My keen interest in the lives of Canadian women during WW1 stems from the novel I’m currently writing set in that same era. Prior to the war, women of middle- and upper-class families were monitored by chaperones. Working-class women, in whom I’m most interested, were unchaperoned but constrained by what society deemed “good” behaviour. The status quo took a drastic turn when, starting in 1914, the number of young women moving far from home began to climb. More women earned their own money, spent at their individual discretion. The sight of women smoking and drinking in pubs caused an uproar among traditionalists who were further shocked with changes to fashion. With so many women in the workplace finding long hair unsafe and dresses impractical, hairstyles grew shorter (and masculine in the view of some), hemlines continued to rise, and trousers became common.
Many shared concerns that the women flooding the workforce would result in the erosion of morality, a quality equated with patriotism. Anxieties rose around concerns of sexual impropriety and the sanctity of marriage.Continue reading “Canadian Women During WW1: New Freedoms and Old Pressures”