Women's Art Association of Hamilton

Our History

Sara Galbraith Calder
Sara Galbraith Calder by J.W.L Forster

In 1894, Hamilton was in the throes of expanding. A few influential ladies, fearful that cultural pursuits would be overlooked in the surging industrial growth, met at the home of Sara Galbraith Calder and formed the Women's Art Association.

In 1914, a temporary Art Gallery was set up in the old Public Health Building on Main Street West, and a room was given to the Association for their permanent use. This group of women constantly pressed for a new Art Gallery, raising the sum of $2,313.13 for a donation ($50,000. today).

On April 19, 1946 this organization was incorporated. It was the brainchild of President Juanita Le Barre Symington. This was important as it allowed the organization to own property, control its finances and still be affiliated with the mother association in Toronto and associations in Owen Sound, Peterborough and Stratford. The organization also became a registered charity allowing it to provide tax receipts for donations. The charitable purposes of WAAH that have been approved by Revenue Canada and the Charities Directorate enabling WAAH to issue these receipts are:

  • To advance education in the arts by providing the public, particularly women, with educational programs, including workshops and lectures on a variety of art topics;
  • To advance education in the arts by providing women with scholarships and bursaries to pursue higher learning in the field of art, and by providing children with educational materials, such as art supplies;
  • To advance the public's appreciation of the arts, particularly visual arts, by providing high-quality art exhibitions and presentations;
  • To gift to qualified donees, particularly those involved in the arts;
  • To do all other activities that are ancillary and incidental to achieving the above purposes.

In 1953 Wilhelmina 'Mina' Alexander (President 1925 - 1928) turned the sod for a new gallery at Forsythe and Main Street West. It was torn down to build McMaster University Hospital.

In 1968 once again the Women's Art Association established a "Special Project Fund" and raised $12,608 ($126,000. today) to be donated for the present day Art Gallery of Hamilton. located at 123 King Street West in downtown Hamilton.

The first exhibition was held in 1896 and every year since then, WAAH exhibits have been held in various galleries and locations with an annual juried show at the Art Gallery of Hamilton every year since 1947.

Opening Audience


The first ever WAAH exhibition was held in 1896. Every year since then exhibitions have been held in various galleries and locations in the Hamilton area. WAAH has also hosted a juried exhibition at the Art Gallery of Hamilton every year since 1947.

Helping to Add the Collection of the AGH

Over the years the WAAH presented the following to the permanent collection:

  • 1915 - "Cloud Shadows" by J. W. Beatty
  • 1930 - "Bathers at Capri" by Blair Bruce (presented to the AGH by T. B. Macaulay. President of the Sun Life Assurance Co. after WAAH prevailed upon Mr. Macaulay to prevent the work from being sold to an American).
  • 19..   - "Hand Painted China Vase" by Clara Galbreaith
  • 1948 - "Wild Raspberries" by J. R. Seavey
  • 1952 - Sunflowers" by Mrs. S. H. (Wilhelmina) Alexander
  • 1961 - "Gray Rocks" by Arthur Lismer
  • 1963 - "Composition, Red and Gold" by Hortense Gordon
  • 1968 - "Looking South on James Street" by Juanita LeBarre Symington 
  • 1969 - "Sulphur Springs Road" by Rowena Ballantyne
  • 1981 - "Children in Landscape, France" by Paul Peel
  • 2008 - "Urn, Quince Et Pence" by Bruno Capalongo
  • 2018 - "1779" by Shelly Niro (2017)
  • 2019 - "From a Still Unquiet Place by Meryl McMaster (2019)
  • 2019 - "What Will I Say to the Sky and Earth II" by Meryl McMaster (2019)
  • 2021 - "Anthem (barcode) 2020 by Marla Panko
  • 2022 - "My Mother's Dress" by Katherine Macdonald
  • 2022 - "Still Life - Lemon" by Katherine Macdonald

Board of Education

Between 1940 and 1947 the WAAH made donations of art books to secondary schools in Hamilton. Art competition prizes were also awarded to winning entrants. 1967 Centennial Project – travelling sculpture entitled "Man" by Rebecca Sisler presented to secondary schools.