Women’s Wartime Volunteer Activities
The Canadian Government imposed wage and price controls during the Second World War. These booklets were distributed widely to women so they could help keep track of prices while shopping. Stores that appeared to be charging above the price ceiling were to be reported to one of 13 Women’s Regional Advisory Committees for investigation.
In rural areas Women’s Institutes were especially active in promoting women’s war services and also took an active role in mobilizing women’s agricultural production. Women were vital in supplementing Canadian agricultural production with so many men away from the nation’s farms.
Additionally, the federal government also relied on women to support rationing, wartime savings program and to maintain the nation’s nutritional standards. The Department of National War Services ran an extensive publicity campaign in both French and English to involve Canadian housewives in the war effort. One ad said: “From the frying pan to the firing line.” The advertisement depicted three women pouring a panful of grease, which magically turned into bombs, over an enemy ship. Housewives were called to “Work at munitions production in your own kitchen.” In response, thousands of women collected fats, paper, glass, metals, rubber, rags and bones for recycling in war production. (2)
The extensive network of regulatory agencies established in Canada during the Second World War demonstrate unequivocally the important role of women volunteers. While the role of the state had gradually expanded in the 1920s and 1930s, it was quite apparent that the federal government was still not capable of fully supporting Canadian troops in the field, or managing the vicissitudes of the wartime economy without significant volunteer help. Women’s voluntary activities spanned a wide range of areas from the traditional knitting and sewing to regulating wartime prices and rationing to selling war bonds. Their story is an important one that needs to be remembered and commemorated by all Canadians.
1. Alison Prentice, Paula Bourne, Gail Cuthbert Brandt, Beth Light, Wendy Mitchinson, Naomi Black, Canadian Women: A History: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Toronto 1988, p. 295.
2. Prentice et al, Canadian Women, p. 297.
Illustrations: My Price Ceiling Record from wartimecanada.ca
Eat Right, Feel Right poster from the web site diselpunks.org