Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today:
Nursing Sister Margaret Lowe
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
Each Wednesday we will highlight women with a connection to the First World War. Today: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Already famous for her Anne of Green Gables books, Lucy Maud Montgomery volunteered throughout the war period. Her 5th book in the Anne series, Rainbow Valley was dedicated to Goldwin Lapp, one of her neighbours’ sons who died in the preparations for Vimy Ridge. Rilla of Ingleside, the 8th book in the series, is set during the First World War, and provides context to generations of Canadians for the ‘home front’ experience in Canada during this period.
Each Wednesday we will highlight the women of the First World War. Today: Florence Mary Kelly
Nursing Sisters were an extremely vital part of Canada’s First World War efforts. Florence Mary Kelly of Summerside, PEI, born in December 1876, enlisted in April 1916. Nurses faced extremely difficult working conditions, and after the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Nurse Kelly looked after hundreds of patients in the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital.
Nursing sisters that took ill themselves often had a notation of ‘general debility’ – they were worn out physically and mentally. Nurse Kelly was diagnosed with debility on May 1, 1917 and spent three months recovering in England. She returned to France and continued service until the end of the war. In August 1919 she returned to Canada as part of the general demobilization and was discharged from service.