At the turn of the twentieth century, numerous Canadians were concerned with civic beautification. A beautification movement erupted out of a reforming zeal initiated by prohibitionists, suffragettes and evangelists. Gardening became a quest for "good citizenship, improvement, social remedy, morality, material progress."  Horticultural duty, gardeners believed, would "purify home life...promote a greater love of home...and thereby lay the foundation of a patriotism worthy of the land we possess."  Soon after, that patriotism was tested when the First World War erupted. Citizens all throughout Canada began growing crops for wartime food production; horticultural Societies urged their members to plant backyard gardens. John Webber, head of the Hamilton Horticultural Society, spoke of the desirability of using all backyard space to grow vegetables, something he viewed as a patriotic duty.  Vacant Lot Associations were organized with the mission of getting the unemployed, as well as returned soldiers, to garden on vacant plots of land. Many of these gardens produced vegetables for the war effort. In 1917, Toronto had 798 vacant lots in cultivation, with produce valued at $40,000 (over $650,000 in 2017). 
The war resulted in an exodus of male farmers and factory workers leaving for the front. Most older women filled in for them by working in munition plants. This exodus also left space for young women to spend their summers working on farms to aid the war effort. Known as Farmerettes, these women planted, tended and harvested crops. At first, they were met with skepticism; many were deemed "city girls" who would not provide much help. This assumption proved wrong, as numerous county and city girls alike rose to the task, providing an immeasurable contribution to wartime food production. In Niagara, the Young Women's Christian Association brought women enrolled in universities and women's colleges to harvest fruit. They came from Montreal, Quebec City, and other Ontario communities. With the women's help, fruit was harvested with minimal loss. 
There were a plethora of initiatives that showed the desire of everyday citizens to pull together to aid the war effort. For some, it was as simple as planting crops in a backyard garden; for others, it meant dedicating more substantial amounts of time to farm labour. However big or small the contribution, Canadians worked hard to feed both Canadian and allied soldiers.
Thank you to Julie Bushey, Collection Management Assistant of the Grimsby Museum for selecting, scanning and sending the above images.
 Edwinna von Baeyer. Rhetoric and Roses: a History of Canadian Gardening (Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1984), 3.
 Canadian Horticulturist, May 1904, 190.
Hamilton Horticultural Society Centennial Year Book and Garden Guide, 1850-1950, 12.
 Philip F. Dodds and H.E. Markle, The Story of Ontario Horticultural Societies, 1854-1973 (Picton: Picton Gazette Publishing Company, 1973), 58.
 St. Catharines Museum. Niagara's Farmerettes. St. Catharines' Blog https://stcatharinesmuseumblog.com/2016/10/18/niagaras-farmerettes/ (accessed September 10, 2017)
Community Memories. Grown in the Garden of Canada: The History of the Fruit Industry in Grimsby, Ontario, http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=exhibit_home&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000438 (accessed September 10, 2017)
Like during the First World War, many Canadians worked to produce food for the war effort during the Second World War. There were several food production initiatives throughout the war years; this post focuses on the students engaged in Farm Service. Male and female students worked on farms in the summer as a means of gaining course credit while also assisting with food production. Not only did this program help provide food for soldiers fighting overseas, it also instilled democratic values in Canadian youth. The 1941 Labour Gazette stated that:
Some teachers have questioned the advisability of allowing students to leave school so early in the year because of the loss in education. On the other hand this plan may be a gain for education if there is taken into consideration the value of training in Democracy involved in the self-discipline of farm work, the understanding of urban-rural relationships secured, the responsibility of the individual to the community which is developed in rendering a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, the co-ordination of body, mind and spirit in serving the social purpose of food production, and the realization of the value of time, work and money. 
Others, like the Chairman of the Toronto Board of Education, echoed this sentiment when he stated, "in these troubled days, may the boys and girls in our own schools learn the lessons of true patriotism and thus prepare themselves to champion loyalty, fair play and truth." A 1941 government issued handbook (shown below) states that, "this challenge [of Farm Service] is a call to you to take your place in this line of defence and man it so effectively that Great Britain and her allies- fighting for life, liberty and freedom, ours as much as theirs, need never fear a shortage of food." 
In the war's closing years, approximately 35,000 Ontario students were enrolled in Farm Service and stationed on sixty farms across the province. This number included members of Canadian Girls in Training, whose summer program was combined with the Farmerettes. More young women than men were engaged in this service, which was partly attributable to the men fighting on the front, as well as men's tendencies to seek more lucrative summer employment elsewhere in the expanding wartime economy.
Below are several pages of The Handbook for Students Registering for Farm Service in Collegiate Institutes, High, Vocational and Continuation Schools of Ontario Under Dominion Provincial Training, a pamphlet issued in 1941 by the Minister of Education in Co-operation with the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Labour.
Image reproductions are courtesy of the Royal Botanical Gardens's Canadian Centre for Historical Horticultural Studies.
Wartime Farm Labour Program In Ontario, Labour Gazette, April 1943, http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/oldlabourstudies/onlinelearning/article.php?id=856 (accessed September 14, 2017)
 Empire Days in the Schools of Ontario, May 23, 1940 quoted in Charles M. Johnston, "The Children's War: The Mobilization of Ontario Youth During the Second World War" In Patterns of the Past: Interpreting Ontario's History edited by Laurel Sefton MacDowell, et al. (Dundurn Press, 1996), 357.
The Handbook for Students Registering for Farm Service in Collegiate Institutes, High, Vocational and Continuation Schools of Ontario Under Dominion Provincial Training, 1941, item found at the Royal Botanical Garden's Canadian Centre for Historical Horticultural Studies
 Jeff Keshen, "Revisiting Canada's Civilian Women During World War II" Histoire Sociale/ Social History vol. 30, no. 60, 1997, 364-365.
The Women's Institute (WI) was founded by Adelaide Hunter Hoodless on February 19, 1897 in Stoney Creek, Ontario. However, the story really began in 1889, when Adelaide's fourteen month old son, John Harold, passed away from "summer complaint," an intestinal ailment caused by drinking impure milk. Adelaide was shocked by her own "ignorance of domestic hygiene" and "realized that if she, as a careful parent and an educated person, was ignorant of basic domestic science knowledge, then there must be thousands more women like her." After her son's death she devoted herself to promoting domestic science education. She believed that "the educational system in force in Ontario at the time to be absolutely wrong. She did not approve, at all, of educating boys and girls along the same lines, when their life work was so vastly different." After several attempts at realizing her vision, including the creation of a cooking school in Hamilton and promoting schools of domestic science in Guelph, the Women's Institute was finally realized.
The WI was created to support women living in rural communities. In one meeting, Hoodless explained that "women's work, homecraft and mothercraft, was much more important than men's since it dealt with the home and the care of the loved ones who dwelt therein." With these powerful ideas as its pillar, the Women's Institute became the largest international women's organization ever created. After its creation in Stoney Creek, many other places followed suit, with more than 2000 branches springing up in communities all across Ontario.
The Atikokan Branch
The Atikokan branch was formed on April 5, 1922, with an initial membership of nineteen women. By the end of its first year this number grew to thirty one. The Atikokan Branch of the WI was integral to the community's development. As this community was (and still is) isolated, the WI was indispensable because it offered many services to the community that were otherwise not available. For instance, the WI sidewalk committee was instrumental in repairing roads and laying cinder sidewalks. Below is an Atikokan Centennial Museum label that shows other positive additions the WI made to the town.
The Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario (FWIO) website offers a PDF listing all of the Women's Institute Branches- Past and Present. This list states that the Atikokan branch was operational until 1979.
Tweedsmuir History Book
In the 1920s, WI members began collecting and recording community histories. In 1925, the Committee for Historical Research and Current Events was formed and suggested that "more time be given to the study of local history in the hopes of gaining greater insight into the lives and thoughts of our ancestors." By the mid 1930s Lady Tweedsmuir, wife of Governor General Lord Tweedsmuir, took an interest in the WI. She suggested that the WI of Ontario follow in the footsteps of its English counterpart and keep detailed history books.
In 1945, a campaign was launched to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the WI. As a way of celebrating, branches were encouraged to start collecting their local histories. In 1947, these books were officially named "The Tweedsmuir Village History Books," as a tribute to Lord Tweedsmuir, who passed away a few years earlier. The Federated FWIO website states that "a decade later the Provincial Board reported that 989 Branches across the province were compiling Tweedsmuir History Books."
The Atikokan Branch began creating its book in 1951. Mrs. Phil Rawn was credited with compiling a lot of the information. J. Munn was responsible for most of the assembly. Mrs. Tom Rawn and D.S. McCuaig provided the bulk of the information recorded about Atikokan's early life. Mrs. Rooney and other community members contributed photographs. Organizations also aided in the book's creation. To offer some examples, Steep Rock Iron Mines provided a dearth of information "as they [were] closely associated with the growth of Atikokan." Numerous town churches and organizations also provided information to include in the book's pages.
Lady Tweedsmuir's foreword above states:
I am so glad to hear that the Women's Institutes of Ontario are going to compile village history books. Events move very fast nowadays, houses are pulled down, new roads are made, and the aspect of the countryside changes completely sometimes in a short time.
Lady Tweedsmuir's words encouraged WI members to become local historians. Not only did they collect and preserve newspaper articles, photographs, institutional histories, literary prose and art, they also used oral histories as a means to record the past. As such, these books have become a window into the past, giving details about rural Ontario life; preserved for present and future generations to enjoy. And, true to Lady Tweedsmuir's statement, these books have become an invaluable resource for historians. As an Atikokan Centennial Museum employee, I can attest that I have referenced the local Tweedsmuir book several times to locate historical information. Every so often I flip through the book to find names of community members that may have not been recorded in the museum's accession records. Because of this resource, many people once labeled as "unidentified" have been given names in the museum's records.
The FWIO is still in existence today, with many active branches throughout Ontario. They "envision an Ontario where women work together for safe, healthy families, communities and pursue an enriched and balanced lifestyle." Preserving history is still an important activity for the group. In 2010 an agreement was made with the Ontario Genealogical Society and the FWIO to digitize the Tweedsmuir books. The FWIO website states that "this is great news to the WI. Besides having the original documents remain locally, the whole world will be able to access the Tweedsmuirs online to conduct family research, learn about our rich communities, and discover the wonderful work that has been created by WI members." The FWIO also has digital collections available, including ten digitized versions of Tweedsmuir Community History Books. Interested parties can also visit the Erland Lee Museum, the birthplace of the WI in Stoney Creek, located just east of Hamilton. This structure stands proudly on top of the beautiful Niagara escarpment.
For those interested in the Atikokan's Tweedsmuir History Book please visit the Atikokan Centennial Museum. There is also a copy of the book at the Atikokan Public Library.
 Linda M. Ambrose. For Home and Country: The Centennial History of the Women's Institutes in Ontario (Boston Mills Press, 1996), 17.
 Ibid., 19.
 Ibid., 19.
 Ibid., 21.
 Ibid., 22.
 Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario. "Branches: Past & Present, http://www.fwio.on.ca/branches-past-present (accessed March 26, 2017)
 Allan A. Viita. A History of Atikokan: 75th Anniversary Edition, 68.
 Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario. "Tweedsmuir History Books," http://www.fwio.on.ca/tweedsmuir-history-books (accessed March 26, 2017)
 Atikokan Branch of the Women's Institute, Tweedsmuir History Book, Atikokan Centennial Museum.
 Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario, "About FWIO,"http://www.fwio.on.ca/about-fwio"
Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario. "Tweedsmuir History Books," http://www.fwio.on.ca/tweedsmuir-history-books (accessed March 26, 2017)
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