The Volunteers: How Halifax Women Won the Second World War by Lezlie Lowe

This book is a true eye-opener to the situation in  Halifax during the 2nd World War. Lowe has done a remarkable job in portraying the roles of women during this devastating time period. 

Her journalism background is evident in the writing style of the story, making it interesting and amusing. It is well documented and researched. 

Lowe reminds us, in the absence of men who were thousands of miles away, of the supporting roles played by women, training and working as machinists, welders, streetcar drivers, and other professions, but she reminds us – “This is not that story.” 

The book praises the efforts of the women behind the scenes, keeping their home running while their men were away, taking over a farm or a business, raising families and providing for their nourishment in times of rationing. In addition to their daily chores, many women stepped up to be volunteers providing thousands of meals, homes, sleeping facilities and more to sailors, soldiers and merchant marines, distributing mountains of reading material. At times there were hundreds of men ashore with no place to sleep, nothing to eat, and no entertainment. The government either ignored the crises placed upon the city or couldn’t afford the proper services or accommodations. 

What makes this book even more intriguing is the interviews with survivors, highlighting women who were instrumental in providing creature comforts for the thousands and thousands of men who occupied the city at any given time during the war. She quotes Jean Bruce from Back the Attack

For women, as Bruce puts it, “‘the war was an endurance test.” 

While she names many influential women, of particular interest, is the chapter on Janet Evelyn (Dolly) McEuen and the Ajax Club. With her own funds, Dolly provides an establishment for the enjoyment of men far away from their homes in a comfortable and welcoming environment, only to be met with hostilities from the “Church across the street” and Temperance foes. 

This is an exceptional book paying tribute to those ladies of Halifax and its surroundings, who have gone unnoticed and unrewarded, until now. 

Lezlie Howe is a Halifax-based freelance journalist, broadcaster, and author who has an abiding fascination with flipping on the lights above society’s unexamined everyday. She has been a finalist and multiple winner at the Radio Television Digital News Association Awards, the Atlantic Journalism Awards, the Canadian Association of Journalists Awards, and the Atlantic Book Awards. She has taught journalism at the University of King’s College since 2003.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nimbus Publishing Limited (March 8 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774710544
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774710548

 -- Website

Growing up in South Branch, Allan Hudson was encouraged to read from an early age by his mother who was a schoolteacher. He lives in Dieppe, NB, with his wife Gloria. He has enjoyed a lifetime of adventure, and travel and uses the many experiences as ideas for his writing. He is an author of action/adventure novels, historical fiction and a short story collection. His short stories – The Ship Breakers & In the Abyss – received Honourable Mention in the New Brunswick Writer’s Federation competition. He has stories published, The Golden Ratio and his blog - South Branch Scribbler. 

3 thoughts on “The Volunteers: How Halifax Women Won the Second World War by Lezlie Lowe”

  1. I just ordered this from Nimbus. After reading this review, I decided it was another must-read. Thanks.

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