________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 17 . . . . April 28, 2000

cover Rosies of the North.

Kelly Saxberg (Director). Joe MacDonald (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
48 min. VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9199 215.

Subject Headings:
Women aircraft industry employees-Ontario-Thunder Bay.
World War, 1939-1945-Women-Canada.
Canadian Car & Foundry Company (Thunder Bay Ont.).
Fighter planes-Canada-Design and construction.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Joan Payzant.

**** /4

Rosies of the North is a war story, but it is much more that just a war story. It reveals the attitudes of women at the beginning of World War II, as well as the attitudes of employers. In 1940, Canadian Car and Foundry hired 200 women to build Hawker Hurricane fighter planes for combat in the Battle of Britain. Just a year later, 3000 additional workers, 40 per cent of them women, were employed, turning out 1400 Hurricanes altogether. When these planes were phased out at the end of the Battle of Britain in 1942, Canadian Car switched to building Curtiss Dive Bombers for the United States. Excellent footage is shown of the interior of the factory and also of the surrounding area of what was Fort William and is now Thunder Bay.

Some of the intriguing facts pointed up in the video were that new girls learned faster from the women instructors than from men instructors because the women teachers had far more patience than men had. As might be expected in those days, the pay rate was vastly different for women than for men doing the same work. Women were steadier welders and missed less time at work than men. Married women were not allowed to work, but some of them kept their marriages secret and worked anyway. Matrons (nurses) were hired to keep female employees in line, but there were no parallel overseers for males. Air and noise pollution was rampant in the factories, but the workers adjusted to it. The Chief Engineer at Canadian Car and Foundry was Canada's first ever female engineer, Elsie MacGill. Her degree was in aeronautical engineering, and she was the first woman in the world to design an airplane.

In the film, Rosies, now senior citizens, were interviewed about their experiences and asked also for their opinions of Elsie MacGill. Many thought she was too conscious of her accomplishments and looked down on the women who worked on the floor. She was sometimes called a "Spitfire, Queen of the Hurricanes." But other women with a more charitable view allowed that she completely changed life for women economically and legally, and her later appointment to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women was a fitting one.

Towards the end of the war, 3600 people were laid off at the Canadian Car plant, but the Rosies who contributed their memories for this film concluded that their work at the foundry was the greatest experience of their lives.

Highly recommended viewing, illustrating an important side of life in Canada during the Second World War, the video has closed captioning, a bonus for hard-of-hearing seniors who will appreciate the nostalgia in the film.

Highly Recommended.

Joan Payzant is a former teacher and school librarian in Dartmouth, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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