Canadian Women and World War Two Women played a comparatively small role in Canadian society before the beginning of World War Two. Before the onset of World War Two, women were not welcomed in the work place that men already occupied. Canadian society had fixed roles for women in society, and those roles were to work in the household and other jobs that were considered for females. Women were expected to stay at home and take care of the children and the household. Men also believed that women were not capable of doing the jobs of men, or deserving of earning the same wages as men. Women faced many challenges and a great deal of opposition in trying to further their place in society. However, World War Two changed many of these views and was a huge boost for increasing the role of women in Canada. World War Two would change many of the impressions that Canadian society had of women, and World War Two would further define the importance of women.
The war was crucial for defining the importance of women in Canadian society, but the role of women was not defined without opposition and many challenges. These challenges would not end at the end of the war.
There are many examples that describe the hardships that were faced by women in World War Two as they tried to further place in society. The examples give a sense of Canadian society trying to limit the progress of women during the war. The articles from the years during the war revealed opposition that was not in the conventional forms of confrontation or violence, but in the form of rumors and misconceptions. These rumors were about the “women serving in the Army Corps and in the Women’s Division R.C.A.F.”1 There were ideas in Canadian society at the time that life for women in the army was very simple and rather easy. There were rumors going around in Canadian society “that these girls live a soft and easy life, doing practically doing no work at all.”2 These rumors in the society of Canada only made things difficult for women and tarnished the efforts the women were making during the war. Canadian society’s failure to accept that women were only trying to do their part in the war effort only further delayed the progression of women in Canadian society. The women not only faced these rumors during the war, but also faced many stereotypes throughout the war. The women in the army during the war faced some very degrading stereotypes that were created in the society of Canada. Women in the army were labeled as having no morals and that woman in uniform lived loose lives.3 These types of rumors and misguided stereotyping during the war only diminished what women were trying to do during the war. Women would persevere through the war years and continue to try to increase their place in society. Women not only faced opposition from society during the war, but they face opposition from men also. During the war women joined men on jobs that were previously occupied by men only. Some men in Canada despised the success of women at such jobs as airframe mechanics during the war. A member of the RCAF (women’s division) explains, “ one girl on our station who was an airframe mechanic-one of the very few in that trade. She passed all her trade tests with flying colors, which irritated some of the men, because they had to try several times before making it”4. During the war men realized that women were capable of performing the same jobs at an equal level or in some cases women were even better. Some people in Canadian society were starting to realize the capabilities of women during the war and that women possessed some very valuable abilities that could benefit the Canadian war effort. A factory supervisor stated during the war that, “she [referring to a woman] does the job as well he [a man] does… and with less fuss and swearing.5 These types of comments during the war were welcomed by women but detested by some men. Some men in Canadian society felt that women were not capable of performing the same jobs as men and at the same level as men. During the war women faced a feeling of jealously from men who were not very appreciative of the success of women.
Women in Canada thought that there place in society would be defined at the end of the war. Canadian women felt that they had done everything possible for Canada “except fight”6. However, some women felt that there efforts were not considered nearly as important as the men who were actually fighting. Most Canadian women realized even though they had done great work for Canada’s war effort, they would have to return home to their conventional jobs. Canadian women felt that since they had done what they could for Canada, they should have every right to choose what they wanted to do. A former member of the RCAF stated, “I want my own freedom, now, because I’ve proved that I’m smart as any other person…”7. Also some women felt that work during the war had gone unappreciated by all of Canadian society. A former member of the RCAF stated that not even her family cared about what she had done during the war8. She also felt that it seemed as if she was just supposed to forget what she had done and simply fit in9. Canadian women who had participated in the war effort had the sense that their efforts during the war had been forgotten and almost as if they gone unseen by Canadian society. The war gave Canadian women a feeling of importance and belonging but all this seemed to end with the war. A women said, “During the war I felt like somebody, I was recognized, and then it was all over and I was nobody again.”10 Women who had joined the war effort felt they were only important during the war and after the end of the war, all their efforts were forgotten.
Canadian women had to face many challenges as they tried to progress their place in society of Canada during the Second World War. These challenges only helped make women in Canada stronger mentally and try harder to succeed and prove that the views of some Canadians were very wrong. Canadian women persevered and had to face a great deal of scrutiny from fellow Canadian citizens as they tried to do their part in the war effort. The war helped women make great progress during the war and helped women define their role in Canadian society but there were still many challenges that remained. Women’s role in Canadian society was not defined without challenges that came from many different areas of Canadian society during World War two. Women of Canada would overcome these challenges over time and through the decades.