On a recent wander into an antique mall, I found several issues of an old magazine called The Canadian Countryman. I love vintage magazines and have quite a stash, but lately I am focusing only on Canadian periodicals during wartime. In this issue from Saturday, November 15, 1941, two years into the war, I found an article with wonderful details about rural women’s war work.
This article by ‘Cherry’ (last name not provided) opens with this editorial:
“Major-General L. R. LaFleche summed it up succinctly when he said, ‘this is the hardest war we have ever waged. To win it, we must have the whole-hearted co-operation of the whole country, because this war, in the final analysis, must be won by spiritual effort.’ That is, of course, where the women of Canada come into their own. That is where the women of our own Shoulder-To-The-Wheel-Club Groups are standing out as bright and luminous stars in the darkness. There is with them that spiritual effort which lifts their every record of accomplishments into the superb. They realize more and more deeply as the days wear on that, in very truth, this IS a woman’s as well as a man’s war”.
It appears that The Canadian Countryman ran a monthly ‘Shoulder-to-the-Wheel’ contest where women’s groups, rural groups in this case, would submit a letter outlining the work that their group had completed that month. The periodical would designate a winner based on that letter. In October 1941, the winning club is the ‘Cold Springs Institute’ near Cobourg, Ontario. The prize was $25 which would likely have been re-invested by the Cold Springs Women’s Institute for purchasing more supplies to make more items to send overseas.
The second prize, or ‘Encouragement’ prize of $10 went to the Red Cross Unit in Tamworth, Ontario, which is north of Kingston where I live. Just pause to read the list of the accomplishments of seventeen women in one month.
I am in awe as I read these extensive and detailed lists of production by rural Ontario women’s groups for just one month in the middle of the war. Another issue of The Canadian Countryman tells how women had to take over more of the work on the farms as their sons and other young men who would have been hired as ‘hands’ had enlisted in the military. These women were so busy. And yet, they met and sewed and knit and raised funds and held dances and helped their children with salvage drives and on and on… ‘Shoulder-to-the-Wheel’…