For Remembrance Day 2017, museum intern, Sarah, curated this special virtual exhibit and a display that was exhibited at the 1000 Islands Mall for Veterans Week.

​When we stop to remember the ways that Brockville residents were involved in the Great Wars, we cannot forget how women contributed to these efforts. They took jobs that men had to leave, volunteered and raised money, entered noncombat roles, conserved resources, produced food and so much more. Here are just a couple of examples of the ways that Brockville women contributed.

Womans Service Corps, Brockville

Women were not allowed full entry into the Canadian military until the 1980s but that did not mean that they weren’t involved in war efforts previously. Especially during the Great Wars, women were expected to do their part for the national war effort.

Canadian Nurses in Britain, WWI

During the First and Second World Wars women served as nurses both overseas and in Canada.

Bertha Rowe's Nursing Hat 980.191.01

When WWI broke out, Bertha Rowe (a trained nurse from Brockville) volunteered her services and left Canada in 1915 to serve in France and Egypt. She was sent home in 1918 for treatment of pneumonia but continued to work in Ontario and New York until her retirement.

This is Bertha’s hat which was a part of her nursing uniform during her service.


Bertha Rowe Nursing Cape 980.191.03

Bertha Rowe later received the “Mons Star”, a British WWI campaign medal that was primarily given to officers with only a couple of women receiving it.

This cape was also a part of Bertha Rowe’s nursing uniform during her service


A Canadian Hospital in Britain, WWI

Here are a couple of excerpts from Bertha Rowe’s letters home:

Yesterday we cleared out 20 and expect another lot in to-night. It is work, I can tell you.

I am so glad I came…Have never regretted it for one moment. Poor boys! I am glad I can help.

Ration Card Employees, WWII

While most women stayed at home during WWI and WWII, volunteer work was seen as a patriotic duty to serve the nation.

Much pressure was put on women to contribute their time and resources to the war efforts in any way that they could.

WWII Parade

The Women’s Voluntary Service was an organization set up to facilitate volunteer work for women looking to help out. It primarily gave work to homemakers or women who could only give up a couple of hours a week. Brockville’s branch was established in 1943 by Frances MacOdrum (who later become Brockville’s first female Councillor).

The W.V.S. worked with organizations such as The Red Cross and IODE to relieve them of finding volunteers.

Mary Campbell, Red Cross

Mary Campbell was a Brockville resident known for her charitable involvement and as a member of the Canadian Red Cross Corps during WWII.

Mary Campbell's Pin 000.49.32

This is Mary Campbell’s Red Cross Pin that she received for her volunteer work during WWII.


The Brockettes

During the Second World War, there were many civilian entertainment troupes.

The Brockettes, affiliated with the Canadian Women’s Service Force, were made up of six young Brockville women:

Jeanne Challice, Sheila Challice, Margaret Curry, Marnie Earle, Ethel Burgess, and Norine Kelly.

C.W.S.F Uniform 994.17.01

The Brockettes first toured Ontario and New York, performing at military training centres and charitable events.

As the Brockettes were part of the Canadian Women’s Service Force, they would have worn a uniform like this when travelling around.


The Brockettes performing

In 1945, they left for a 6 month European tour. These women not only volunteered their time and provided entertainment but also provided morale boosting for those working overseas.

The Brockettes

Margaret Curry described her experience performing overseas:

Sometimes we wouldn’t have electricity and the show would be outdoors. In that case, we would have lanterns at the end of the stage, and the soldiers would bring up their jeeps, and their headlights would light up the entire stage.