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Women and the war effort

I tried to reflect some of the changes in the role of women during the war. Most of the women in the novel, such as Katherine MacNutt and Mrs. Ramsey, tend to be middle class or upper middle class. In most cases, they engaged in fundraising and charitable works. Many took it upon themselves to hand out white feathers to help in recruitment efforts.

There were various clubs and associations such as the Women’s Canadian Club, Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), and Belgium Relief Committees . They were heavily involved in fundraising and sending clothing and food packages to the soldiers and prisoners of war.

In some cases, their efforts were less than stellar, as one soldier remarked he didn’t know whether to wear it as a scarf or a sock.

I was shocked when I read reports that they raised money to buy ambulances for the Canadian Expedition Force (CEF) and machine guns for the 77th Battalion. When you read the history of recruitment and supplying the military, this was not unusual. This was the last gasp of the tradition from private donations to buy and equip troops. During the Boer War it was Lord Strathcona who raised, equipped and paid for the Lord Strathcona Horse, a Canadian cavalry unit.

Also, during this period women were engaged in the Temperance movement, as well as agitating for the vote. In 1914 they had a mock Parliament in Winnipeg.

Sources and further reading


Queen’s University Archives - Women and the War

Nurses, - History of the First World War - People

The Children’s War, - History of the First World War - Life at Home During the War

Historicist: The Women’s Home Guard | culture | Torontoist


Quiney, Linda J., "Bravely and Loyally They Answered the Call": St. John Ambulance, the Red Cross, and the Patriotic Service of Canadian Women During the Great War. History of Intellectual Culture, 2005, Volume 5, No. 1