WCH Volunteers and the Canadian War Effort
Women’s College Hospital Volunteers
and the Canadian War Effort
Canadian women played an important role during WWII. Many doctors and nurses at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) joined the Canadian armed forces to serve overseas. On the home front, our hospital volunteers enthusiastically contributed to the Canadian war effort with volunteer work and patriotic acts.
As Mabel Stoakley, Secretary of the WCH’s Board explained “Women who don’t go off to war must be the very backbone of volunteer work. The field of working with problems of human beings has been pioneered by women, and in that field they are pre-eminent. Volunteer service is one field in which women actively may help to hold some of the social gains made in the last decade.”
WCH volunteers formally organized an auxiliary group called the Hospital Aid. At the onset of WWII, the volunteers found creative ways to contribute to the war effort while still supporting the work of WCH.
In January 1941, when the Canadian Department of National War Services established the Salvage Division for the recycling of scrap materials, WCH’s Hospital Aid set up collection drives for toothpaste tubes and tin foil. With advertisements in Toronto newspapers, the volunteers encouraged the public to drop off recyclable metal items at their WCH headquarters. The Hospital Aid then sold the scrap metal to the government who in turn re-used it for war purposes. Just one year later, the volunteers proudly announced that they had collected 320 pounds of lead foil and 304 pounds of aluminium foil. All money raised was donated to the maternity ward at WCH and the salvaged metal was then used to coat the wings of airplanes for the Canadian military.
The Hospital Aid also supported the war effort by purchasing Canadian War Savings Bonds as prizes for various hospital fundraising events. In addition, the volunteers bought large numbers of Canadian War Savings Stamps to make special corsages affectionately known as warsages. A popular trend during WWII, warsages were made by women’s groups. They were constructed using ribbon and then adorned with war savings stamps. The Hospital Aid produced warsages with ribbon in WCH colours of blue and white, then presented and sold them at hospital events. Included is an image of a warsage presented to W. Jean King (Swancar) by the Hospital Aid at the WCH School of Nursing graduation ceremony for the Class of 1944. The original warsage is now preserved in the collection of The Miss Margaret Robins Archives of WCH.
This Remembrance Day we pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of those brave men and women who fought to preserve peace and freedom today. We are also thankful for the tireless efforts of our dedicated volunteers who have supported the work of WCH for over 100 years and celebrate the creative ways they contributed to the Canadian war effort at home.