The Little Street That Went To War

by | Apr 13, 2022 | History, Research

I have been thinking a great deal about how women form community to support each other individually, as a group and to support a cause, and how sewing and quilt making is often the basis of this community gathering.  This article from The Winnipeg Tribune in December 1943 has inspired me to look for other examples in primary sources that show evidence of this in other communities during wartime. 

This article was sent to me after a recent guild presentation about ‘Canada’s Forgotten Wartime Quilts’, when a guild member was reminded of this page pasted into her grandmother’s scrapbook.  She wasn’t sure why it was there, as the newspaper date was after her grandmother had died, but she thought perhaps a relative had added it to the scrapbook because her grandmother had lived on the street that was mentioned in the article. You can read the article here:

Detail from ‘The Little Street that Went to War”

I have been excited to find more articles like this in The Winnipeg Tribune, and interestingly, though not surprisingly, these culturally rich articles are written by women.  Three women writers I have noted at the Tribune during this time period are Lillian Gibbons, Margaret Morton, and Verena Garrioch.  More about their writing in future posts. One article (no byline) from December 8, 1944 headlines:  “Women Contribute Liberally in Sending Help to Britain”.

“How loyally and promptly the women of Manitoba and Saskatchewan have responded to the new need of bombed Britain was revealed at the board meeting of V-Bundles of Manitoba in headquarters, 215 Somerset building, Wednesday afternoon.” 

The article goes on to list the names of over sixty groups that had recently responded to this ‘new need’.  This detailed listing of names of groups is not uncommon in regional newspapers.  It appears to be a way of thanking and acknowledging groups of donors; perhaps it also inspired and encouraged.  I was just going to share a few of the most interesting group names, but as I read them I wanted to share them all with you.  Consider that each group exists of itself, but also represents individuals – women of different ages, religious affiliations, generations and life circumstances.  They chose to gather together and produce prolifically for the same cause, and this list of group names also forms a new grouping that represents the cause. Here are the names of the groups from just one article, listed as “Special Contributors of Clothing”: 

“Arnaud Women’s Institute; Churchill group of Neepawa; Deloraine Women’s Institute; Delta Delta Delta Mother’s club; Engineers’ Wives; Morris W.I.; Harmony chapter, O.E.S.; Hawkshaw Sewing Circle of Watrous; Idalee Sewing Circle; Patricia chapter Kandid Club; Quota Club; Queen Winnipeg Chapter, O.E.S; girls of the Royal Bank; Sutura Club; Teullon Red Cross; Winnipeg Women’s Institute; W.P.A.; Young Women’s Club, Oak Lake; Watrous V-Bundles; W.M. Eastern Star of Guernsey, Saskatchewan; Work-to-Win, Winnipeg; Whirlwind club; Waskado W.I.; Young United church; Beresford War Workers; Beausejour W.I.; Winnipeg Windows club; Birdinia and Portia W. I.; Baldwin W.I.; Cadillac Homemakers; Eaton’s Adjustment department; Ellesboro War Workers; Morris W.I.; Gladstone W.I.; Hamiota Red Cross, Mrs. Ham’s group; Fairlight Saskatchewan Homemaker; Inglis W.I.; Kipling Patriotic Club; Ladies of Bangor; Brandon Canadian Legion; Miniota W.I.; Night and Day Club; Norwood Church of Christ; Norwood United Church; Newdale Patriotic Club; Neepawa Women’s War Work committee; Old Timers’ Club of Winnipeg; Oak River W.I. ; O.E.O. club; Winnipeg Plum Coulee W.I.; Roblin V-Bundles; Roland W.I.; St. Matthew’s Church; Souris and Glenwood V-Bundles; St. Andrew’s Church, River Heights; St. Thomas Church Mothers’ Union; Swan River United Church; Stiles Street Group; St. James Gospel Hall sewing group; St. Alban’s Quilters;  Unitarian Church; Ninga United church; U.C.T. Ladies’ Auxiliary; Whitewater W.I.; Manitoba Civil Service Association War Service Branch; Winkler W.I.; Winnippeggers’ Club, and many others.” (note that “and many others” is not my wording, but was the statement that closed out the article.)

What groups did your mother, grandmother and great-grandmother belong to, when they gathered with other women to work for a cause.  What did the women have in common with the other women in their group?  How did they choose which group to belong to?  How did they come up with a name for their group?  Were these formal groups of the twentieth century an extension or continuation of nineteenth century farming and quilting ‘bees’ in some way?