Attack on All Fronts: Mobilizing Women

The development of a wartime industry and recruitment by military services led to an unprecedented pressure on the country’s human resources. With the growing need for manpower, the government turned its efforts to a different type of power: WOMEN. The government soon began directing its effort to coordinating the war effort and redirecting men and women into key industries.

Various initiatives were implemented to boost the wartime effort. The government and its information services was able to push this shift through propaganda posters and publication to encourage participation in wartime participation.

By this time there were already women employed in war work, however these women had been working prior to the beginning of the war. But these women were of the lower class, driven to work for economic necessity. 

To get the women of the middle class to participate in the wartime economy became the true goal of the government.


This was easier said than done as the previous rhetoric for middle class women during the interwar period was one of strengthened ideals of femininity and domesticity.

So the question becomes how did the socially accepted representations of womanhood change from concepts of piety, domesticitiy, moral or conversely pleasure-seeking, sexualized, and selfish to the wartime representations of strength, hard working, and diligent?


The information services (Bureau of Public Information and later the Wartime Information Board) was largely responsible for developing a campaign that would influence women to  participate in the war work force.

The WIB was responsible for the coordination if existing public information service of the government, the supervision of the release from government sources, and the facilitation of Canadian War Information both internally and externally. It was their duty to encourage wartime effort and patriotic fervour. 

The WIB and other information services released various different types of propaganda including preparing radio broadcasts, reference booklets, posters, pamphlets, and films. At the start of the Second World War, newspapers were still the dominate means of communication, but radio was making a climb. News reels were also played before movies. 


War Posters and publications are an excellent tool to study the mobilization of women in the home front war effort. The war posters and publication books were produced for specific audiences and purposes. They were not designed to record or document, they weren't produced to last and be read in the future, but instead were produced for their specific time and place. 

Pictures, such as wartime posters, can provide historians a different insight than those of textual or oral based primary sources. As a result, the Canadian war posters are a signpost for Canadian mobilization efforts and are a helpful resource for historical research in understanding the social, cultural, and political beliefs of the time.


So what did this new and improved representation of women look like? How were the information services able to develop this image?

There were many challenges associated with mobilizing women, including the reorientation of femininity for a wartime workforce. Mobilizing woman had a dual process: (1) the need to define the woman place in the war effort and (2) fashion it in such a way that it did not undermine existing established gender roles. 

Imaging of women had to balance highlighting the social life around industrial work and glamorizing female workers, these photographs offered up war time work not only as a patriotic sacrifice but also an adventure.It was key for factory work to be fashionable and in vogue, if the profit of employment was not enough incentive, then women could be encouraged if it was considered a glamorous job. 


The Wartime Information Board released many publications and images pertaining to women involved in the work place to illustrate that society's accepted perception of womanhood was compatible with the wartime work. One example of this manufactured propaganda was Veronica Foster.  

Veronica Foster became the idealized woman of Canada, think of a counterpart to Rosie the Riveter. She was modelled to be the perfect version of a middle class woman. She enacts competence as a labourer, dressing in practical clothing and heading of too work, taking her her place with other women and men on the factory floor. In stark contrast, the remaining images present her in a hyper-feminized manner as possible. Indicating women can both be practical workers and also a feminine woman who fits the socially accepted image of a woman. 

Attack on All Fronts: Mobilizing Women