Women's WWII Work
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Women's WWII Work in Chilliwack, BC

Women's War Work Lapel Pin

Even though oceans separated them from the fighting overseas, women on the home front passionately contributed toward a broader agenda of relief during the Second World War. Ladies adopted vital roles that reached out to many recipients; they reinforced soldiers not only in their backyard, but their aid also reached individuals in the armed forces overseas and deprived Europeans. Their genuine concern for those in active service, and devotion to their country, allowed women to get involved in agencies and find personal fulfillment and respect. Groups allowed for social interaction that was an appreciated distraction from the reality of the destruction overseas.

Red Cross Blood Donation

The Women of Chilliwack appropriately combined their war contributions with the efforts of the Chilliwack Red Cross Society that was founded in April 1928.1 Various women’s organizations agreed to pool their resources in September 1939, in order to “prevent waste and inefficiency” and thus hoped to ease numerous financial appeals on the public.2 The Red Cross allotted specific areas where women’s work was required; women communally connected under registered charities and less conscious organizations that contributed to larger efforts. Chilliwack ladies were involved in a plethora of groups that sought unique and significant ways of contributing to the Allied powers’ success.Canadian Red Cross Poster

Their legitimate hard work in volunteering and clubs reaped thousands of dollars in donations by callings to action every man, woman, and child, who were encouraged to use their abilities in any way possible. The local newspaper published advertisements which placed immediacy on the need for women to fill duties in paid positions to release other men for combatant positions; women saw new career opportunities as a result of the war, especially in wartime industries. Though it was often financial need that persuaded women to learn new skills, in courses or in the paid workforce, a popular Canadian magazine notes that “the rising status of what many women had regarded as the ‘rather dreary’ position of housewife” was a meaningful result of new opportunities outside wartime households.3 Women had a sense of direction from larger agencies on the home front which created a local patriotic identity throughout the war time period where the war effort was at the forefront of community pride.

 

 

Red Cross Knitting Instruction BookletsWar Mothersby Irene Baird in the Vancouver Sun4


“There must be thousands of them today throughout the Dominion these mothers of the Canadians who are overseas…The waiting that these Canadian mothers are doing is done far from the scene of actual events and it has not the compensation of quick glimpses of the boys over short leaves…I do not think that any mother with a son overseas no matter how great her good sense can conduct herself throughout the difficult course of a war without a great measure of self-sacrifice and self-control than she would otherwise have demanded of herself. Whatever it may appear on the surface it is not the easiest thing in the world to bear a son, watch him grow and send him away with the full understanding that he may not return. I do not think that a day should go pass but what we pay homage to these Canadian women in our silent hearts nor deceive ourselves that what they are giving is for every one of us.”

 

1The Chilliwack Progress, April, 28, 1928.

2The Chilliwack Progress, September 13, 1939, p, 5.

3Keshen, Jeffrey A, Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers: Canada’s Second World War (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004), 147.

4The Chilliwack Progress, reprinted on December 11, 1940, p. 3.