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"Where are Canadian Women GoingóBack to Their Homes or Continue in Business Life?"

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation
Louise McKinney, "Where are Canadian Women GoingóBack to Their Homes or Continue in Business Life?" Canadian Home Journal Aug. 1919.

Woman's work and woman's sphere have always furnished a favorite topic of conversation. Her activities and resourcefulness during the war exploded many of the old theories and gained for her many of the privileges which for years she had claimed to be her right. Now that the war is over the public mind is seized with a new dread, and the subject for popular comment is whether women will be willing to relinquish her newfound liberty and wider sphere of activity and resume her place as home-maker in the same old way or will she continue to claim her present place in the industrial world and thus constitute one more of the already numerous after-the-war problems.

This, it is argued, would be a double tragedy, because she would turn her back upon home life and would at the same time keep out of employment vast numbers of men who would otherwise be needed in the various positions now occupied by women.

I have unbounded confidence in the women of Canada and in the future of Canada and also in the modern woman movement, and therefore have not the slightest doubt that present conditions are merely a phase of the question that will eventually work out for good and not for evil.

Speaking of lessons learned from the war, there is one lesson that has become quite commonplace-it has been stated so frequently and accepted so unquestioningly. It is this-that the real strength of our men in Europe was their wonderful "morale," which was due not only to the high moral purpose for which they were fighting, but also to the morale of the people at home. Indeed, it was this spirit at home that made possible the spirit of our men in France.

Another lesson that has not been given quite so much prominence, but is nevertheless quite as true, is this: The signing of peace terms and the forming of a League of Nations will be effective in maintaining peace only in so far as there is developed within the various nations involved those ideals that make for peace. Following this thought a little further, we are ready to admit that such a task can be undertaken by no machinery of government unless that government has back of it a people of strong moral purpose, and such a people can be produced by no other means than through the homes of the nation.

Then, what is the message that comes clear and strong to the women of Canada to-day-a message that transcends in importance any other that may press its claims upon us. It is simply this-if Canada is to maintain her place among the nations of the world-a place purchased by the splendid sacrifice of her noble sons and the equally splendid courage of their heroic mothers-she must continue to foster the institution that gave birth to her greatness-the Christian home and her women can perform no higher form of national service than this.

But how are we going to reconcile this with woman's present ideas regarding her work? For answer, let us pause and ask another question. What, after all, is the purpose of woman's life? The purpose of woman's life is just the same as the purpose of man's life-that she may make the best possible contribution to the generation in which she is living. Then, why all the striving and unrest? The answer to this is two-fold. First, we have failed too often to recognize this purpose and have felt we were here to seek our own pleasure-in other words, that it was ours to be ministered unto and not to minister, or to get out of the world as much as possible in the line of comfort and give in return as little as possible in the line of service.

The second cause of unrest is one that probably accounts in great measure for the first, and, whether the individual woman was conscious of it or not, was and is at the bottom of all her struggles for wider liberty. This is the desire for recognition as an individual: and no person can possibly develop his best or contribute his best unless such recognition is given. Now that such recognition is given, we must admit that every society, not so that we believe that we are running any risk by so doing, for the average woman will continue to feel that her contribution can best be made through the medium of the home, not because woman is so intensely patriotic that she deliberately makes this choice, but because in the very nature of things it is so, and the average woman instinctively loves home life. So my message is intended not so much to persuade women to enter homes as, having done so, to recognize the dignity and importance of that which they have undertaken, and to remember that any task is noble which in any way tends to improve home conditions or minister to the comfort of those included in the home circle.

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