Women in the Workforce

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The term woman at work has two different meanings when examined historically. The first meaning a historian would think of would be from the 18th century when women at work meant women working in the household. The work that women did adhered to the patriarchal structure, such as cooking, cleaning and making clothes. Around the time of World War II work for women began to mean something different. Women were entering the paid labour force specifically during 1939-1945 when they were needed the most to help men in the war. When World War II started, Canadian men and women stepped up to help the British Empire during this tough time. Although there were not very many women who participated in the war itself, we must remember that women stayed home and kept the labour force together while the war was occurring. The ideology of working women changed drastically during World War II, this was when most women started to enter the paid labour force in nursing as well as other areas of paid work and paved the path for women in the future. -------------------------------------------------

Before World War II, women were the homemakers. They stayed at home and took care of household duties for their families, but when World War II started this role became to change because most men were going to participate in the war. Before the war had started women were staying home and doing all the household duties that men assumed were only womanly jobs. “It was within family decisions that they decided who should stay home to look after the children, and do the housework and who should earn wages, commonly it was the women who stayed home and the man who made the money.”1Bradbury shows in her article that the family sphere during the war was that women stayed at home and men did the paid labour outside of the household. The roles start to change quickly and drastically once World War II started in 1939. 1.Bettina, Bradbury. “Gender at Work at Home: Family Decisions, the Labour Market and Girls Contributions to Family Economy” Labouring Canada(2008)71 -------------------------------------------------

“Almost immediately after Canada’s entry into the war, women across Canada took the initiative, creating organizations to coordinate women’s volunteer war work.”2 There were many organizations that women created and used to help contribute to men’s lives while they were gone, women tried their hardest to help in every way possible while the war was going on. These organizations created by women did things for soldiers like distributing ration cards, recruiting, and training volunteer staff in wartime day nurseries, promoting the sales of bonds and encouraging the sewing and knitting of ditty bags for the serviceman and few women overseas.3 Without these organizations women would have devoted all their time to their children and household work which was how it was prior to World War I. Although the government was urging women to do their part in the war effort, it was something that women thought was mandatory of them since they were still at home while men were overseas. Women were homemakers before the war started, they were also called upon to “abide by and enforce rationing, prevent waste and save and collect materials that could be recycled for use in war products.”4 Women who participated in these organizations were mostly in the urban community, the rural women contributed differently. The rural women would also take the place of the missing male in their household, so this meant they would do the farming, take care of the animals as well as the housework that she was doing on a regular basis. Sometimes the double work load became too much for women since taking care of the children and house was a full time job in its own sense, she would ask one of the male neighbours who had not gone to war 2. Ruth Pierson, They’re Still Women After All: the Second World War and Canadian Womanhood (McCelland & Stewart, 1986) 7 3. Pierson....
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