Churchill to Mackenzie King:
What About Your Women?
by Elaine Weeks
after its creation in 1941, Canadian Womens Army Corps selected
Athene as its symbol (at top of article) and with it,
the motto, Dulcit Amor Patrice (In Love of Country,
We Serve). In Homer, Athene is the Goddess of Wisdom.
In the Iliad, Athene appears as the goddess of Counsel, a true friend
of bold warriors.
After two years of what was proving to be a devastating war, British
Prime Minister Winston Churchill asked the Canadian government for
more men to go into active duty. When he was informed that there
werent sufficient numbers available, his response, What
about your women why are they not replacing men as cooks,
waitresses, stenos, telephone operators and so on
to change the course of history for the women of Canada.
Canadian government had already been experiencing incessant pressure
from womens volunteer corps who wished to serve their country.
With Churchills request and the reality of dwindling manpower
making it impossible to send over enough men, a reluctant Army allowed
women to serve in supportive roles. For the first time in the nations
history, women were invited to enlist in the rank and file of the
Canadian Womens Army Corps was part of the Canadian Armys
support system working at home, and short distances behind
the front-lines as need arose which freed fighting men for
action overseas and in battle. The 21,624 C.W.A.C.s who served for
their country from 1941-1945 facilitated the release of more than
a full division of male troops for combat service.
was an unsung role, created to get a job done despite opposition
to women in the military from both within the Canadian Army and
from the Canadian public, including their own families.
were the first liberated women, declares Margaret Jobin, current
president of C.W.A.C. Windsor Association which formed in 1947.
Many women in Windsor were already working in the war plants
before they joined. Our jobs had already changed from traditional
Audrey Bennett, unknown sailor and Windsor
C.W.A.C. president Margaret Jobin in front of Margarets
uncles restaurant in Smith Falls which she visited on
weekends while stationed in Ottawa.
Four representatives of the Canadian
Womens Army Corps filed past the coffin of Corporal
Ronald Culpan, the first soldier buried in Windsor who died
of injuries from enemy action overseas in WWII. Culpan was
wounded while with the Essex Scottish Regiment in the raid
on Dieppe on August 19, 1942. Pictured is Margaret Tobin (saluting)
with Tina (Virgina) Yusaw on her right
photo The Windsor Daily Star
Womens Army Corps Pay Scale (1941-45)
(1/3 of what the men earned for the same work)
90 cents a day
Extra pay for trades:
A Trade: extra 75 cents
B Trade: extra 50 cents
C Trade: extra 25 cents
Kavanaugh drove ambulances for 3 1/2 years including a stint
in England, meeting trains and ships to transfer wounded soldiers.
She has kept through the years, an ID card of Peanut Pewee,
a small dog which adopted CWACs stationed in Brockville,
(Clifford) Stewarts job was to pack parachutes for paratroopers.
From 1944-45, Betty worked in a Manitoba hanger carefully folding
and packing 80-yard, nylon parachutes. We worked at long tables
the parachute would be tied to one end, recalls Betty.
It would take about 45 minutes just to pack one chute.
(Berthiaume) Wessel vulcanized rubber tires for trucks (upgraded
old tires for reuse). She remembers that the tires were larger than
her. I could stand inside of them, she laughs.
(Wighton) Waldron worked in London, Ontario processing monthly
leaves and then discharges for the Canadian army. One day as she
was bent over writing a form, she heard an order, I want to
go to Windsor on CP and make it snappy sister! It was her
brother William whom she hadnt seen in four years.
After the war, women veterans were not allowed to join the Legions.
Beth (Friedl) Anderson, a C.W.A.C. from Saskatchewan, who
also was a regular on a radio show during the war, moved to Windsor
with her husband, (also a war vet) in 1941. She was refused membership
to the Legion. In her defence, her husband did not join the Legion,
(Tobin) Jobin, president since 1983 of the CWAC Windsor Association,
was stationed in Ottawa in the Department of Military Training as
a secretary in the Russian section of Foreign Publications during
the war. In 1995, she travelled with some other C.W.A.C.s to Holland
for the 50th Anniversary of the Liberation. It hit us hard
to see the graves of the boys, the brothers and husbands that we
knew from Windsor. And then to see some of their real ages - 15
or 16! These boys had lied about their age to get into the army
and their parents hadnt known theyd enlisted until it
was too late.
thousand C.W.A.C.s served overseas in Great Britain, Italy
and Northwestern Europe during WWII.
C.W.A.C. Windsor Assoc. members
c. 1968. Pictured above who are also in 2002 group photo (below):
far left, middle row Mildred Blyth, 3rd from left middle row Pearl
Hatton (founder of the group), 6th from left middle row Thelma Waldron
Canadian Womens Army
Corps Windsor Association members today.
Back row, l-r: Margaret Jobin, Stella Cookson, Betty Stewart, Beth
Vera Haines, Lorraine Labute, Cecile Treleaven, Louise Vincent,
Jean Forbes, Mildred Blyth Front Row, l-r: Christine Lewis, Thelma
Waldron, Rita Wessel, Verna Kavanaugh, Eva MacEachern, Sheila Seal