During World War II, almost 50,000 women served in Canada's Armed Services. Over 4,500 women were Nursing Sisters (all officers); 750,000 were in the war industry; 440,000 in civilian labour force and 760,000 on farms. Practically all these women were born before women were declared persons in Canada in 1929.
Women of the War Years is a record of the stories of women who faced challenges never dreamed of as they served in our Armed Services and worked for the war effort. Recorded here are the memories of a child who never knew her father until he returned from overseas after World War II. Other stories include the personal experiences of those women who lived through the occupation of their homeland by Nazi troops as well as the story of a child who survived 2 years in a Russian concentration camp. In addition, there are many stories of war brides who as young women experienced so much.
Women of the War Years is an important historical reference. Women of this era, who earned two-thirds of a man's pay for equal work unknowingly were the pioneers of a movement that would see their status improve.
A vital contribution and an impact on our history was made by these women. These stories document this fact. Those assisting with this project realized the need to record these stories before they would be lost with that generation. Several publications of men's experiences of that time were available but few were written about women.
Almost 200 submissions of women's personal stories were received from across Canada, the United States, Great Britain and New Zealand. Because of the assistance of family and friends , Women of the War Years became a reality and was published in October 2000.
Women of the War Years is a not-for-profit project. Proceeds, if any, will go towards assisting students in the health care field.
Peggy Galloway was the driving force for the collection of the stories of Women of the War Years.
For more information, she can be contacted at (204) 476-5828.
THE WAR YEARS
Brandon Sun ~
Monday, April 17, 2000
|When we talk about the Second World War, reference is always made
to the gallant men who gave their lives to ensure we would live in the
greatest free country in the world. Seldom are women mentioned. Yet hundreds
of thousands of women played key roles in that war at home and abroad.
More than 50,000 served in the Canadian Armed Services, while a further 440,000 were involved in civilian labour forces, 750,000 in war industries, 760,000 on farms and another 4,5000 were Nursing Sisters (all officers, incidentally).
A group of women, who were connected through Royal Canadian Legion Auxiliaries, heard the stories of these women through their families, friends and associates. They decided that if those stories were not recorded in some fashion they would soon be lost with that generation.
So they decided to produce a book they would call Women of the War Years. It was an enormous undertaking but Peggy Galloway of Gladstone recruited Janet and Neil Goertzen and Catherine Smith of Gladstone, Bernice Nerbas of Brandon, Ruth Emisch of Carberry, Maureen Cox and Velma Clayton, Anna Dee Erickson and Bernice Welden of Dryden along with other family and friends to gather the stories for the book.
They were plagued by family illnesses which set their targeted deadline back. However, response to the book was overwhelming and they received more than 180 submissions. They came from all over Canada, the United States, Great Britain and even New Zealand. As an interesting aside, most of the women involved in the war effort were born before they were declared persons in Canada in 1929.
But the book is now close to completion and they are currently planning its launch in Gladstone Legion Hall. They have not yet decided on a date, but Peggy said it would be set soon.
She also said the committee is still accepting donations to help defray costs of the book. If you would like to donate to the project just make your cheque payable to the Town of Gladstone with a reference that the cheque is for the Women of the War Years and send it to Box 593, Gladstone, R0J 0T0.
Collecting war-time stories leads to recognition
by David Schmeichel
Herald Leader Press
Tuesday, January 23, 2001
Like every good publisher, Peggy Galloway knows the value of a good story.
2. Book highlights women's war-time experiences By David Schmeichel
3.Heroines recognized for contributions By Ken Waddell
4. WOMEN OF THE WAR YEARS By Lyndenn Behm
5. Remembering the women who served By Lindor Reynolds
Preserving women's memories of war
By Maria Calabrese ~ "The Daily Graphic" ~ Saturday, April 8, 2000
Gladstone - A woman, now living in Winnipeg, her siblings and mother suffered and starved in a Russian concentration camp during the Second World War for two years, even though the war had been over a year before they were aware of it.
A five-year-old girl is reunited with a father she never knew until he returned to Canada after serving overseas.
War brides remember what it's like to wake up in the morning wondering if they'll be married or widowed by the end of the day.
A quiet project rooted in Gladstone intended to collect stories from women in Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario who lived during the war. Now Women of the War Years: Stories of Determination and Indomitable Courage has evolved into a historical reference with over 180 submissions from women throughout Canada as well as the United States, Great Britain and New Zealand.
"I realized the importance that these stories be recorded," said Peggy Galloway who launched the ambitious undertaking in 1998. "A lot of veterans were trying not to talk about what happened, and a lot of their families didn't know."
Listening to stories from her husband, himself a veteran, family members and others planted the idea in Galloway's mind -- a book would store some of these memories that would otherwise be lost since the average age of these women of the war years is over 78.
Galloway relishes the irony that most of the book's participants were born before Canada recognized women as "persons" in 1929.
"I think more families are writing family histories, but we need to recognize the significance of having the stories of women during the Second World War so later generations know what they were doing," said Janet Goertzen, the project's secretary, who was born after the war. "Even though we heard a lot about (the war), we really didn't understand what war meant and what the experiences were. You hear it over the years and you read it in books and newspapers, but to actually read these (first-hand accounts) is far more enlightening."
The stories can be grouped as accounts from women who stayed in Canada while their husbands fought overseas, women who lived in occupied countries and women from England.
Women also surrendered personal photographs for the book including one from Gladstone resident Mary Tester pictured with other war brides immigrating to Canada during the war aboard the Queen Mary.
"It was interesting thinking of all the things that happened to me before," Tester said. "I wrote what it was like to be a war bride. It was very exciting, and yet when you look back on it, it must have been terrifying. I don't know that I could do it today."
Galloway committed herself to the project by opening a bank account using her own money, but organizers have never raised money for the book. Instead, they're hoping to pay the $32,000 bill for printing just 1,000 copies through pre-paid orders and a grant received from Manitoba Heritage and Culture. They're still awaiting word on potential federal funding.
"It has been 55 years since that war ended, and I think that the people in charge today are really not aware of the significance of this history to mankind," said Catherine Smith, the mayor of Gladstone who has also been volunteering as the project's treasurer. "Maybe that's one of the reasons we haven't heard back from people we thought we might have received donations from. I grew up through the war, and I knew every time word got back that someone had been killed how devastating it was to the community, but they weren't women.
"We had some women from our area who were in the forces, but you didn't associated them in the same field as you did the men. Now I am more aware of what the women dealt with."
The book isn't expected to be printed by Leech Printing Ltd. in Brandon until July. The only editing will be for grammatical accuracy and clarification of facts without sugarcoating some of the horrific realities that stain some of the lives recounted within its covers.
Word of mouth and soliciting submissions through letters to the editors of various newspapers attracted much of the feedback, and it may be telling what kind of niche the book fills considering family, friends and strangers throughout southern Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario have offered their support and time to transcribe hand-written letters and complete other tasks to make the book a reality.
Galloway and the others couldn't choose their favourite anecdote of the book, but their conversation often floats back to Lydia Green, the concentration camp survivor to whom Galloway would like to have the book devoted. It was Green's father, an army man, who enlisted the help of the Red Cross to search for his family when the war ended.
"And she said they were deloused and put back in humanity," Galloway said.
Anyone interested in buying the book can call Galloway at (204)476-5828 for more information or send a cheque for $55.00 payable to:
Women of the War Years,Gladstone - Future generations are better equipped to learn from the experiences of their ancestors thanks to a collection of women's war-time memories unveiled over the weekend.
Neepawa MB ROJ 1H0.
Book highlights women's war-time experiences
By David Schmeichel
"The Daily Graphic" Tuesday, October 10, 2000
"It's very important, because if we don't know where we came from, how do we know where want to go, and how do we know where we should be going?" said Gladstone resident Peggy Galloway. "If young people don't have access to the information of what transpired with these women years ago, how will they know any of those things?"
Galloway was the driving force behind the completion of the book titled Women of the War Years - Stories of Determination and Indomitable Courage. Three years in the making, the book was launched at an emotional luncheon at the Gladstone Legion Hall on Saturday.
Galloway came up with the idea for the book after conducting interviews with war veterans for the local community access television in the mid-1990's. Submissions were initially collected through letters to the editor in newspapers across the province, but word-of-mouth soon gave the project a life of its own. The finished product -- a handsome, 316-page publication -- boasts stories from women living all over the globe.
Galloway said she's especially happy to put the memories on paper before they were lost for good.
"I felt these were things that had to be talked about, and if they weren't recorded, their stories would be lost forever -- as some of them already have been," she sad. "So the fact that we have 200 stories recorded is, to me, a very important thing."
Saturday's launch was highlighted by heartfelt stories, songs, and tributes from some of the women who contributed to the book. Although some of the bittersweet memories drew tears, the women were unanimous in their praise for the undertaking.
Women's Land Army veteran Ruth Dalmage said the book will go a long way in teaching future generations about a time they'll hopefully never have cause to comprehend.
"Unless you've really been in something and gone through what we did, you just cannot describe it to anybody," said Dalmage, a Minnedosa resident. "You try to visualize it, but it's very hard."
Dalmage's sentiments were shared by Winnipeg resident Lydia Green, who lived through a stay in a Polish concentration camp (ed. this is not to imply that the Poles ran the concentration camps -- they were of course maintained by the Nazis). Green applauded Galloway's efforts in putting names and faces to the experiences of her generation.
"If you can really put yourself into that situation mentally, you might be able to comprehend a bit of it," she said. "But you'll never be able to comprehend everything -- it almost sounds more like a fairy tale, or a horror story."
Gladstone Mayor Catherine Smith was only a young girl when the Second World War began, but not so young that she's not aware of the book's historical importance.
"We are really privileged to have this documentation in our life time -- it's getting on 50 years, and so many people are getting on that we're going to lose this history," she said. "But to have this book in our hands -- it's been a lot of work, but it's all been worth it."
Galloway said the response to the book has already exceeded her expectations, and counts the compliments from fellow war year survivors as her biggest reward.
"The rewarding things are all the phone calls I've received from people … thanking us for doing this," she said. "They weren't able to, so that appreciation has been a real plus for me -- those kinds of things make it worthwhile."
Heroines recognized for contributionsThe unsung heroes of World War II, the women who helped win the war, finally received some recognition on Saturday in Gladstone. Women of the War Years is a book that details the wartime stories of dozens of women from across Canada and around the world.
New book holds stories of tragedy and triumph
By Ken Waddell
"The Neepawa Banner" ~ Wednesday, October 11, 2000
The hard cover book was the brainchild of Peggy Galloway of Gladstone. In her work with the Royal Canadian Legion over the decades since World War II Galloway was always amazed at the stories of women who served at the battle front, in the factories and at home making sure the war effort went on. It also contains stories of sacrifice by people who were victims of circumstance, both at home and abroad. She and her committee started gathering these stories and Women of the War Years is the result. "Just think, the project has been completed," said Galloway in her opening remarks at Saturday's book launch at the Gladstone Legion Hall. The hall was packed with women whose stories are in the new book, along with family members and well wishers.
The first edition, autographed of course, was auctioned off by Tom Scott. The winning bid was placed by Portage Lisgar MP Jake Hoeppner for $700.
"I want you to meet the woman who inspired us to publish this book," said Galloway as she introduced Lydia Green. Green spent two years as child in a Russian concentration camp. With emotion she told a bit of her story on Saturday and then sang the wartime classic Lily Marlene in German. She invited the crowd to join her in the English version.
Beatrice Ord, 90, is in the book too She flew in from Toronto with her son John. "He was born in an air raid," noted Mrs. Ord. She was living in London at the time and later immigrated to Canada. "I was a material controller for GE during the war, I made the mistake of telling them I had some engineering training so they wanted me in industry," indicated Ord, who would have preferred to go overseas closer to the front lines.
Two thousand copies of the book were printed by Leech Printing in Brandon and are available from the committee in Gladstone. Many grateful readers and history lovers went out of the Legion Hall on Saturday with a book under their arm. They will be available through Legions across the country.
The book was over three years in editing and production. Stories were gathered from many women and in some cases their families and compiled for the final work by the committee.
The committee was made up of Galloway, Ruth Emisch of Carberry, Velma Clayton, Neepawa, Catherine Smith, Gladstone, Janet and Neil Goertzen, Gladstone, Jo-Anne Campbell, Arden, Maureen Cox, Neepawa, Bernice Nervas, Brandon, Pearl Sheldon, Brandon and Cathy Wiebe of Rivers.
Gladstone - What has been described as a "hole in Canadian history" was filled last Saturday with the launching of book detailing the war experiences of 200 women.
WOMEN OF THE WAR YEARS
Book looks at experience of war from women's perspective
By Lyndenn Behm
"Westman Brandon Sun" ~ Sunday, October 15, 2000
Women of the War Years, which took three years to complete, was produced by a committee of Manitoba women chaired by Peggy Galloway of Gladstone.
The book tells about the Second World War from the perspective of many roles played by women: Some lived through the war as civilians in Europe, others served in the armed forces or worked in civilian jobs that supported military production or kept households going in Canada while men were overseas. The book also gives the stories of war brides as well as one concentration camp survivor.
Although stories are predominately Canadian -- many of the women immigrated to Canada after the 1939-45 war -- there were submissions from Great Britain, New Zealand and the United States.
For Annette Holowka, a war baby whose late mother Ella Petter was sketched on the front of the 320-page hardcover book, the launching last Saturday afternoon was an emotional moment.
"She would have been so proud," Holowka told about 200 people gathered in the Royal Canadian Legion Hall. "I haven't opened the book yet because I want to be alone when I walk down that road of memories."
"My dad is proud of her," Holowka said, explaining that her father, Edward Petter, was in hospital and couldn't attend the launching.
Holowka had submitted the story of her mother, a "feisty" four-foot nine-inch, 90-pound truck driver in the British Army. She met Annette's father and after the war she and Annette, who was born in Britain, moved to Canada.
"She never thought you could not do something because you were a woman," Holowka explained in an interview after speaking to the gathering. On their farm near Gladstone, her mother would drive tractors and take on whatever task came her way.
Galloway said the book will educate future generations about women's role, which to a large extent has been ignored in the recorded history of the Second World War.
"They are and were fantastic women."
In a written endorsement, Gov Gen. Adrienne Clarkson stated that people usually think of the sacrifices made by men who served in the military come to mind when the war is recalled.
"But women were also deeply affected by war and their lives were dramatically changed … Their contributions and sacrifices should also be remembered. Women of the War Years is a fitting and touching tribute to the thousands of Canadian women who are an important but inspirational part of our military history."
Several of the women whose stories are in the book addressed the gathering, speaking briefly and sometimes even singing old war time era songs. The documented first copy of the book was auctioned and sold to Portage-Lisgar MP Jake Hoeppner who bid $700.
The book is a not-for-profit project and if money is raised it will be used for health-care scholarships. The book sells for $69.55, the committee reports. Galloway said people wanting to buy a copy can contact herself, (204)385-2935, or the committee' secretary Cathy Smith, (204)385-2577.
Remembering the women who servedThey're elderly women now, frail and bowed by time. Few of them resemble heroes. Few, in fact, ever allowed themselves to believe they did any more than their duty. They are the women of war.
By Lindor Reynolds
"The Winnipeg Free Press" ~ Friday, November 10, 2000
Our military images surround young men dying early on the battlefield, giving up their lives for their country. The women left behind, equally patriotic, have been neglected and forgotten. They trained as radar operators, worked in offices and factories, took on jobs at a time when a woman's place was emphatically in the home. At best, their war efforts were viewed with skepticism; at worst, they were accused of being prostitutes or "camp followers".
"People don't have an adequate sense of what we've done," says Peggy Galloway, the Gladstone author of the newly released Women of the War Years. "They don't understand what it was like to live then."
Galloway's ambitious book shares the stories of some 200 women who served during the First and Second World Wars, those who lived in occupied countries and were sent to concentration camps, the war brides and the ones whose loved ones never returned.
Frances Mills, 90, is one of those women.
"I felt, there I was, as able as any of the men, and I was being very safe. I wasn't doing anything to help. It was sort of guilt, I think, that motivated me," Mills says today. "Had this occurred and been possible for my mother, she would have enlisted before I did."
In 1942, Mills was a 32-year-old school teacher in Swan River. A boy she had taught in Carman enlisted and was killed overseas.
That was enough for Mills. She enlisted and spent Remembrance Day on a train to Galt, Ont., for her basic training.
She spent her military career as a WREN, a member of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service.
"We were out on the parade ground. We learned to march. We were taught how to salute."
She smiles at the memory.
"We learned calisthenics. We were given naval history and learned what the Canadian forces did. It was an exciting time."
The families of women who enlisted endured criticism, Mills remembers.
"There were a lot of people who didn't think women should be in the service at all," the West Gate woman says somberly. "I think the families had to put up with a lot."
Mills finished basic training and was sent to Ottawa to learn about Loran, a new kind of location radar developed at Boston's Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For almost a year, Mills and two other women worked behind a curtain in an office, their work deemed too sensitive for prying eyes. They received electronic signals, forwarded the data to MIT and helped in basic research on sound waves and radar beams.
Then she was transferred to Whitehead, N.S., for the adventure of a lifetime.
"There were men at the station who needed time at sea or they couldn't get a promotion," she says. "The man in charge thought women could do their job and, since the navy now had a women's division, we were sent there. There were 25 of us. We got a chance the American women never had. I really credit our men for their faith in us."
The women worked eight-hour shifts around the clock, monitoring radio signals from sea. One night, the radio frequency was scrambled, a likely sign that an enemy submarine was nearby.
"We were very frightened, very anxious, Mills says. "We'd all been instructed that a serious problem meant we had to destroy the equipment. The girls in the hut had a revolver. For four hours, we didn't know what was going to happen."
Mills was awarded the British Empire medal for her wartime efforts, an honour she downplays.
Crestview resident Lydia Green is a childhood war survivor.
She was born to German parents living in Russia when the Second World War broke out. The family was told to move to Poland, a time she remembers as "pleasant." German radio, she says, advised that people move back to Germany to avoid the war. Her parents obeyed and were captured close to the border.
"We were told to march back to where we'd come from," she says, her eyes distant as her husband, Ted, sits close. "We were thrown in Russian concentration camp. Everything we owned was taken from us."
Green finds it almost impossible to tell her war story. She was only seven in 1944, a little girls whose mother had seven children to care for. Her father was drafted into the German army, her mother the only source of support in a time of war and chaos.
"We were in a camp but we really didn't know what a concentration camp was," says Green. "I was very young. We knew Jews were leaving Poland but we were told they were leaving on their own free will. It wasn't until the war was over that we found out what really happened."
The family slowly starved.
"It has left my whole family with health problems. We never had a proper diet in our formative years. We begged, we looked into garbage cans. We used to steal potatoes. Our mother taught us never to pull up a plant. We'd just reach through the fence and take two or three potatoes but we'd always leave the plant. When you are starving, you will eat anything."
The family didn't know the war had ended until 1946, when they were reunited with their father. Green's mother died in 1950 at 42. She was, says Green sadly, just worn out. Green and three healthy siblings were sent to Canada to live with relatives. Then 14, she felt like a pariah in Morris.
"We were the village freaks, " she says flatly. "We only spoke German, no English. It was a very difficult time. When our father put us on the ship, he was 44 and he looked like an old man. It was very hard for everybody."
Green took her first car ride in Canada and spoke on the telephone for the first time. In 1953, her father and the remaining children joined the family in Canada.
Her war experiences taught her an important lesson, she says.
"Closeness in a family is very, very important to me, to my whole family. The impact of war is lost on today's young people. They haven't got the foggiest. You can read all you want in the newspaper and it doesn't faze you because it's a story. To many of us, it is still real."
Women of the War Years can be ordered from Box 593, Gladstone, Man. ROJ OTO. The cost is $69.55 and includes shipping and handling.
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