This page is dedicated to the women of Manitoulin Island who worked on the home front to provide aid and comfort to our military overseas.
At present the majority of material has been generously donated by Rick McCutcheon, publisher of the Manitoulin Expositor and taken from a current publication Women of Valour which honoured the Women Veterans of Manitoulin. This issue was released prior to the dedication of the Women’s Memorial at Veterans’ Memorial Gardens on Saturday, September 15, 2001.
If you find these stories interesting, why not drop Mr. McCutcheon a line and let him know you appreciate his contribution.
Anyone having stories, letters or remembrances of Manitoulin women who served their country from the home front is invited to share those memories here. Please submit to Manitoulin Women Veterans
WOMEN PREPARE KITS FOR OUR MEN OVERSEAS
by Neil Zacharjewicz
MANITOULIN–While soldiers were off defending our rights and freedoms, there was another effort going on right here at home.
On Manitoulin, women were doing what they could to prepare boxes to send to the men overseas, loaded with all manner of comforts. Mrs. Vi Vincent, a lifelong resident of Little Current, recalls women filling boxes with whatever they were permitted to send to the soldiers. Cigarettes would be packed into boxes, as would fruit cakes (because they would not spoil). A number of the women would knit and sew socks. Anything the ladies felt the soldiers might need, they would send.
“We tried to make an assortment which would suit everyone,” Mrs. Vincent explained. “We tried to do it at least once or twice a month.”
While the Women’s Institutes and the Red Cross did a lot of organizing, everyone was willing to help, Mrs. Vincent said. She recalls the late Freida Turner being a great worker, even though she had the extra duty of having to look after the family store. “It was not hard to get helpers. I cannot remember a time when I did not help,” she said. In addition to whatever they could make, the ladies would do what they could to raise money to purchase items to put in the boxes, Mrs. Vincent suggested. They were always happy to receive new names of soldiers to send to, and all of the volunteers understood whatever was packed would have to be able to last the trip overseas, as the men on the front lines might not get their boxes right away.
Once the boxes were packed, Mrs. Vincent said, they would be taken to the post office to be mailed out to the troops.
The Women’s Institute were also very busy doing whatever they could to support the war effort. Looking back over the books of the Mindemoya Women’s Institute, there were a number of things they were involved in during the years of the Second World War. The Mindemoya Women’s Institute was responsible for raising enough money to build a community centre through euchre parties. They contributed flannelette blankets for newcomers from Europe. During this period they also held two banquets to help raise funds, according to long-time Mindemoya W.I. member Hilda Taylor.
The Women’s Institute knitted sweaters which were turned over to the Red Cross and donated clothing to the Children’s Aid Society.
They did mending for the hospital, and helped out the needy families in the community. They also raised money for the Hospital for Sick Children. During the time of the war they sent 15 parcels to Britain through the Ontario Personnel Parcel Services.
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001
Tobacco shipped to overseas troops
(Editor’s note: Times change. During the First World War, the Manitoulin Chapter of the Women’s Patriotic League fundraised for a Tobacco Fund in order to send tobacco and cigarettes overseas to the troops. This short news item, headlined “Tobacco Fund” is from the March 23, 1916 issue of The Manitoulin Expositor.)
The tobacco sent to our boys overseas by the Women’s Patriotic League. Mrs. Patten $1.00, Mrs. McDonald $1.00, Mr. Hay .50¢, B. Becks .50¢, W. Becks .50¢, Mr. Bradburn.50¢, Mrs. Price $1.00, Mrs. Turner $1.00, Miss Tatham .50¢, Mrs. Kennedy .50¢, Mrs. Patterson .50¢, A Friend .25¢. A. Friend .25¢, A Friend .50¢, A Friend.75¢, Mrs. T.C. Sims .50¢, Mrs. Trotter .50¢, Miss Dawson $1.00, Ruby English $1.00, Mr. Dawson Tobacco and Cigars.
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001
RED CROSS NOTES
Manitowaning shipments for November
BRITISH CIVILIAN CLOTHING
12 large quilts, 9 crib quilts, 15 wool skirts, 15 blouses 16 yrs. 11 Pantie dresses 2 yrs., 12 infants dresses, 12 infants woollette jackets, 6 prs. Knitted booties, 3 bonnets, 2 jackets, 2 pr. Mitts, 1 baby kimona, 1 slip, 1 diaper, 1 wash cloth, 1 crib sheet, 4 prs. Girls bloomers, 4 prs. Pyjamas, 9 dresses, 5 skirts, 2 windbreakers, 1 nightgown, 1 women’s nightgown, 2 women’s dresses, 1 boy’s shirt, 1 pr. Short stockings, 65 boy’s flannelette undervests, 25 prs boy underpants.
ARMY & AIR FORCE COMFORTS
13 khaki sleeveless sweaters, 13 prs khaki regular socks, 9 prs khaki gloves, 4 round neck long sleeved sweaters, 6 prs airforce socks
10 prs 26 in. long stockings, 9 prs 18 in. long stockings, 10 prs navy plain heavy service socks, 6 navy sleeveless sweaters, 6 prs gloves, 1 pr whole mitts, 12 tuck-ins.
DONATIONS RECEIVED SINCE SEPTEMBER SHIPMENT
Gratefully acknowledged with thanks – 11 quilts Busy Bee Club, Clover Valley; 1 large quilt L.O.B.A Manitowaning; 1 crib quilt, Mrs. Commins sr. 1 crib quilt Mrs. David Pyette; buttons from Clover Valley, Mrs. Fred Gorley, Mrs. P. Clarke, Mrs. Warren and Mrs. L. MacDougall. Quilt patches and 6 spools of silkline, Mrs. McLaughlin. Quilt interlinings, Mrs. Wallace, 1 dress 8 yrs., 1 dress 4 yrs. Mrs. C. Sim, 4 yrs dress material, linen thread and silk thread, Mrs. John Phillips.
THE SLASH W.I.
5 girls skirts, 2 windbreakers, 4 prs. Pyamas, 1 nightgown, 1 dress 16 yrs. 1 women’s nightgown, 1 boys shirt, 2 infants dresses, 1 slip, 1 diaper, 1 wash cloth, 1 crib sheet.
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001
RED CROSS SHIPMENT
January 13, 1944 -issue Manitoulin Expositor
The following is a list of articles comprising the December shipment made by Manitoulin Red Cross Branch. The work groups of Sandfield, Tehkummah, Big Lake, Rockville, Providence Bay, Spring Bay, Kagawong, Billings and Meldrum Bay all contributed garments for this shipment which was completed and packed at the Central Work Room at Mindemoya.
British Civilian Supplies: 5 boys knitted suits, 2 yrs; 3 girls sweaters, 2 yrs; 3 girls sweaters, 8 yrs; 2 large pillows, 3 small pillows, 24 quilts.
Greek Relief: 26 boys pants, 8 yrs.; 27 boys shirts, 8 yrs.; 61 girls dresses, size 12; 41 prs bloomers, 12 yrs.; 32 boys coats, 8 yrs. Russian Relief: 13 girls dresses, size 8; 6 bloomers, 5 sweaters, child’s jacket and kimona, 25 bys coats, 8 yrs.
Hospital supplies: 100 Turkish towels, 393 khaki handkerchiefs. For Capture parcels: 123 bath towels, 104 hand towels, 30 prs. Pyjamas. Knitting: 24 sleeveless sweaters, 15 turtleneck sweaters, 14 prs 18 inch sox, 15 prs. Sox, 8 prs. Mitts, 19 tuck-ins; 1 pr Seamens long stockings, 11 khaki sweaters, 1 helmet, 3 prs gloves
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001<
Red Cross Notes from 1943
Article originally published May 27, 1943
February 200 articles
Army and Air Force knitted comforts. 42 pairs regular socks, 28 pairs mitts, 21 sleeveless sweaters, 15 pairs gloves, 11 helmets, 10 turtleneck tuck-ins, 2 scarves.
Seamen’s comforts: 10 long sleeved turtleneck sweaters, 13 pairs 26″ long stockings, 20 pairs 18″ socks, 19 pairs plain, heavy service socks, 8 sleeveless sweaters, 1 pair half mitts.
British civilian clothing: 27 large quilts, 1 cot quilt, 12 crib quilts, 2 knitted afghans, 20 tweed skirts, 20 blouses (14-16 years) 10 nightgowns (14 years), 10 pairs children’s bloomers, 5 pairs women’s knickers (size 46), 2 women’s dresses, 15 pairs boys pyjamas, 2 boy’s blouses, 1 shirt, 1 windbreaker, 1 pair pyjamas, 7 cloth beanies, 9 girls dresses (8 years), one skirt, one blouse (8 years) 8 pinafore dresses (6 years) 8 blouses (6 years) 1 suspender skirt, 1 blouse, 4 pairs girl’s pyjamas, 1 nightgown.
Hospital supplies: 100 rolled cotton bandages, 3″; 10 4″; 100 small safety pins; 55 surgical towels.
The following donations gratefully acknowledged with thanks, Dec. 1942. Manitowaning L.O.B.A. 1 quilt Clover Valley Busy Bee Club, 2 The Slash W.I. 2 girls dresses, 1 nightgown, 1 pair bloomers, 4 pairs pyjamas, 1 baby jacket, 1 kimono, 1 boys shirt, 1 windbreaker, Manitowaning 1943: Mrs. John Phillips, 1 quilt; Mrs. John Clarke 1 quilt, Mrs. Phillip Clarke, Mrs. Geo. Morrison, Mrs. Wm. Overfield quilt; Mrs. H.W. McLaughlin, 1 knitted afghan and 7 yards broadcloth.
Mrs. McPhee, 2 women’s print dresses, quilt patches and inner lining. Mrs. Robert Connell, 3 ¾ yards print. Mrs. A. Wyman, several part skeins of wool, quilt patches; Mrs. Wm. McDougall, Mrs. E. Boose and E. Ferguson, quilt patches.
Clover Valley Busy Bee Club, 19 quilts
My sincere thanks and appreciation to all who so faithfully carried on during my absence and made these shipments possible. Also to Mr. Reuben Hembruff for his kindness in transporting supplies to and from Little Current.
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001
Women kept industry going while their men were at war
By Michael Erskine
MANITOULIN- As the modern war machine that had been built by the Nazis in the 1930s rolled across the face of Europe, the magnitude of the forces arrayed against the Western democracies soon made it apparent that everyone would have to do their part if there was to be any hope of victory.
Canada resisted the use of women in the military for much longer than Britain. It was not until 1942 that the Canadian high command decided that women could fulfill certain non-combatant roles within the armed forces that would free men up for duty at the front. By wars end, there were nearly 50,000 women who had signed up for the various female branches of the armed forces; one in nine would eventually serve overseas (not counting the nursing sisters).
The contribution of women to the war effort was far larger however, as over 1.2 million women flocked into the work force: 439,000 in the service sector; 373,000 in the manufacturing sector, 180,000 in the commerce and finance sector; 31,000 in communications, 4,000 in construction and 261,000 in war production, are the official numbers. Not included in that figure are the millions of women who struggled to maintain a family home, farm or business while the men were away at war. During the war years, women were employed in the manufacture of the tools of war, as well as the everyday items necessary to life, which still had to be produced albeit in the reduced numbers of the wartime economy. This flood of women into the workplace and the military services was not welcomed by most men, who almost universally felt that a woman’s place was in the home.
The war economy provided jobs for women, albeit at salaries often less than a third of their male counterparts, and a measure of freedom and confidence that would eventually lead to the more egalitarian culture that we have today. Even though the salaries paid to women were much less than that paid to their male counterparts, it was still twice as much as they would earn working as a mail order clerk at the Eaton’s Department Store.
General Motors put women on a special “Victory Shift” with the understanding that the shift would be eliminated after the war. Women were segregated into certain departments which were deemed more suitable to their ‘delicate sensibilities.’
As the Imperial Munitions Board of Canada announced in a publication just shortly after the beginning of the war, “Twelve months ago no thought of woman labour was in the minds of any manufacturer. Experience has now proved that there is no operation on shell work that woman cannot do; and, as a matter of fact is doing, even to the heavy operations which require great physical strength. Proper selection of female labour makes this work equally suitable for women.”
The production of guns, fuses and shells, all in urgent demand, was met in large part by the huge numbers of women who poured in to fill not only the void left by enlisting servicemen, but the increased demand for labour that the rapid buildup of industry required.
The efforts of women were even more remarkable, when it is considered that they were often expected, as they largely are even to the present day, to continue to maintain the family home fires and other domestic family obligations at the same time.
Nonetheless the prospect was exciting for young women, many being away from home for the first time in their lives.
“It was exciting,” said Isabelle Brouse of Little Current. “I was living in Massey when I heard about a course in reading blueprints, I took the course and wound up working for Inglis in Toronto.” Before the war, the Inglis factory in Toronto was, as it is now, engaged in the business of making domestic appliances such as washing machines. It was quickly converted over to make machine guns and other weaponry.
Women entering the work force found themselves engaged in long hours of often heavy labour.
“The hardest part to get used to was the shiftwork,” said Mrs. Brouse. “At 4 a.m. in the morning you really start to get very tired.” “There were 17 girls living together in a house north of Casa Loma, in Forest Hill Village on Spadina, north of St. Claire,” she said. “They had cots set up for us and lots of fridges and stoves and things.”
Mrs. Brouse was a young 17-year-old, raised in a rural environment when she went to work in the Inglis factory, and she does not recall any overt attempts to keep them from being corrupted by big city life. It was never a question.
“W e were all ladies,” she said, “I, of course, never smoked or drank, and I was the youngest there, the baby from the country,” she laughed. “Everyone kind of looked after me.”
“I had an aunt who lived in Toronto,” she explained. “With all the street lights and lights flashing, I was looking around in wonder, I must have looked like a real tourist.”
Mrs. Brouse had received training just before the war on a new machine, the Comptometer Adding Machine, a very early mechanical computer that would see her working for Confederation Life Insurance after the war, unlike many of her compatriots who would find themselves relegated back to the hearth when the boys came home.
As the war ended and the men did return, women were quickly laid off in the hundreds of thousands, and when retooled factories once again began pumping out consumer goods, men were hired to fill the openings.
Married women found themselves unemployed first, but many of the single girls followed shortly thereafter, in those days when companies could make those kinds of distinctions. Women were originally hired in the same way: married women were hired only after the supply of single women were exhausted. This overt discrimination was ended when the United Autoworkers won a landmark arbitration in 1954.
The Second World War was the first instance of the widespread implementation of day care services in the country. The need for women in industry during the Second World War was definitely understood by the country’s leaders, as a speech entitled, “Facing Realities,” by Elliott Little, director of selective service on September 15, 1942, illustrates: “Not only will we need the single young women, but also married women with the exception only of those with considerable family responsibilities. The introduction of women into plants which have never before employed women obviously necessitates provision of suitable plant facilities exclusively for use by women. The employment of mothers of young children also entails provision for proper day care of their children while the mothers are working. As you know, arrangements have been made already by the Selective Service with the provinces of Quebec and Ontario for the financing, establishing and supervising of adequate day care.”
Day care issues remain to this day, as the numbers of women in the economy far exceeds the percentages seen during the war.
The contributions of women were not appreciated after the war by most people, eager to forget the years of fear and deprivation, and in opening their arms to the returning men, little was officially said or done to honour women, said Colin Pick, co-chair of the Women’s Memorial Committee, let alone the contributions of those who served on the home front.
Women of Valour
September 12, 2001