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Frances Wasserlein is a feminist, historian and social activist. Her research and social activism has focused on issues surrounding women's liberation. She completed a Master of Arts degree in history at Simon Fraser University in 1990. Her thesis, "An Arrow Aimed at the Heart": the Vancouver Women's Caucus and the Abortion Campaign, 1969-1971, investigated the history of the Vancouver Women's Caucus (VWC) and their organizing work for the Abortion Caravan from Vancouver to Ottawa in 1970.
Wasserlein was raised in Vancouver. She graduated from the University Program at Little Flower Academy in 1964. Wasserlein acknowledges becoming a feminist in 1976. At the time she was working as a secretary at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Her involvement with the union, and a summer job working at Vancouver Rape Relief contributed to an interest in social justice and social change. In April 1977 she left her job at UBC and began full time undergraduate studies at that university. She completed a BA (honors) in history in 1980.
During the summer of 1979 Wasserlein worked as a researcher for the Women's Office at UBC on a project related to the early contributions of women to the establishment of UBC and the role women played in student activism at the university. In 1979 and 1980 she worked with a small group of women to begin Battered Women's Support Services, providing self-help groups for women who were seeking an end to the violence that had driven them and their children from their homes.
After receiving her BA from UBC, Wasserlein worked for the YMCA as a co-manager of Munro House for eighteen months. Following that, she worked as a researcher and writer with the Women's Research Centre, working on studies related to the institutionalization of women's services. She supplemented her income by doing bookkeeping for various arts and non-profit organizations. Wasserlein worked on founding Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) in 1982. She was also involved in the work of Women Against the Budget in 1983, a political group opposed to the legislation tabled by the Social Credit government following their victory in the 1983 provincial election.
Her interest in the source of conflict between and among individual women activists, and between and among women's organizations, motivated her to seek out the source of these conflicts by examining the history of women's movements in Canada. In 1982, she applied for a Canada Council grant for a women's history project she wished to undertake. The grant application was turned down. In 1985 she enrolled in a Master of Arts degree program in history at Simon Fraser University. After completing her MA, Wasserlein taught women's studies at Langara College in Vancouver, BC until 1997. She has also worked as a sessional instructor at SFU. As of 2002, she was employed as the executive producer of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.