#100DaysofVimy – March 22nd, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today:

Mary Riter Hamilton

Trenches On The Somme
“It seemed to me that something was in danger of being lost.” – Hamilton, 1926.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1988-180-38.

Mary Riter Hamilton was born in Teeswater, Ontario and raised in Clearwater, Manitoba. Prior to the First World War, Mary studied art and painted in Europe, gaining considerable attention.

At the outbreak of war, Mary was in Canada, where she continuously attempted to gain permission to return to Europe as an official war artist for Canada. Finally in 1919, Mary returned with the task of  producing paintings on behalf of the War Amputations of Canada, providing them for “The Gold Stripe”, a veterans’ magazine.

Mary Riter Hamilton with Richard Wallace in front of a bombed-out church, France, ca. 1919-1922.
Courtesy Ron Riter & Library and Archives Canada.

From 1919 – 1922, Mary produced approximately 300 paintings, enduring harsh weather, makeshift shelters (at times living in old dugouts) and poor food in a war-ravaged countryside. When she returned, Mary was physically and emotionally drained, unable to ever regain the intensity with which she had painted during those three years. In a final gesture, Mary refused to sell her paintings, instead donating them to the National Archives (now Library and Archives Canada) ensuring that they remained the possessions and memories of all Canadians.

Of her need to visit Europe and record the scenes she saw, Mary said:

I came out because I felt I must come, and if I did not come at once it would be too late, because the battlefields would be obliterated, and places watered with the best blood of Canada might be only names and memories. Of course the great facts of the war would remain, and I could add nothing but my pictures to the essential tragedy and meaning of it all, but it seemed to me that something was in danger of being lost.

I do not think I could re-live that time; and I know that anything of worth or anything of beauty which may be found in the pictures themselves reflects only dimly the visions which came then; the visions which came from the spirit of the men themselves.
(Letter from Mary Riter Hamilton to Dr. Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist, 27 July 1926).

 

#100DaysofVimy – March 15th, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today:

Elsie Holloway

Elsie Holloway’s portrait photograph of her own brother Lieutenant Robert Palfrey (Bert) Holloway, upon enlisting with the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in 1915. Elsie’s portraits of the “First Five Hundred” of Newfoundland’s volunteers are held at The Rooms in St. John’s.
Courtesy: The Rooms Provincial Archives Division, E 11-13 / / Holloway Studio.

Elsie Holloway was the daughter of Robert Edwards Holloway, a well-known photographer in Newfoundland & Labrador. Following the death of their father, Elsie and her brother Bert opened their own photography studio in 1908. By the outbreak of war, Holloway Studio had become revered for Elsie’s portrait photography. As volunteers flocked to the recruiting offices, they also came to the Holloway Studio at the corner of Bates Hill and Henry Street, eager to be photographed in their new uniforms.

Elsie’s work in those first months of the war has become an invaluable record of Newfoundland’s “First Five Hundred” – the volunteers who formed the first contingent of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The majority of the First Five Hundred would not survive the attrition of the Regiment’s war experiences; the Holloway Studio portraits being the sole surviving record of their youth. Even Elsie’s family would not be spared the sorrow, her brother Bert being killed at the Battle of Monchy-le-Preux in 1917.

 

#100DaysofVimy – March 8th, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War.

Today: Farmerettes

In Ontario, the Farm Service Corps recognized the contribution of Farmerettes with this lapel badge.
Credit: Canadian War Museum, Organization Lapel Badge, Object Number 19790520-003.

Although popularized by the Second World War and Canadian icon “Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl” (Veronica Foster), munitions factories were not the only area of the war effort in which women took up jobs. The Canadian Expeditionary Force also needed to be fed, and thus the farms were worked by women who became known as “Farmerettes”. Often sent out into the country from urban areas, the farmerettes were provided accommodation by the YWCA and took part in all aspects of farming; planting, weeding, pruning, harvesting, packing, and shipping.

Farmerettes attend a 1918 Victory Loan & Bonds Parade on Montreal’s Sherbrooke Street.
Credit: George Metcalf Archival Collection,
Canadian War Museum, Farmerettes, Object Number 20030331-019.

 

#100DaysofVimy – March 1st, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War.

Today: Munitions Workers

With the widespread enlistment of men to the war effort, Canadian industry experienced great shortages of manpower.  As nearly every aspect of the Canadian economy geared itself toward wartime production, the need to fill these positions became paramount. Following the example set in the United Kingdom, jobs were opened up to women. Some of the most common images of the period include those of the female munitions workers; responsible for the manufacturing of all types and sizes of war materiel, from navy ships to artillery fuses and bullets.

The number of workers required to fill positions vacated by enlisting soldiers was unprecedented for the Canadian economy.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-024438.
Munitions Workers assembling artillery fuses at the British Munitions Supply Co. Ltd. in Verdun, Quebec.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-024435.

#100DaysofVimy – February 22, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today: 

Nursing Sister Margaret Lowe

In 1920, a plaque was dedicated to the losses of the Ontario Military Hospital nurses, at the Legislative Assembly in Queen’s Park, Ontario.
Credit: Toronto Star, 27 March 1920.

In 1904, the Canadian Militia established the Canadian Army Medical Corps, equipping a very small, but permanent, nursing service. Distinct from all other countries, Canada commissioned its nurses with the rank of “Nursing Sisters”, granting them the equivalent of a lieutenant’s rank. In 1914, only five nurses were on staff. By war’s end, 2,845 nurses had served with the Canadian Army. Nursing Sisters staffed the Canadian General Hospitals that were created behind the front lines in Europe. They assisted in surgery rooms, performed triage, dressed wounds, fed, and cared for the wounded. In close proximity to the front, they were not immune to the dangers of shells and bombs. Nursing Sister Margaret Lowe, of Binscarth, Manitoba enlisted with the Canadian Army Nursing Service in 1917. She was killed when a German air raid bombed the 1st Canadian General Hospital at Etaples, France in May 1918.

The funeral procession of Nursing Sister Margaret Lowe in Etaples, France, May 1918. The innumerable rows of crosses in the background of the photograph indicate the suffering experienced at the field hospitals.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-002569.
Burial of Nursing Sister Margaret Lowe.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-002575.

#100DaysofVimy – February 15, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today: 

YWCA – The Young Women’s Christian Association

Similar to the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) worked to send parcels to troops overseas and raise funds for War Bonds. Due to the extraordinary measures of the war, the Canadian government made the unusual motion of requesting the assistance of charitable organizations in administering the war effort. Consequently, the YWCA undertook tasks such as assisting female munitions workers find  housing (as they were often displaced in order to meet the labour demands of the war effort). The YWCA also developed and supervised the female farming camps established for labourers that moved into the country to work the fields. After the war, the YWCA provided assistance to war brides arriving from the United Kingdom.

The YWCA would have helped organize fundraising drives such as the 1917 Victory Loan campaign that saw the British Mark IV tank “Britannia” roll down Sherbrooke Street in Montreal and crush a car along University Avenue in Toronto.
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-022763.

 

Credit: City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 733.

#100DaysofVimy – February 08, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today: The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire.

The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) is a women’s organization begun by Canadian Margaret Polson Murray of Montreal in 1900. Established during the Second Boer War of 1899 – 1902, the IODE first served as a support group for soldiers sent overseas, providing charitable aid as well as caring for their dependents should a soldier be killed. During the First World War, the IODE’s members sent parcels to troops, organized Victory Bond fundraising campaigns and operated canteens on the home-front. After the war, the IODE worked to commemorate the sacrifices of war and those lost. The organization performed similar functions during the Second World War and in the present day focuses on social service, philanthropy and educational initiatives.

The Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire Rose Ball, held at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto on 28 February 1911. This was likely a fundraising event for initiatives run by the IODE, or possibly for veterans of the Second South African War of 1899 – 1902.
Credit: Canada. Patent and Copyright Office, Library and Archives Canada.

 

#100DaysofVimy – February 1, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War.
Today: Charlotte Susan Wood – Canada’s First Silver Cross Mother.

In 1919, the Memorial Cross was created to be given to the mother or widow of Canadians who had died during the war. In the years following, the Royal Canadian Legion began to annually appoint a Memorial Cross recipient who was to lay a wreath at Canada’s National War Memorial in Ottawa, on behalf of all mothers. Those chosen became known as the Silver Cross Mother. Charlotte Susan Wood became Canada’s first Silver Cross Mother in 1936 when she laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey. Seven of Mrs. Wood’s sons and stepsons served in the First World War and two had been killed in action.

At the unveiling of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Mrs. Wood said to King Edward VIII, “I have just been looking at the trenches and I just can’t figure out why our boys had to go through that.” The King replied, “Please God, Mrs. Wood. It shall never happen again.”

Canada's first Silver Cross Mother, Charlotte Susan Wood, at the unveiling of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Her Memorial Cross can be seen on the far left in the middle row of medals pinned to her chest.  Credit: Canadian Government. Motion Pict. Bureau/National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque/National Archives of_Canada/PA-148875
Canada’s first Silver Cross Mother, Charlotte Susan Wood, at the unveiling of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Her Memorial Cross can be seen on the far left in the middle row of medals pinned to her chest.
Credit: Canadian Government. Motion Pict. Bureau/National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque/National Archives of_Canada/PA-148875

#100DaysofVimy – January 25, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today: Grace MacPherson

At the outbreak of war in 1914, 19-year old Grace MacPherson of Vancouver wrote to both the Canadian government and the British Red Cross, indicating her intentions to help the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Her appeals for assistance rebuked, Grace paid her own way on a transatlantic voyage, landing in France, where she managed to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment. There she became an ambulance driver, tasked with transporting the wounded to safety. During the attack on Vimy Ridge in 1917, Grace drove the wounded back to field hospitals directly from the trenches.

Ironically, despite the resistance of military authorities in the early days of the war, Grace’s presence as a female ambulance driver so close to the frontlines turned her into a propaganda star. Photographs of Grace tending to her ambulance were later used to promote the roles available to women in the war effort.

 

As an Ambulance Driver, Grace MacPherson became a darling of Canadian propaganda for highlighting the roles available to women in the war effort.                    Photos: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/
As an Ambulance Driver, Grace MacPherson became a darling of Canadian propaganda for highlighting the roles available to women in the war effort. Photos: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/

 

 

 

#100DaysofVimy – January 18, 2017

Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today we highlight Julia Grace Wales.

A graduate of McGill University and Radcliffe College, Canadian Julia Grace Wales was an English professor at the University of Wisconsin during the First World War. Shocked by the violence and brutality of the war, she developed and wrote a proposal to end the hostilities, entitled “Continuous Mediation Without Armistice”. Known as both the Canada Plan and/or Wisconsin Plan, Wales proposed that the then-neutral United States could hold a conference at which leaders of neutral countries would mediate between the warring nations. Wales’ proposal was widely-published and backed by the International Congress of Women.

With U.S. President Woodrow Wilson also supporting the idea, Wales travelled overseas to present the Canada Plan to European governments. However, with America’s entry into the war in 1917, the opportunity for the plan dissolved. Julia Grace Wales’ “Continuous Mediation Without Armistice” can be viewed in its entirety at the link below: http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/tp/id/48411

 

Canadian Julia Grace Wales, upon graduation from McGill University in 1903. Photo: Julia Grace Wales / Library and Archives Canada, e002343768 / PA-182514
Canadian Julia Grace Wales, upon graduation from McGill University in 1903. Photo: Julia Grace Wales / Library and Archives Canada, e002343768 / PA-182514