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Pierson, Ruth Roach.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1986. 301pp, paper, $14.95, ISBN 0-7710-6958-8. (Canadian Social History series). CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Marian Press

Volume 14 Number 6
1986 November

"They're Still Women After All," the name given to an article in Saturday Night in September, 1942, sums up the relief apparently felt by the majority of Canadian males at being presented with evidence that women were retaining their so-called feminine qualities, despite their stepping into war-time jobs that in peacetime had been reserved for men. The phrase is an apt one for the title of this book on Canadian women during the Second World War by Dr. Ruth Pierson, a professor of feminist studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

The book asks whether the economic and social advances that are generally believed to have been made by women in the war years were real gains, or only temporary changes necessitated by manpower shortages. Were more options open to women at the end of the war, and had societal attitudes towards such things as government-sponsored day-care or women's roles been changed? To answer this question, Pierson provides a fascinating account of the recruitment of women into the war-time labour force, the government job training programs provided for women, and the entrance of women into the armed forces.

Public opinion surveys at the time indicated that military life was considered particularly unsuitable for women, and recruiting advertisements encouraged women to join up, while at the same lime trying to assure the public that after the war women would return to the home, their proper sphere. And indeed this is what they did, not without protest. All three women's services were disbanded, and women's participation in the paid work force plummeted, not to reach its 1945 level again until 1966. To quote the book's last sentence: "The war's slight yet disquieting reconstruction of womanhood in the direction of equality with men was scrapped for a full-skirted and redomesticated post-war model, and for more than a decade feminism was once again sacrificed to femininity."

The first work to deal specifically and in detail with the activities of Canadian women in World War II, apart from Jean Bruce's Back the Attack!* (which is illustrative, rather than interpretive), "They're Still Women After All" is an essential addition to any library's Canadian history or women's studies section. Senior high school students will find it very readable, especially as it is enlivened with numerous black-and-white photographs from the period. A useful annotated bibliography is included.

Marian Press, Toronto, Ont.

Reviewed vol. XIV/1 January 1986 p.39.

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