War in the Face of Inequality with Barbara Dickson

War in the Face of Inequality with Barbara Dickson

Posted on March 8 by Barbara Dickson in News
Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on Pinterest

When Canada declared war on Germany in September, 1939, women from across the nation went to war on the home front. They stepped up, doffing their aprons and donning factory uniforms to bridge the gap with a sombre commitment to do whatever was required to bring their men home. Battles on the frontlines raged while women in Canada braved hardship, managed food rations, raised their families, and often worked in highly dangerous conditions.

For over 17,000 inexperienced women who worked at the country’s largest top-secret munitions plant located in Scarborough, Ontario, work life meant handling high explosives. Some armaments were no larger than their thumbnail. One misstep carried dire consequences: a massive explosion not only ending their lives but those of their co-workers as well. In spite of this ever-present danger, they showed up faithfully for their six eight-hour shifts every week for four years.

The management team at General Engineering Company Limited in Scarborough, in conjunction with the federal government, recognized the vital importance of empowering their employees to rise to their own level of excellence, to serve proudly, with distinction in all they did, bringing their best to the world around them. Women were encouraged to seek promotion, to serve in their communities, to help victims of war, to better themselves through education, exercise, and nutrition. Empowered women made better choices for themselves and their families, ensuring Canada met its potential as a world-leader with an enviable standard of living.

There’d be little argument that these women, some as young as eighteen years old, were courageous, tenacious, and dedicated. Yet, they were so much more. These were Canada’s finest: mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters. Their men went to fight and they went to work without a thought for their own safety, security, or comfort. They rolled up their sleeves to bring an end to the horrors of armed conflict, to restore peace in a world assailed by hatred, to offer their children and future generations a chance to live a better life.

Many war workers returned to their domestic duties after the war, but their invaluable stint in the workforce proved women were more than able to do the work of men, and do it well. More so, they taught their daughters what steadfastness and hard work could achieve; that no profession was out of reach when they were armed with a good education and strength of character; that opportunities abounded when women sought a greater position in post-war society.

Canada's 2016 International Women’s Day theme of “Empowerment Leads to Equality” champions the effort started in war-time factories seventy-five years ago. We must never forget that the freedom we enjoy today was bought by the blood of brave men, and by the sweat and tears of the dedicated women behind them — women who taught us to hope in the face of hardship, to take courage in the face of adversity, and to declare war in the face of inequality and oppression.