Dr. Sarah Glassford - What More is There to Say About Socks?: Canadian Women and the First World War

Canadian women's experiences do not easily fit the traditional narrative of the First World War as Canada's "coming of age."  Although some Canadian women moved into new spheres of work or leadership and many gained the vote during this period, others were deliberately disenfranchised and all were constrained by the persistence of Victorian assumptions about what roles were appropriate for men and women in wartime.  Nor have women traditionally fared well at the hands of First World War historians or public memory:  their involvement in the conflict has often been reduced to a stereotype of sock-knitting busywork, an exclusive focus on military nursing, or completely overlooked.  This talk draws on a wealth of recent research (including my own) to show the true breadth, depth, and diversity of Canadian women's engagement in the First World War, and highlights the importance of their experiences -- even those that undermine the idea of 1914-1918 as a national coming of age -- to a fuller understanding of Canada's First World War. 

Dr. Sarah Glassford is a social historian of 20th century Canada who earned her PhD from York University in 2007.  Since then she has taught history at the University of New Brunswick, the University of Prince Edward Island, the University of Ottawa, and Carleton University.  She is author of Mobilizing Mercy:  A History of the Canadian Red Cross (McGill-Queen's University Press, 2017) and co-editor, with Amy Shaw, of A Sisterhood of Suffering and Service:  Women and Girls of Canada and Newfoundland during the First World War (UBC Press, 2012).  She has also published a number of articles on women's and children's First and Second World War voluntary work.  From 2014-2018 she is both a co-editor and contributor to the "Canada's First World War" series on  This centenary series of thoughtful and engaging blog posts from a variety of authors explores little-known aspects of Canada's First World War history, as well as issues related to First World War commemorations past and present.