Sunday 6 March 2022

Book ~ "The Volunteers: How Halifax Women Won the Second World War" (2022) Lezlie Lowe

From Goodreads ~ Halifax women won the Second World War - but not in the ways you might have been told. We all know the stories of Canadian women during the war who trained as machinists, welders and streetcar drivers to fill the shoes of men who answered the call. We know how women kept the home fires lit while their husbands, brothers and fathers fought. This is not that story.

"The Volunteers: How Halifax Women Won the Second World War" is the untold story of Halifax women who geared up in a flash to focus on the comfort, community connections and mental health of Halifax’s exploding population of sailors, soldiers, airmen and merchant mariners. They did a job no government could have organized or afforded. They did it without being asked. And they did it with no respite from their daily duties.

Thoroughly researched and compellingly told and with a dozen archival images, "The Volunteers" examines the untold stories of the hardworking women whose unpaid and unacknowledged labour won the Second World War.

I was born and raised in Nova Scotia, though I hadn't spent a lot of time in Halifax, and I enjoy reading books about history and "back home".

This book is about the women in Halifax who volunteered during World War II, doing things the government barely did but should have.  Halifax was a naval city during the war and was ill-equipped to handle all the servicemen and their families who descended upon Halifax at that time.  There weren't enough accommodations and many were formed to bunk up in homes or even sleep on the streets.  Plus rations were in place so food wasn't plentiful.  But women banded together to ensure the visiting men had places they could read and write letters back home, have their clothes mended, have a few drinks (keep in mind the liquor laws during this time were very strict) and have someone to talk with.

The book not only focused on some of the women who were involved in the volunteer movement (because they were women, some names have been lost) but also what was going on at that time so you can get a sense of what these women were up against and managed to achieved.  Scattered throughout the book are pictures.

I liked the writing style.  It was obvious the author did a great amount of research.  Sometimes I found myself stopping and Googling something or someone she had talked about so I'd learn more (like the Ajax Club that Dolly had worked so hard to open and then it was shut down less than two years later ... I also wondered what happened to the house the club it was in).  The author managed to provide us with some history of something probably most of us don't know about but also included some personal touches like stories about Marie, her grandmother, who was in Halifax during World War II, and other women she was able to personally interview.

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