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In 1939 the men went to war and in the early 1940's the women who were left home filled in where once only men worked. Up until then women were expected to marry, stay home and raise children. Women did not have careers. Often women were asked to leave their jobs if they married. Choices for women were ”…marriage, nursing, teaching, working in an office, very rarely in a position of authority, or work in shops or factories. There were the rare pioneers who fought for their places in universities to become doctors and lawyers.” P2.p2, On the Double, Matilda!
It was only when the pinch for workers was felt at home because most of the men had gone to war were the women called on mass into the work force. “They worked in the munitions factories. They learned how to drill, weld and rivet and to make the tools of war. Women took over office jobs, jobs that had formerly been men’s.” P2.p2, On the Double, Matilda!
Women kept the farms going. Most of “these women had never shoveled snow, stoked a furnace, made decisions, or balanced the bankbook". P3.p1, On the Double, Matilda!
These dutiful daughters, wives and mothers were at this period in history, expected to stay at home, cook, dress for dinner and serve the meal. This was the standard mold the women of this period were expected to fit into. Then came the war and for the first time women on mass entered the work force. Some of those women even went further, they enlisted. Today we see that as a good thing but in their day the thought of women serving was beyond the acceptance and understanding of most of the people of the day. These women trained and took jobs that freed even more men to go overseas but were often looked down on by the local people and even their families. They were, without knowing it, stretching that man-made mold of their mother’s generation, something the generation of the time was still not ready for.
It is often said that if we forget our past it will come back to haunt us and we will relive it again. These pages are for us to remember those girls who deared to enlist. They served their county and without knowing it they served to better the lives of the future female generation.
Today women are an integral part the work force. It is natural to see women in the working outside the house. Going places, living on their own, driving cars, buying houses, having children on their terms. Women today have even taken on more rolls in our military and are now even trained as active soldiers.
This change in the role of women started when the war ended and these girls, now women, returned home. They were expected to give up their jobs and fit nicely back into that pre war female mold. Most did, but they now knew that there lives could be different. They had expanded the female mold creating little hair-line fractures. In their daughters they planted the seed that they could have more then their mothers. In time those daughters again expanded that mold forcing its roots out cracking that mold so their daughters would expect and demand more from their lives.
This is the legacy of these women. They gave the next generation of women the wings to soar to new hights and discover their role in the post war era.
Many thanks to Mary Grant who is a volunteer at CFB Esquimalt Naval & Military Museum
Mary heard about this website and sent me the information she had gathered on Newfoundland women and I am now working to post that information to this site.
"On the Double, Mat ilda!" (73 pages) by Audrey Sim Shortridge
Please press this Link, for Information to order this book. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for ordering information.
Note of interest:
I came accross this Quote in one of those emails that is sent out:
" A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to ' Canada ' for an amount of 'up to and including my life.'
That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.' "