Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sten Gun Grannies

Nothing like a smoke after a hard days work.

Perhaps you've heard of the Bren Gun Girl? Veronica Foster was a worker at the John Inglis Company plant in Toronto which manufactured the Bren Light Machine Gun.  "Ronnie" the Bren Gun Girl's image was used for propaganda purposes to boost the war effort. 

Less familiar will be this group of Sten Gun Grannies, who worked at the Lakeview Small Arms Munitions factory.  The Sten submachine gun was generally not admired by front line troops, due to its tendency to misfire, fire on fully automatic when in the semi-auto position, or discharge an entire clip when dropped.  The accompanying article from the Toronto Star of 1943 noted that some 70 "grandmas" worked the factory and were eager to show they could shoot as well as make guns. 
None of these matriarchs shot from the hip.
While propaganda depicting women in the workforce was used to recruit more workers, the idea that the Second World War opened the manufacturing industry up to women is not universally accepted by historians.  Conservative print media during the war suggested that women in the workforce would undermine family values, which, in part, explains their general retreat from industry at the close of hostilities.  Women were a valuable source of labour during the war, however, and their wartime integration into the industrial sector helped later arguments for equality.

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