Riveting Rosies: Ephemera and Photographs of Canadian Women in the Second World War
Below are ephemera (items only meant to be used for a short time) and photographs from Toronto Public Library's Baldwin Collection and Toronto Star Photograph Archive, respectively. All are available on the library's site, Digital Archive Ontario.
When Canada went to war in 1939, women were called upon to do their part. Before the war conventional thinking was that a married woman belonged in the home. But with a diminishing male workforce, that role quickly changed. Women raised money for hospitals, volunteered in a variety of organizations and preserved food by planting "Victory gardens" of fruits and vegetables for their families and communities. Women and girls — some as young as 11 years — sold 25-cent War Savings Stamps for the federal government. By the end of the program, they had raised $318 million.
Advertisements like these appeared everywhere. Some used the imagery of women in danger to persuade citizens to finance war efforts in the form of Victory Bonds. Other campaigns asked women to do their bit by collecting materials that could be recycled into munitions and other war material.
Thousands of women volunteers also made their own clothes, knitted socks, scarves and mittens for the men overseas, and assembled packages of chocolate, sewing kits and razor blades for the troops.
As the war dragged on and the labour shortage grew, women were called upon to fill jobs left vacant by men. And although employers were at first reluctant to hire women to work in heavy industry, it was clear that women were desperately needed to win the war. At the start of the war 600,000 women held permanent jobs in the private sector. By 1943 that number had doubled with more than 300,000 involved in the production of war goods such as guns, bullets and airplanes.