During the Second World War, the role of women in Canada changed dramatically. Many Canadian women responded to the call to be involved in the war effort. They gave up their traditional positions as homemakers to take on other positions in the labour force and military. In this lesson, students will use critical thinking skills to answer the following questions: How did the Second World War change Canadian women's perceptions of their role in society? To what extent do these perceptions shape the lives of women in Canada today?
Curriculum Connection (Province/Territory and course)
Northwest Territories curriculum – Social Studies Grade 10-2: Globalization
Key Issue: To what extent should we embrace globalization?
4.6 – examine impacts of globalization on women (gender issues, labour issues, opportunities for entrepreneurship)
Link to the Canadian Atlas Online (CAOL)
Additional Resources, Materials and Equipment Required
Computer lab or SMART Board to demonstrate the map found on the Canadian Atlas Online at www.canadiangeographic.ca/atlas, Forged in War section on the Employment Structure 1939-1944.
The Valour and the Horror web site: Women in the War http://valourandhorror.com/DB/ISSUE/Women/
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Digital Archives web site: On Every Front: Canadian Women in the Second World War (contains video footage) http://archives.cbc.ca/war_conflict/second_world_war/topics/855/
Veteran Affairs Canada web site: Women At War http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/remembers/sub.cfm?source=history/secondwar/fact_sheets/women
Debate Set-up Diagram (attached)
To understand the impact of globalization (in this case, World War Two) on women and their role in Canadian society today.
Inform students that the goal of this lesson is to examine two key questions: How did World War Two change Canadian women's perceptions of their role in society? To what extent do these perceptions shape the lives of women in Canada today?
Show students the Images/Charts on the employment structure 1939-1945 and read the text describing the work of women during World War II from the Forged in War section of The Canadian Atlas Online.
Ask students to work in pairs to reflect upon the reading and highlight five main points to share with the class.
After sharing, provide students with an opportunity to explore three websites as a way to generate additional knowledge on the topic. The websites include photographs and video clip interviews of women during this time. Ask students to collect five more facts from these sites.
Once completed, allow students to share their research with the class in the form of a sharing circle. Select two students to write key points on the board.
Bring students to the understanding that when the war ended, women were expected to leave available jobs to the men and return home to work as traditional housewives. Incentives, like part-time work and day nurseries, ended. Women who wanted to work were directed to traditional female jobs (from Forged in War, WWII, Employment Structure). Allow students time to discuss this additional information with a partner.
Listen, contribute, ask questions as appropriate.
Write down five facts, share with the class.
Make notes from the web sites and fact sheet.
Form opinions from research sources.
Share research in a sharing circle.
Provide the students with the key critical questions again: How did the Second World War change Canadian women's perceptions of their role in society? To what extent do these perceptions shape the lives of women in Canada today? Tell the students that they will be participating in a debate experience. They will be asked to consider the role of women in today’s society and determine to what extent are the current roles of women attributed to the events of the Second World War. Provide students with time to discuss their ideas in a small group of four students. After a reasonable amount of time, ask students to write a short statement expressing their ideas. This statement is for their eyes only and serves to consolidate their opinions before they enter into the debate activity.
To set up the debate experience, make room in the class or in the hallway to form a ‘V’ shape (see diagram below). Have students position themselves along this continuum depending on their opinion. Do not allow students to be positioned at the “undecided” point. Have students justify their position along the continuum. Share ideas across the “V”. After some discussion allow students to move positions if they feel that their opinion has changed. Allow each student an opportunity to share his or her opinion.
Listen to the questions being asked carefully. Ask questions when necessary.
Listen carefully to expectations.
Write a summary statement.
Share opinions with others in a respectful manner. Consider others’ perspectives.
Ask students to write a summary statement that reflects on the question: “To what extent are the current roles of women attributed to the events of World War Two?” Their response should include their opinion and cite examples to defend their position. The writing may also include their reflections of the debate experience.
After a reasonable amount of time, ask students to share their writing with a partner.
Write a summary statement with justification and examples.
Reflect on the debate experience.
Share with others.
Hold a women’s forum by inviting three to four women from the community to discuss their perceptions of the role of women in today’s society. Ask students to create key questions in the critical thinking format to ask the panel. If possible, prompt the women by allowing them opportunities to view the three web sites and read the student responses to the debate experience. Consider inviting a woman who either served in the military or worked in one of the positions made available to women during World War Two.