On today’s date in 1941, the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) was established by the federal Department of National Defence to allow women to volunteer for official uniformed service.
The CWAC’s formation is “a milestone in the history of women’s participation in the Canadian military,” according to a Canadian War Museum article by Barbara Dundas and Dr. Serge Durflinger.
“The women wanted to be taken seriously,” write Dundas and Durflinger. “This was a ‘total war,’ they argued, demanding a total effort by all Canadians.”
Through the summer of 1941, organizers lobbied the federal government to form official women’s auxiliary services for the armed forces, “correctly claiming that their members would make excellent recruits.”
Following the corps’ establishment amid the Second World War, gender-based segregation remained “overt,” the historians add, as the CWAC “was not formally part of the army nor subject to military discipline. Even rank designations and insignias did not follow army practice.”
“Still, it was a step forward. Women trained as drivers, cooks, clerks, typists, stenographers, telephone operators, messengers, and quartermasters.”
The following March, military authorities integrated the CWAC into the Canadian Army.
“With its new status, the Corps adopted army rank structures and insignia. CWAC members wore a cap badge with three joined maple leaves. On their collar badges appeared the helmeted head of Athene—Goddess of War.”
For militaria collectors, both the cap badge and collar badge are routinely offered at auction, including on eBay, for about $20 in sound condition.