The home-front, while a limited field with little research, is an important area of study during the First World War. What were the women, the children, those too old, too young, disinclined or unable to fight doing during the First World War? Those four years in which Canada was engaged in a fierce battle, how did it affect the women, children, old, young, disinclined or those unable to fight? What can be learned from the efforts of these citizens? How did their efforts influence the war? These questions are all ones which have been mostly overlooked by historians. However, the answers provide insight into how the war was fought at home in Fort William and Port Arthur.
The Patriotic Fund: Introduction, Campaigning in Port Arthur and Other Fundraising
The Patriotic Fund played an important role in the First World War for the women left behind on the home front. The money was used for the wives, mothers, sisters, daughters etc. of men who had gone off to fight. It was used to supplement the income they received from their soldiers so that they could live at least comfortably. The average wage for Canadian men fighting in the First World War was $1.10 a day, too little for one man to live on, never mind a family. One dollar in 1914 is the equivalent of approximately twenty-four dollars in 2016. The low wages and the loss of the primary caregiver is the reason the Patriotic Fund was reborn.
At the beginning of the war there was a fundraising event held by the Port Arthur Daily News Chronicle to get people donating. Teams were sent out to canvas neighbourhoods and find donations from citizens. The citizens response to the appeal for funds was generous, and the donations were more than was expected by the campaigners. It went so well that close to $10,000 was the anticipated amount from just the first day. Enthusiasm for the fund was high, everyone wanted to feel as though they were aiding the war effort in some way.
There were many methods used throughout the two cities to fundraise for the Patriotic Fund. Notable events were held with local theatres, concerts, patriotic balls, and fundraising teas.
Men and women throughout Canada were deeply involved in the war effort. This is shown not only through donations to the Patriotic Fund, Victory Bonds, and other monetary donations but also through sewing, knitting, badge-making and other small hand-made items for soldiers. Women especially became known for their at-home contributions to the war through items like socks, scarves and pajamas. These items were very important to the soldiers, partially for the warmth and physical comfort they offered but also because the women would occasionally include notes in their sewing or knitting to encourage the soldiers. Also, women’s voluntary and unpaid labour made up an integral part of The First World War’s economy.
The women of Fort William began an interesting fundraising campaign to purchase socks through chain teas at the beginning of 1915. The idea was that a woman would invite ten friends to her house for tea and each guest would pay ten cents to come, ensuring the hostess received one dollar. Furthermore, each guest who came made, by way of their acceptance, a promise to also hold a tea. This chain of teas would then have raised ten dollars to be used towards buying socks.
The Hospital Ship Fund
At the beginning of the war, August 1914, the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire national chapter decided to raise money for a hospital ship. Women from both cities gathered to pledge money, with both cities agreeing to raise $1,000 for the cause. However, it was eventually decided that a hospital ship was not what was needed at the time.
Victory Loans: Introduction, The Journey of a Ten Dollar Bill, and Advertising
The Victory Loans was an initiative by the Canadian government to acquire money from the Canadian people to fund the First World War. The Victory Bonds were sold to Canadian citizens, organizations and corporations in different amounts. Canadians were so eager to aid in the war effort that all three years the Victory loans were oversold. The use of the Victory bonds meant that the majority of Canada’s debt was to its citizens and not to foreign lenders or banks.
The Victory Loan campaigns were so successful because of the intense advertising campaigns that occurred before and during the campaigns. These advertisements played on many of the fears that people at home had during the war. Also, they used sympathy as another way of gaining money. There are advertisements which use children to play on the sympathies of parents and gain more funding. Also, there are advertisements which play on people’s fears of factories closing and loss of jobs. Some of these warn that without the Victory Loan campaign that factories will close, industries will suffer and farmers would be unable to sell their products.“Canada’s Prosperity Rests with YOU,” is the slogan of one ad during the 1919 campaign.
The above material was researched, written and contributed to this project by Jasmine Hyslop.