Honouring the Women and Children who Volunteered

by | May 16, 2022 | Public Art

The Volunteers

“Thousands of women and children volunteered during the
Second World War. They provided nursing care, respite,
entertainment and meals. They knitted and quilted, made
clothing for overseas victims of war, ran blood donor
clinics, collected salvage, added war brides and their
children when they arrived in Canada and carried out
countless other services.

To honour those volunteers, the three figures represent
females of all ages: an older woman with her Mi’kmaq
basket and knitting, a volunteer at an African-Canadian
canteen and a young girl gathering salvage items for

High praise to the Nova Scotia Women’s History Society for honouring the voluntary work of women and children of Nova Scotia, indeed of Canada, during the Second World War.  I just discovered this monument and the work of this commissioned artist, Marlene Hilton Moore. I am in awe that this group in 2017 saw the value of this voluntary work and were committed to acknowledging and celebrating it through this permanent work of art.  Their website was also one of the first where I found more information about the quilt making in wartime when I first began to research the quilts, and NSWHS continues to add important information and stories to women’s history in Nova Scotia. Over 50,000,000 items are recorded as being made by women and children and sent from Canada during the Second World War, including supplies for soldiers, hospitals and civilians in Britain and Europe. 

Detail of a woman knitting, with yarn in a Mi’kmaq basket – Bronze monument by Marlene Hilton Moore

The details in these sculptures are noteworthy – the Mi’kmaq sewing basket full of yarn, the wagon of salvaged metals, the tray of food being served – all of these offer a glimpse into just a few of the voluntary tasks that the women and children of Canada engaged in throughout the war.  And the artist has depicted different races, histories and generations in these three female figures.  This is the first monument I know of that acknowledges women’s voluntary work during wartime or periods of social upheaval. 

Detail – The Volunteers – Marlene Hilton Moore

Do you know of any other such permanent tributes to women’s voluntary work placed in public spaces, anywhere in the world?  Investigate and share.  Let’s discover the communities that have chosen to know and shed light upon the unpaid contributions of women to any cause, raised the funds and created the space to memorialize the work through a permanent historical record and visual tribute to inspire conversation and further research.  Public monuments shed light upon history and challenge the narrative. Of course, sometimes that history is controversial, but by its nature of being public, public art can uncover what has been hidden.