Patricia Roddy DuVal 1941-
CFUW President 2008-2010
“Nationally, we are recognized and respected for our well-researched policy. CFUW speaks for its members and for women who cannot. CFUW is a true ‘Visible Voice’.”
A bundle of focused energy, Patricia DuVal likes to be active, meet new people, learn new things; for relaxation she enjoys needlework and cabinetmaking, particularly dollhouses and doll furniture for her children and grandchildren. She has had what she terms “a fascinating career” working in the computer science field with Sun Life, Pfizer, AXA Insurance, Alcan, le Journal de Montréal, IBM, and Bombardier Aerospace. This busy, accomplished woman became CFUW’s 33rd president.
Life for Patricia began with her parents John Mark Roddy Jr. and Helena Pitlanic Roddy in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, area where her father’s family had been early settlers. She was raised in the small Maryland town of Emmitsburg where her father worked in university administration and where she attended one of the oldest girl’s schools in the United States, St. Joseph’s High School, founded in 1809 by the Sisters of Charity. Seven of her father’s eight sisters were university graduates and it was assumed that Patricia, too, would acquire a university education. Patricia remembers her father voicing his strongly held belief that “no education is ever wasted; you never know when you will need it; every woman should know how to support herself.” When a friend told him it was a waste to educate a woman who would just get married, he countered, “And do you want an uneducated woman raising your children?”
While growing up in Maryland, Patricia read a great deal, spent time outdoors with her brothers and, in the company of her cousins, visited with their grandparents at their country store, carpentry, and blacksmith shops. “I was fascinated by all the different things my grandfather knew how to do and how independent he and my grandmother were,” Patricia recalls. “It made me a bit of a tomboy. And I have to admit that I like doing things that people think are not suitable for women. I once took a course in auto repair, for instance, because I was tired of mechanics talking down to me because I was a woman.”
In her final high school year the family moved to Arlington, Virginia. In addition to her studies, she volunteered in the school library and was a Brownie and Girl Scout leader and camper. She enjoyed learning about any and all subjects, loved school, and was a good student. Patricia remembers this move as one of culture shock because instead of 120 students her new high school had 2000. It proved to be a blessing, however, for it encouraged her to take scholarship exams. She was awarded two scholarships which helped ease expenses at the College of St. Elizabeth in New Jersey where she majored in chemistry and English Literature. Her father thought she should major in Science but she really preferred English so she did both.
Patricia left university early to marry and lived initially in Manassas and Arlington, Virginia, both suburbs of Washington DC. While at home raising three young children, she taught sewing and crafts to women on welfare to help them manage on a budget. From her Arlington base she and some friends campaigned for Shirley Chisholm the first Afro-American Congresswoman, the first woman to run for the Democratic Presidential Nomination, and the first black major party candidate for President. “Of course, in the 60s she couldn’t win,” Patricia says, “but we thought it was important that we support her.”
In 1973, she and her husband relocated to Montréal as he had an interesting job offer there and both wanted to experience living in another culture. She continued to volunteer with Brownies and in school libraries. When they divorced, she decided to remain in Quebec so that her children would not have to undergo another move. She turned her sights once again to university education. At Concordia as a part-time student, she studied library science and then computer science, which proved to be a fascinating new field to her and a more likely means of earning a living. Working, studying, and raising children were difficult, but, as she says: “You do what you have to do and I did enjoy my studies.” Ten years later in 1995, she obtained her Masters of Business Administration degree, an achievement that enabled her to be independent and allowed her to go further in the Computer Science field. When she was between jobs, she took a French immersion course and later, at Alcan’s head office, was encouraged to become fully bilingual. As she was developing her career a friend suggested that a good way to meet interesting women and to enjoy good speakers and interest groups was to join CFUW.
Patricia joined the Montreal Lakeshore club in 1995 and became actively involved, serving as its Newsletter Editor (1996-1998), Membership Chair (1998-2000), CFUW Liaison (2000-2004), and President (2002-2004). She became Vice-President Québec (2004-2008) and while in that post, became more interested in the national aspect of the organization and its possibilities as a self-funded, cross-Canada organization of educated women helping women. Patricia served as National President from 2008 to 2010. The previous theme “Visible Voice – Voix Visible” was continued into Patricia’s presidency; however, the theme of her Biennial was “The Right to Speak, the Responsibility to Act”. She believed that the right to speak implied the responsibility to act. During her term, she visited every province except Prince Edward Island. In common with many CFUW Presidents, she regarded meeting women from all across the country as the best part of being President.
Patricia brought a breath of fresh air to a CFUW facing budget restraints due to a decline in membership. During her term, she used her career skills to create a modern communication strategy for CFUW, increase its ability to react more quickly to events, and update its image – all at considerable cost savings. Conference calls replaced the January Board meetings in Ottawa, and e-mails replaced traditional mail. The national website was redesigned making communication with clubs less costly. Online advocacy information was instantly available, online AGM registration was introduced, and new accounting software made budgeting and bookkeeping more straightforward.
During Patricia’s presidency the federal government’s refusal to meet with non-governmental organizations became a major challenge. This refusal was directed in particular at women’s groups many of which were not permitted to advocate at all if they were receiving federal funding. Many were shut down due to the lack of funding. As a self-funded organization, CFUW was not manacled in the same way and continued to speak freely on issues. As a result of this refusal from the governing party, CFUW then directed its presentations to federal opposition parties and provincial legislatures. The 2009 CFUW AGM resolutions on Financial Literacy and Climate Change went even further afield and were presented to the 2010 IFUW Triennial in Mexico.
During her term, CFUW was an active member of coalitions that advocated on issues of mutual concern. Among those were: the Ad-Hoc Coalition for Women’s Equality and Human Rights; the Canadian Network Against Nuclear Weapons; CARE Canada (gender and peacebuilding in Nepal and earthquake relief in Haiti); the Coalition for Gun Control; Campaign 2000 to end childhood poverty; Red Tents campaign on homelessness; ACORN Canada’s Living Wage Campaign, (financial literacy and a national housing strategy); OXFAM (general effects of climate change); the Canadian Peacebuilding Coalition (sexual violence as a weapon of war and women’s leadership in peacebuilding). Together with Peacebuild OXFAM, CFUW met with House Committees to discuss United Nations Resolution 1325 (women, peace, and security) and Resolution 1820 (sexual violence as a weapon of war). Other coalitions that strengthened CFUW’s voice included Voices for a Stronger More Inclusive Democracy, and the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.
CFUW addressed additional significant issues during Patricia’s term in office: gun control, prostitution, pay equity, women in trades, and women and pension reform. CFUW’s position on EI Insurance was presented to the House Status of Women Committee. CFUW also addressed other UN issues, including the will to intervene and the ban on cluster munitions, and helped defeat the introduction of Sharia Law in Ontario.
After her term as President, Patricia continued to be involved in CFUW. She served on the National Board as VP Membership for two terms encouraging clubs to become more active in their communities. Since small clubs are at the greatest risk of closing, Small Club Grants were initiated to help them send a representative to the national AGM and, thereby, feel connected to other clubs and the national organization. Conference calls were held four times a year for groups of small clubs as well as follow-up calls for AGM Membership Workshop attendees, with summary notes forwarded immediately. These calls were very popular and while they were happening, no small club with more than 30 members closed. Another of Patricia’s initiatives was the New Members Award. By assisting clubs to adapt to the changing lives of women, CFUW should no longer be the “best kept secret in Canada,” she affirmed.
Patricia became a member of the CFUW National Membership Task Force and served as the Regional Director Quebec English, finishing in June 2016. She was co-chair of the club’s Issues to Action group from 2014 to 2016 and in 2016 agreed to share the position of CFUW Liaison until 2018.
Looking back at her time as CFUW National President, Patricia says that we may have come a long way but not far enough, adding that “it requires continuing effort to stay where we are and not slip backward.” One of the guiding principles in Patricia’s life has been a phrase of Darwin’s which she paraphrases as: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor yet the most intelligent, but rather the most adaptable to change.”
Patricia Roddy DuVal
DuVal, Patricia, Interviews by Gail Crawford. n.d. TS.
---. “President’s Message”. The Communicator. 15.3 (April 2009): 2./p>
DuVal, Patricia. Messages to Linda Patzold. February to April 2016. E-mail.