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women and war Women’s History Month 2005 contributions and consequences

by Jude MacDonald | October 5, 2005

During Women’s History Month 2005, Canadians of all ages are invited to discover the contribution that women have made to our war efforts and to maintaining peace, as well as the consequences that conflicts have had on their status and the recognition of their rights.

— Status of Women Canada fact sheet

Women have served the military as nurses, mechanics and airplane pilots. More recently, they’ve fought and won the right to join fighter squadrons or artillery and armoured units. But women have also stood strongly on the other side: for peace. Since its creation, CoolWomen paid special attention to women during times of war, wherever they stood. “Women and War: Contributions and Consequences” is the theme for this year’s Women’s History month. For its part, CoolWomen brought you a sampling of the website’s related features.


Miyoko Ohtake
In 1942, after Japan entered World War Two, the Canadian government passed the War Measures Act, stripping 20,000 Japanese Canadians of their property and forcibly moving them to internment camps where they were confined until after the War had ended. All this to allay fears of any Japanese spies or secret agents living in Canada.

The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser
In recognition and in remembrance of the Holcaust, we present an excerpt from a book for young people (8 to 11) by Kathy Kacer. Kathy’s mother, Gabi, was a young Jewish girl living in what was is now Slovakia (then part of Czechoslovakia). In 1942, government forces started to deport Jews from Slovakia. At one point, the target of the deportations was young, single girls. In Gabi’s voice, her daughter Kathy tells what Gabi experienced, and how she survived to eventually come to live in Canada.


Sister, Nurse: remembering World War Two’s women in white caps
During the course of the war, these heroines, aged between 24 and 26, served their country with steadfast courage. These brave women, commissioned officers, contributed in their own way to the liberation of Europe.
A speech by the Honourable Lucie Pépin

Civilization and the caring profession
They have stitched wounds in remote coastal outports and helped women give birth safely in isolated northern outposts. They treated gold prospectors who contracted typhoid fever on the Klondike Trail in the early twentieth century. They donned uniforms in both world wars – in fact, they were the first female military officers in the world. And they bravely risked their own health as they donned masks and gloves and cared for gravely ill patients during the Toronto SARS outbreak of 2003. “Whether it was 350 years ago or today, good nursing care can make the difference between a patient surviving or not,” says Christina Bates, the exhibition’s curator.


Acts of war, acts of peace, acting for equality
Since she was a teenager in strife-ridden Sri Lanka, Toronto’s Regi David has worked for peace, and to ensure women’s rights. More than once, she’s risked her life because of her commitment. “I could think of no better role model for any woman.”

Muriel Duckworth – Peace Activist
At a time when mainstream society still viewed traditional women's roles as domestic and passive, Muriel Duckworth emerged from the margins as one of Canada’s most ardent female pacifists. Her own story, of how a shy farmer’s daughter from Québec’s Eastern Townships found her voice in a rapidly changing society, plays a huge part in the story of the rise of the female voice in Canadian politics in the last half of the 20th century.


Robinson, Lt.Col. Shirley M., CD(Retired) – Nurse
Look out Xena, Warrior Princess! Few Canadians know it, but there is a history of women warriors extending as far back as the 5th century B.C. and Lieutenant Colonel Shirley Robinson is a part of it. After 30 years of highly distinguished service as a senior Nursing Officer and Administrator in Canada’s Armed Forces, Robinson’s retirement in 1984 could easily have been time to rest on her hard-won laurels. Instead, it evolved into a 15-year period of entrenchment ensuring that equal opportunities for women in the military became more than just “policy.”

This feature was first published on’s predecessor site CoolWomen.


  • Seasonal Feature

  • April 1994: the night raid at Kingston’s Prison for Women

    by Sierra Bacquie

    There was supposed to be a new approach to the Correctional Service of Canada’s relationship to female offenders, who were promised responsible choices, respect, dignity, supportive environments, and shared responsibility. But on the night of April 26, eight women experienced humiliation, degradation, raw fear and trauma at the hands of an all-male emergency team. How did this happen? What has changed since?  read more