life and times
hiram who
birth of the auto
border cities
sports heritage

Churchill to Mackenzie King:

“What About Your Women?”

by Elaine Weeks

Shortly after its creation in 1941, Canadian Women’s 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.

1941: 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 weren’t sufficient numbers available, his response, “What about your women – why are they not replacing men as cooks, waitresses, stenos, telephone operators and so on…?” was to change the course of history for the women of Canada.

The Canadian government had already been experiencing incessant pressure from women’s volunteer corps who wished to serve their country. With Churchill’s 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 nation’s history, women were invited to enlist in the rank and file of the Canadian Army.

The Canadian Women’s Army Corps was part of the Canadian Army‘s 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.

Theirs 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.

“We 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 ‘women’s work’.”

Audrey Bennett, unknown sailor and Windsor C.W.A.C. president Margaret Jobin in front of Margaret’s uncle’s restaurant in Smith Falls which she visited on weekends while stationed in Ottawa.

Four representatives of the Canadian Women’s 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

Canadian Women’s Army Corps Pay Scale (1941-45)
(1/3 of what the men earned for the same work)

Private: 90 cents a day
Extra pay for trades:
A Trade: extra 75 cents
B Trade: extra 50 cents
C Trade: extra 25 cents

Local C.W.A.C.Memories

Verna 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, Ontario.

Betty (Clifford) Stewart’s 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”.

Rita (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.

Thelma (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 hadn’t 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, either.

Margaret (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 hadn’t known they’d enlisted until it was too late.”

Three 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 Women’s Army Corps Windsor Association members today.
Back row, l-r: Margaret Jobin, Stella Cookson, Betty Stewart, Beth Anderson,
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



©1999-2015— Walkerville Publishing — All Rights Reserved