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ARCHIVED - Canadian War Industry during the Second World War

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Highlights of the Collection

Themes

Private/Public Lives


Veronica Foster, an employee of the John Inglis Co. Ltd. Bren gun plant, known as 'The Bren Gun Girl' poses with a finished Bren gun at the John Inglis Co. plant

Veronica Foster, an employee of the John Inglis Co. Ltd. Bren gun plant, known as "The Bren Gun Girl" poses with a finished Bren gun at the John Inglis Co. plant
e000760403 Source

Veronica (Ronnie) Foster, employee of the John Inglis Co. and known as 'The Bren Gun Girl' having a beer at the Glen Eagle Country Club

Veronica (Ronnie) Foster, employee of the John Inglis Co. and known as "The Bren Gun Girl" having a beer at the Glen Eagle Country Club
e000760447 Source

 

Veronica Foster, an employee of John Inglis Co., known as 'The Bren Gun Girl', inspects a lathe at the John Inglis Co. Bren gun plant

Veronica Foster, an employee of John Inglis Co., known as "The Bren Gun Girl", inspects a lathe at the John Inglis Co. Bren gun plant
e000760409 Source

Two female Dominion Arsenals Ltd. munitions plant workers cross the river to Qu ébec by ferry

Two female Dominion Arsenals Ltd. munitions plant workers cross the river to Qu ébec by ferry
e000760779 Source

 

The Perry Sisters, employed at the Dominion Arsenals Ltd. plant, armed with rake, watering can and pitchfork, help look after the vegetable garden where they are working

The Perry Sisters, employed at the Dominion Arsenals Ltd. plant, armed with rake, watering can and pitchfork, help look after the vegetable garden where they are working
e000760773 Source

French-Canadian women Dominion Arsenals Ltd. munitions workers enjoying a leisurely day sun-tanning

French-Canadian women Dominion Arsenals Ltd. munitions workers enjoying a leisurely day sun-tanning
e000760769 Source

 

The War changed many aspects of social and work life for Canadians, and perhaps most significantly for women. The diversity of roles women had during the War are highlighted by a number of series.

The series named "Mrs. Jack Wright" illustrates the life of a mother who also works in a factory. In some instances, the photo caption depicts her as a wife and mother, she is shown tucking her children into bed, enjoying a day at the beach with them, purchasing groceries or visiting with a neighbour. In other photographs, she is unnamed and is attributed as simply a "factory worker" or a "Canadian mother" leaving her children at a daycare while she goes to work. The fact that one person is depicted in different roles with different captions raises interesting questions. For instance, what was the purpose of these photographs? Where were they distributed? Why was there a subject title of "Canadian Families" - was Mrs. Wright's role typical for many married women in the War?

Another interesting series features Veronica Foster, or "The Bren Gun Girl" whose after-work activities are documented, including going to a factory-sponsored dance. Here she models a hat and evening clothes in preparation for the evening out, to jitterbug with a male colleague.

A series of images taken by photographer Harry Rowed provide a personal and intimate view of the day-to-day routine of the Perry sisters, Céline, Hélène and Roberte, all employed at the Dominion Arsenals Ltd. munitions plant in Quebec. They include a trip home to Sainte-Foy, and a romantic date that Céline and Roberte have with their boyfriends, Private Leopold Desjardins and Corporal Pierre Levasseur. Rowed provided a wartime snapshot into the lives of these women, as well of some of their friends and associates. Further, he showed some of the workplace cultural values and differences between these workers in Quebec and those only a few hundred miles away in Toronto.


 
 

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