Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

Monday Monuments and Memorials – Mothers, Wives and Children, Hamilton, ON

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They also serve who only stand and wait.

At Decoration Day services in August 1923, two memorial crosses were unveiled in Hamilton Cemetery. Twenty thousand Hamiltonians, including 8,000 war veterans, attended the ceremonies.

The Cross of Sacrifice erected by the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission honours the war dead. The second cross was funded by the Canadian Patriotic Fund “in memory of mothers, wives and children of soldiers of the Great War,” 214 who died while their loved ones were fighting overseas.

The Canadian Patriotic Fund provided support to wives and dependents of men on active service. A private’s pay and the additional monthly stipend to wives of soldiers were not enough for families to survive. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia article on Canadian Children and the Great War:

Canadians contributed an astonishing $6 million to the fund in the first three months of the war and eventually raised $47 million. The money was doled out to soldiers’ families, often by middle-class women. Payments usually amounted to about $25 a month; another $3 to $7.50 was included per child, depending on age.

But the money came with strings attached. Applicants faced inquisitions about how the money was spent. Conventional morals and standards coloured the benevolence and ‘undeserving’ wives could be cut off.

The Hamilton monument is the only one I’ve found to honour mothers, wives and children on the home front.

Thanks to Robin McKee of Historical Perceptions who shared useful information about the cemetery. I wish my visit to Hamilton had coincided with one of his weekly Stories in the Stones tours. Thanks as well to the friendly staff in the cemetery gatehouse.


The Canadian Centre for the Great War has an interesting post this week on Waiting behind: Canadian mothers, wives and families during World War I.

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Author: greatwar100reads

Canadian crusader for equality and justice. Connoisseur and creator of the written word. Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books and monuments. Read more at greatwar100reads.wordpress.com.

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