What Will You Do?

Canadian Women’s Organisations during the First World War (An Exhibition with the help of The Champlain Society)

By Canadian Centre for the Great War

Canadian Centre for the Great War

Women of Ottawa | Are you knitting for the Boys. [poster] (1914/1918) by Women's Canadian ClubCanadian Centre for the Great War

Women’s volunteer organisations in Canada...

were credited by Robert Borden as having raised over 50 million dollars during the First World War. In addition to money, women and girls collected food and clothing, knitted for soldiers, wrote letters, and made hospital visits. Image: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-690V

Canadian Field Comforts Commission, Shorncliffe, England (1916)Original Source: Library and Archives Canada

Groups like...

the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), the Red Cross, and the Canadian Field Comforts Commission focused their efforts on providing much needed supplies to the wounded in hospitals, prisoners of war, and the soldiers serving on the front. Image: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada / PA-0005197

The Canadian Mother, Vote Union Government. (1914/1918) by Union Government Publicity BureauCanadian Centre for the Great War

Others were politically active, ...

in both the pro-war and anti-war movements, the temperance movement, and in public health campaigns against venereal disease. The National Council of Women and the Suffragists’ War Auxiliary were committed to improving the lives of women, even during the war. Women’s groups also participated in the Union campaign to encourage conscription in 1917. Image: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-731

Service at the Front Flag (1917)Canadian Centre for the Great War

Patriotic organisations, ...

like the Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club, participated in recruitment activities, and raised money to buy war bonds. The Women’s Canadian Club also made and distributed “Service at the Front” flags, which were given to families with members serving.  

Subscription quiltCanadian Centre for the Great War

Even when they were not volunteering, women were expected to participate in many “home front” activities.

Including voluntary food rationing, scrap collection, food preservation, and vegetable gardening.

Subscription quilt (close-up) (1916)Canadian Centre for the Great War

By the numbers

- 1.5 million dollars of Canadian Red Cross funds were surplus in 1919. - 2000 women were trained in first aid during the war by St. John’s Ambulance. - 1 million dressings, garments and other goods were produced by the Nova Scotia Red Cross during the war.  - 500 000 dollars was raised by Women’s Patriotic Association of Newfoundland during the war.  - 45 000 dollars in war bonds was donated throughout the war by First Nations patriotic associations. - 5 ambulances were funded by the Salvation Army for service at the front.  - 61 000 letters to soldiers serving overseas were written by members of the Ottawa Women’s Canadian Club. 

Credits: Story

Documents provided by The Champlain Society.

Research by G. Steel and N. Milne.

All photographs from the CCGW/CCGG Collection unless otherwise mentioned.

The Canadian Centre for the Great War would like to thank The Champlain Society and Library and Archives Canada for access to their collections.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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