many women.

She died in Kingston on July 2 1988 at 93 years old.

 Caroline Mitchell

The Caroline Mitchell Bursary was created in 1978 to honour the contributions of an outstanding businesswoman, athlete, and long-time member of the Canadian Federation of University Women.

Caroline Mitchell graduated from Queen's University in 1926 with a general B.A. She pursued a varied career in business, at one time operating a wool shop in downtown Kingston, becoming bookkeeper for the Graham Thomson Insurance Agency, working in the Planning Department at Alcan, and managing the financial accounts for Queen's University's student residences.

An early member of the CFUW Kingston Club, she was a tireless supporter of its work on behalf of Queen's women students. In 1949, as convenor of the Ways and Means Committee, she assumed responsibility for a magazine subscription service and through this was for several decades an energetic fundraiser for CFUW bursaries and projects.

Caroline was also an accomplished sportswoman. She enjoyed many sports, but excelled in golf, and for more than 25 years was one of the City's and Province's pre-eminent amateur golfers, winning the Cataraqui Golf and Country Club Women's Championship twenty-two times in thirty years. She promoted a number of young women golfers who went on to professional careers. In 1996 she was among the inaugural inductees of the Kingston and District Sports Hall of Fame, which cited her as "the embodiment of good sportsmanship".

Caroline Mitchell was a keen competitor, a willing mentor, and a strong and steadfast member of her church and her community. She brought a sense of fun and enthusiasm to her professional life and to interests as diverse as theatre, music, bridge, and sports. She generously supported Queen's University in ways conventional and otherwise. On her death in 1983 in-memoriam donations helped to fund the bursary that had been established in her name five years earlier, and as she had directed, her body was donated for research at Queen's School of Medicine.