Hemlines and hairdos : body management for the feminine ideal in the Canadian Women's Army Corps
Davidson, Tina Marie
Master of Arts
SubjectWomen soldiers Canada Social conditions History
Beauty, Personal Canada History
Women soldiers Costume Canada
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The onslaught of World War II (WWII) brought with it an unprecedented mobilization of the female population in both Allied and Axis countries, as well as a rapid "masculinizatlon " of women's roles. In the absence of men, women donned trousers, entered traditionally male fields of employment, brought home sizable paychecks, increasingly supported dependants, and entered military service. Under widespread media coverage and public scrutiny, enthusiasm for women's patriotic efforts was soon dampened by concems for the maintenance of their femininity on the part of a society anxious for an eventual return to idealized prewar conditions. Nevertheless, as both military and home front demands for labour increased, women continued to be called upon to step into the places that men vacated. The formation of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC ) in August 1941 marked the first time that women had been officially recruited into the Canadian military. The military embarked upon the task of recruiting women with preconceived notions of their abilities and appropriate roles. The image of womanhood that emerged from recruitment propaganda was shaped not only by these preconceived Ideals, but also by the military’s need for women to fill secondary" roles. To an even greater extent than private sector employers, the military strove to ensure that female volunteers maintained a feminine appearance and presented a stereotypically feminine image to the rest of the world. To no small degree, this necessitated generating an element of sexual allure, of appeal and attractiveness to men, among the women volunteers. On the other hand, the moral integrity of Canada’s first force of women soldiers had to be maintained at all costs. This thesis will consider the extent to which the military’s desire to maintain the ideal of femininity among CWAC volunteers conflicted with maintaining public images of their sexual propriety and resulted in the generation of confusing and frequently contradictory views of the femininity and sexuality of Cwacs.