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Women in War Industry

The following text is adapted from Canada at War April, 1942 & Nov.-Dec., 1944)

For every fighting man on the battlefield or the high seas, modern warfare demands 17 of his comrades work in factories to provide him with equipment. Today, as the number of actual combatants increases to meet the enlarging areas of warfare, a greater number of these “men behind the guns” will be women.
By 1942 the reserve of employable male workers still unemployed is nearing exhaustion. To reach the peak of war production, the Dominion must rely increasingly upon women for industrial labour. Approximately 75,000 women are now working in war industries, along with 600,000 men. Starting mainly as inspectors, women have invaded every field of operation except those where sheer strength is the prime requisite.
Women have to face a critical audience, and overcome a considerable amount of prejudice. The jobs that women have done compare favorably with those done by men they have released for active service. For certain kinds of work, requiring delicacy of touch, women’s hands are defter. They exhibit greater patience than men in work which demands accurate and repetitive movements. There is developing a new demand for university women who have advanced training in mathematics, chemistry or radio, to fill many vacancies with the Inspection Board of the United Kingdom and Canada. About 300 women are already employed with the Board to inspect gun-barrels, gun carriage parts, fire control instruments, explosives and radio parts.

By June 1, 1944, out of an estimated 1,827,000 workers engaged in non-war industry, approximately 745,000 were women. The number of women employed in manufacturing increased from 143,000 in June, 1939 to 340,000, twelve months later, when women accounted for 28% of all persons engaged in manufacturing. Almost 30% of the women employed in manufacturing were married, not including part-time workers where the percentage was undoubtedly higher. There were more than twice as many women engaged in trade and public service in comparison to the beginning of the war.

Women in War Industry

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