Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (T. McAvity & Sons Ltd. Collection, P49-11).

War Industry Workers Attaching Base Portion of Shells, n.d.

 

In addition to military responsibilities, the war imposed a new sense of social duty upon Canadians. The nation had both to support the soldiers on the battlefront and to maintain the families of those soldiers at home. Canadians rationed consumer goods, recycled, grew gardens (to reduce the demand for farm produce), and volunteered in unprecedented numbers for war work on the homefront. The responses of voluntary and charitable organizations, like the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, the Red Cross, the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Women's Patriotic Leagues, were also immediate and enthusiastic. Canadian women, in particular, were active in these organizations.

National Archives of Canada (PA-800010, photo by William James Topley).

Women's Canadian Club, Ottawa, Ontario, September 1918.

These women are putting together parcels for wounded soldiers.
City of Edmonton Archives (Loyal Edmonton Regiment Collection, A96-215).

Detachment of the Canadian Army Corps Nursing Sisters aboard the Metagama, 7 June 1915.

The nursing sisters played a vital role in assisting the myriad Allied casualties of the First World War.

Women's contributions to the war effort often changed both their own attitudes and those of men. Canadian women volunteers in Europe organized hospitals, clubs, and nursing homes for soldiers. In Canada, women volunteered countless hours. Women workers in industry were also desperately needed because so many men had joined the military. Thousands of women took their places working in clerical jobs, banking, and war industries; about 35,000, for example, made weapons, and others did jobs previously closed to them in such industries as iron and steel. In Canada's military forces, women were members of the Army Nursing Service. And some Canadian women joined Britain's services, the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs) and the Women's Royal Naval Service (WRENs). Women were now more vocal in support of their rights. And many male political leaders became convinced that women deserved the vote. How could politicians stand for a war in defence of liberty and democracy and at the same time deny the vote to women?

Canada; An Illustrated Weekly Journal, 3 March 1917 ©Chinook Multimedia Inc

"Canada Has Built Her Prohibition Bridge. England Is Building."

Other reform causes also gained impetus from the war effort. Prohibitionists argued that young men in the army must not fall victim to alcohol and lose their effectiveness as soldiers. Furthermore, the liquor industry used products better utilized for food. This newspaper advertisement urges Britain to follow Canada's example and stop the liquor traffic in order to secure victory over its enemies.
Glenbow Archives (NA-3818-11, cartoon by C. H. Forrester).

Justice Balancing Man and Woman on Scales, Calgary Eye Opener, 8 March 1916.

 

The breakthrough for supporters of women's suffrage came in the West. In 1916, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta gave women the vote and in the next year, British Columbia and Ontario followed. Soon, the Borden government would be forced to follow suit. (The Maritime provinces gave the vote to women after the war and Quebec finally enfranchised women in 1940.)


 

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