Nova Scotia Archives

'An East Coast Port'

Halifax in Wartime, 1939-1945


Women and Families Respond to War

The war years in Halifax brought dramatic changes to the role of women at home and in the community. Jobs traditionally held by men suddenly became vacant, opening up new opportunities and frontiers for women — who were more than ready for the challenge.

As government employees, they helped to administer price controls, food and fuel rationing, and citizen registration requirements — war measures that reached into every corner of every home. In industry, they picked apples, packed fish, and helped build boats and technical equipment. As volunteers, they worked in canteens, service clubs and hostels, providing food, entertainment and a 'home away from home' for the thousands of troops who flooded into the city.

Women joined the military as nurses and went with the Overseas Nursing Divisions, or remained behind and cared for those invalided home. Others joined the Canadian Women's Army Corps, the Canadian Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service. Many others volunteered full or part-time with the Canadian Red Cross.

Family life was strained under the restrictions and deprivations of war, but again, wives and mothers rose to the challenge and learned to do 'more with less' — especially in the kitchen where wartime cookbooks promoted food rationing, with the ingredients adjusted accordingly.

Almost every family had someone serving overseas. There were no phone calls, e-mails or text messages; telegrams were dreaded. Instead, letters — all of them opened and censored, of course — travelled back and forth as lifelines of continuity, bearing the news of everyday life.

The welcome extended to Guest Children evacuated to Canada from Great Britain after the London Blitz was warm and enduring, a high-note of the war years; many were billeted with Halifax families for the duration and some remained afterwards. The significance of their arrival was not matched until war's end, when nearly 45,000 war brides arrived in Canada — most of them via Halifax — with 21,000 children in tow.

More information:

Canadian Women's Army Corps
Wartime Cookbooks
British Guest Children


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Central Magazine Exchange, Halifax, Nova Scotia 
Date: 1941
Reference no.: E.A. Bollinger Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1975-305 1941 no. 459a

Women and Families Respond to War

Magazine Department of the Naval Reading Service 
Date: 1940
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004 Photo F

Women and Families Respond to War

Naval Reading Service 
Date: 1940
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004

Women and Families Respond to War

Sorting magazines and newspapers at the Naval Reading Service 
Date: 1940
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004 Photo F

Women and Families Respond to War

Naval Reading Service in old King Edward Hotel, Barrington and North Streets, Halifax 
Date: 1940
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004

Women and Families Respond to War

Naval Reading Service 
Date: 1942
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004 Photo G

Women and Families Respond to War

Elaine Tilly, Jean Gow, Claire Sandey and Irene Griffiths of the Naval Reading Service 
Date: 1942
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004 Photo G

Women and Families Respond to War

Mrs. Lloyd Anderson, Mrs. MacDonald and C.P.O. Kinsman see that A.B. Gifford gets a good supply for his ship 
Date: 1942
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004

Women and Families Respond to War

Mrs. M.S. Morton, Mrs. J.D. Gow, Mrs. Stuart Salt and Mrs. Lloyd Anderson 
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004

Women and Families Respond to War

Jean Gow, President and Founder of the Naval Reading Services 
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004

Women and Families Respond to War

Francis (Peter) Gow 
Date: 1938
Reference no.: Jean D. Gow Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 2002-045 002 envelope 004

Women and Families Respond to War

Dickensen - Gow wedding 
Date: 1941
Reference no.: E.A. Bollinger Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1975-305 1941 no. 197-8c

Women and Families Respond to War

Favorite Recipes 
Date: 1940
Reference no.: Nova Scotia Archives V/F vol. 541 no. 22

Women and Families Respond to War

Corporal Daisy Nunn working in the hospital of the RCAF Station Dartmouth 
Reference no.: John Rogers Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1995-370 no. 33 33

Women and Families Respond to War

LAC John P. Vezina of Montreal recuperating in the Sick Bay at RCAF Station Dartmouth, with the old Leading Airwoman Nancy Goddess 
Reference no.: John Rogers Nova Scotia Archives accession no. 1995-370 no. 34 34

Women and Families Respond to War
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