Life

Badass Grandmas: Remembering Canada's female veterans

Canadian women have served our country since the early 1940s. Here's where you can learn more about those fearless femmes.

I will always remember my grandmother as very loving, smart and fiercely independent. And that she bucked tradition in many ways. She always had her own bank account, she married a man younger than her (almost unheard of back in the day), and she joined the army in her early 20s.

Louise Bilodeau was part of the Canadian Women's Army Corp, a group that only came about in World War II to aid the war efforts by training as drivers, cooks, clerks, typists, stenographers, telephone operators, messengers, and quartermasters. My grandmother spent close to two years in Holland working in the offices of repatriation, before coming back to Canada, meeting my grandfather and having five children (my father was her eldest). She remained close with many other members of the CWAC in Windsor, ON, and was a member of Legion Branch 261 there up until her death in 2013.

Perhaps one of the most well-known Canadian female veterans from WWII is Margaret Cooper (above). Cooper was born in Argentina, schooled in Britain, and was later one of the famous code breakers working at Bletchley Park. For decades she kept secret (even from her Canadian husband), that she was one of the women who was responsible for helping to sink the Germans, literally, by decoding messages using Alan Turig's Enigma machine. It wasn't until after the Official Secrets Act was lifted in the 1970s, when Cooper, who passed away earlier this year, finally told her incredible story of drama and intrigue.

These two women may be gone, but both of their stories live on. On a day of remembrance, here is where you can learn more about our courageous female veterans from WWII up until today.

The Memory Project:
Here, veterans like Cooper talk about their time at war, in what is now an archive of WWI, WWII and more. Here and read Cooper's story in her own words here.

The Canadian War Museum:
The CWM has pretty extensive online notes on the CWAC, the group that my grandmother belonged to.

Veterans Affairs Canada:
With it's own section dedicated to women and war (spanning from WWII until today), the Veterans Affairs Canada website contains a litany of fact sheets, personal stories and more.

The Canadian Encyclopedia:
The Canadian Encyclopedia contains pages of information on the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division, with details on how the division came to be and the level of support they gave during war time.

Juno Beach Centre:
Another great resource for learning about women in the Second World War, junobeach.org covers the two aforementioned women's groups, as well as the women of the Royal Canadian Navy.

Tell us about your female family members who served our country over on our Facebook page
 

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