The Volunteers: How Halifax’s women provided help, hope, and healing to win the Second World War is the untold story of Halifax’s volunteer women — who kept the western end of the North Atlantic front stable, strong, and supported.
With the call to war in 1939, Halifax’s women, and those across Nova Scotia, geared up in a flash to focus on the comfort, community connections, and mental and physical health of the exploding population of transient sailors, soldiers, and airmen. They weren’t asked to take on this duty; they offered. And they did so with no expectation of respite from their daily duties, often piled upon by loved ones being away at war.
Halifax, at the western end of the North Atlantic war effort and merchant service, was closer than any other port to the dramatic ocean battles that stole lives and livelihoods and shifted the glacial map of the war. The small city’s population doubled between 1939 and 1945. Resources and services were unspeakably strained. There were too few beds and too little entertainment. Water sometimes only dripped from taps because so many called on it at once.
Halifax felt the war uniquely. Also unique was the volunteer response of the city’s women. Their contribution was unlike anything Canada has witnessed since. Today, nations go to war while the public — in its day-to-day existence — remains unaffected. No little girls are called upon to bring scrap to the depot, there is no rationing, no need to feed masses of men in uniform, no need to take used magazines to a central depot to be recycled as reading materials for the troops.
During the Second World War, Halifax’s women provided some 52 million hot meals, reading materials, dances, hours of nursing aid, mittens, and more. The women of Halifax’s Greek, African Nova Scotian, and Jewish communities, among others, led individual community efforts made into one. These volunteers did a job no government could have organized or, frankly, afforded. This army of volunteer women helped win the war. Yet their contributions remain largely invisible in the documentary history of the war. The volume of help has been chronicled piecemeal, through scant archival material, personal photos, and oral histories. The federal government only initiated an index of wartime charities by 1941; it couldn’t possibly capture the tens of thousands of sandwiches handed out at the North End Services Canteen, the countless buttons sewn at Mothers’ Corners around the city.
After VE Day, these armies of unheralded volunteers receded back to busy lives. Some volunteer work continued, through organizations like the IODE, the Canadian Red Cross, and the Concert Parties Guild, but many Halifax women simply returned to their everyday, their contribution to the war effort unrecognized. Most of the women who took on this monumental and essential war work have passed on and memories are fading. Now is the time for this documentary gap in the story of how Halifax women helped win the Second World War to be coloured in.
No Place To Go:
How Public Toilets Fail our Private Needs
This book is Number One in addressing the politics of where we’re allowed to go in public. Adults don’t talk about the business of doing our business. We work on one assumption: the world of public bathrooms is problem- and politics-free. No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail our Private Needs reveals the opposite is true.
No Place To Go is a toilet tour from London to San Francisco to Toronto and beyond. From pay potties to deserted alleyways, No Place To Go is a marriage of urbanism, social narrative, and pop culture that shows the ways — momentous and mockable — public bathrooms just don’t work. Like, for the homeless, who, faced with no place to go sometimes literally take to the streets. (Ever heard of a municipal poop map?) For people with invisible disabilities, such as Crohn’s disease, who stay home rather than risk soiling themselves on public transit routes. For girls who quit sports teams because they don’t want to run to the edge of the pitch to pee. Celebrities like Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen have protested bathroom bills that will stomp on the rights of transpeople. And where was Hillary Clinton after she arrived back to the stage late after the first commercial break of the live-televised Democratic leadership debate in December 2015? Stuck in a queue for the women’s bathroom.
Peel back the layers on public bathrooms and it’s clear many more people want for good access than have it. Public bathroom access is about cities, society, design, movement, and equity.