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Canadian women during World War II

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  1. Introduction
  2. Civilians and the war effort
  3. Women soldiers: the CWACS
  4. Canadian women during World War II
  5. Conclusion

Women played a crucial role during World War II in North America. For the first time, Canadian women were allowed to enlist and many of them joined the Women's division of the RCAF, the Women's Royal Canadian naval Service or the Canadian Women's Division in the Army? (the CWACS). Though they could not officially fight in front line, they showed bravery. In fact all the women were expected to do much more than just cooking and housework. The country's economy relied on them. In 1939, 63 800 women were in the work force, and in 1944 they were more than 1 077,000. They seemed to be more equal to men than they had ever been before. However the average Canadian woman's condition was far from being perfect and they had to face many hardships.

When the war broke out, Canada was not out of the? Depression era? yet. In 1940, out of a population of 11 million inhabitants, approximately 900,000 workers were unemployed, and only 20% of them were women. In fact, unemployment stood at almost ten percent of the labor force . Many families were suffering from that situation. By 1941 Canada had to face a manpower shortage. There were not enough workers as many men had enlisted and to remedy this lack, women were asked to participate in the war effort. They were regarded as being a large labor reserve . First, single women were encouraged to get a full time job. On September 8, 1942, all the women aged between twenty and twenty-four were required to register. However married women with children were at first not encouraged to work.

[...] Sue Ward, in her memoirs declared that some women succeeded in hiding their pregnancy[23]. They were nevertheless forced to abandon their babies when they were born. Single mothers were rejected from their family and from society[24]. Many women chose to rely on illegal and secret abortion. This is confirmed in Sergeant Sue Ward memories[25]. Women in the army were not taught how to avoid being infected from venereal diseases to the contrary of men[26]. Male soldiers were asked to stay away from women who could transmit diseases. [...]


[...] Many Canadian women had gained status. They did not depend on their husbands anymore, and they were now earning a living. Many married women were able to leave their homes and their kitchens. In fact, the women working in factories did not only work for the love of their country; some worked to support their families. In 1943, The Women's division of the Toronto Employment and Employment Service ran a questionnaire on married female applicants. The purpose of this questionnaire was to understand why women had joined the work force of the women indicated patriotic motives ?desire to supplement family income?, and 32% ?personal needs?[10]. [...]


[...] Canadian women during World War II Women played a crucial role during World War II in North America. For the first time, Canadian women were allowed to enlist and many of them joined the Women's division of the RCAF, the Women's Royal Canadian naval Service or the Canadian Women's Division in the Army? (the CWACS). Though they could not officially fight in front line, they showed bravery. In fact all the women were expected to do much more than just cooking and housework. [...]


[...] They were not supposed to look like men but like pretty women. They had to wear skirts. The emphasis was right from the start put on the fact that they had to remain feminine. Some women became jeep drivers, or mechanics. Their condition was considered as being a temporary period. They fought to help restore democracy in the world. After the war they were expected to go back to their pre-war jobs and to normal life. They were not to make a career in the Army. [...]


[...] Women during the war had gained special rights. They had proved that they were able to do men's work and that they could be relied on. They could be good soldiers and fight for their country. They felt they were more than pretty smiling dolls. Their attitude had also changed. For example at ?Canada sixty per cent of the workers were women, and so ?wolf whistles? greeted every good-looking man who walked through the factory[30].This was completely new behaviour. Those women were not ready to go back peacefully to their kitchens but as the war ended more and more men returned to civilian and took back the jobs they occupied before the war. [...]

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