Monument honouring women volunteers during Second World War unveiled
The first full-sized monument to women in Halifax history was officially unveiled on Thursday.
The Volunteers honours the work women volunteers did during the Second World War.
The monument, which features three distinct figures, is now permanently in place along the Halifax waterfront, near the Seaport Farmers Market.
The first depicts a young girl with a wagon full of salvage items, the second depicts an older woman knitting while holding a Mi’kmaw basket and the depicts an African Nova Scotian woman working at a canteen to feed servicemen.
All three figures were created to represent authentic examples of the work that women of all ages did during the war.
“I’m over the top actually, just because it’s been so much work,” said artist Marlene Hilton Moore.
“Women’s work is inspirational in my opinion and it’s never valued enough.”
Moore was commissioned to create the monument in January. Since then, she’s worked six days a week in her studio to create the masterpiece.
Each of the three figures was unveiled by a woman who volunteered during the war.
Charlotte Guy Jefferies had the honour of unveiling the figure of a woman knitting with a Mi’kmaw basket.
“I think a lot of people didn’t realize just how much people did during the war years, especially the young people today, they don’t seem to understand what it was like,” said Jefferies.
The 96-year-old played piano to entertain the troops both at home and overseas during the Second World War. She says the monument is important to her and hugged it when she saw it for the first time.
“It means a lot because 70 odd years ago when I was entertaining the troops, I certainly didn’t expect any recognition like this so, it means quite a lot,” said Jefferies.
WATCH: ‘The Volunteers’: Halifax’s 1st monument to women depicts volunteer efforts during WWII
Moore says she spent a lot of time putting detail into the pieces to make them as authentic to the time period as possible and to make them feel real.
“That is my goal to make them come to life,” said Moore. “If I can do that, 100 years from now, somebody will come onto this site and it will be so real to them, it won’t matter you know, because they’ll come to life. It makes a difference.”
The Halifax Women’s History Society (HWHS) says The Volunteers is the first monument to honour women in the city’s 268-year history.
“The Halifax Women’s History Society is elated to be the first to break the bronze ceiling in Halifax,” said HWHS chair, Janet Guildford.
The HWHS believes the monument is the first in Nova Scotia to include the figure of an African Nova Scotian woman.
“This is [historic]. Not just for my family but for all women,” said Wanda Gordon Lewis, a member of the HWHS board.
Lewis’ mother helped unveil one of the statues.
“When the war was on, the men were overseas but the women that were here kept the place together. My mother had nine children, my father was overseas fighting and she was over here entertaining and doing what she could,” Lewis said.
Guildford says it’s important to remember that African Nova Scotians were a part of the war effort.
“The monument’s figure represents the work of women volunteers who did the most important work serving thousands of meals at canteens for servicemen around the city,” said Guildford.
“The servicemen’s club in Halifax was a hub of activity for African Canadian servicemen. We must not forget the role African Nova Scotians played in the war and in the province’s history.”
The province’s former Lieutenant-Governor says the monument is overdue.
“It’s so nice to see this and I’m happy as a Black woman to be able to see an African Nova Soctian woman there represented as well and this comes on the heels of yesterday, Viola Desmond being inducted into the walk of fame in Ontario, so it’s excitement all around for women,” said Mayann Francis.
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