“An Honored Place”: Gender, Work, and the Brook Family on the Western Canadian Home Front During the First World War
In June of 1916, Sidney Brook left for war, leaving his thirty-year-old pregnant wife Isabelle Brook behind in Craigmyle, Alberta. In addition to caring for their young children, she was left the responsibilities of their farm for the duration of the war. Using the correspondence this couple left behind at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, this thesis examines women’s roles on farms in the Prairie Provinces, exploring the ways in which work during the First World War was highlighted as patriotic and temporary. Women used their domestic work – knitting, sending letters and parcels, fundraising, and rationing food – to help support the war effort. Despite the fact that women often helped on farms in times of necessity – i.e. harvesting and threshing – the war brought greater numbers of women to the field. However, this work was constructed as temporary in order to maintain pre-war gender ideals. Men’s roles too were specifically defined as patriotic, particularly their work as soldiers and as farmers. Such patriotic work demonstrated their duty to the Empire and to their families. While perhaps not completely representative of all couples on prairie farms in Canada, Isabelle and Sidney Brook’s rich historical record provides insight into the lives of middle-class English-Canadian farm women as they lived on farms during this turbulent period. Building particularly on the work of historian Sarah Carter, this thesis seeks to add further understanding of prairie farm women during the First World War by closely analyzing the rich archival record of the Brook family.
Farming, Prairies, First World War, Gender, Brook, Work
Master of Arts (M.A.)