Social historian Patricia Malcolmson was the speaker at February’s meeting of the Nelson and District Canadian Federation of University Women.
She discussed her recently co-authored book, Women at the Ready: The Remarkable Story of the Women’s Voluntary Services on the Home Front.
The Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS) was a major British wartime organization started in 1938. It was the largest organization of women in British history, reaching over a million members by 1941.
“No job too small, no task too daunting” was the WVS motto. Volunteers kept busy knitting, sewing, renovating clothing and providing support to the young, the old and the vulnerable. They supplied cups of tea and a listening ear. What made this work dramatically different from women’s everyday work was its scale. Thousands of cups of tea were served to bomb survivors. Comfort and consolation were provided to the bereaved.
Women who participated in WVS also gained skills and leadership experience which they carried into postwar careers. Cross-class work in the WVS may have helped the British to eventually accept the welfare state. The organization continues in Britain today, although “women” has been dropped from their name — it is now the Royal Voluntary Services.
In March, the CFUW meeting was devoted to advocacy issues related to the federation’s national policy resolutions.
Michelle Mungall, MLA, CFUW Nelson member and Opposition Critic for Social Development spoke about looking at ways to reduce child poverty.
This is a timely topic in view of the recent CFUW national and BC Council poverty initiatives. BC has had the highest child poverty rate in Canada for 10 straight years, and the highest overall poverty rate in Canada for 13 straight years. Half of all single mothers are living in poverty. Thirty per cent of food bank customers are children. Every province in Canada has a poverty reduction plan except BC and Saskatchewan.
Mungall outlined the best practices for reducing poverty: making post-secondary education accessible; financial needs-based grants for students; support for child care and early learning; raising the minimum wage (tying it to inflation like most other provinces); targeting specific issues around social housing and social assistance (especially for single men 55 to 65 who are unable to work).
All women interested in education, public affairs and human rights are invited to join the Nelson and District CFUW. Meetings are on the third Saturday of the month at the Adventure Hotel (formerly the New Grand). Following a short business meeting, there is a featured presentation.
Members are encouraged to stay afterwards for lunch. The next meeting is at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 19.
For more information see the website: https://sites.google.com/site/nelsoncfuw/home.