19695 | Christmas Treat for Soldiers' Children
Christmas Treat for Soldiers' Children
December 1915, 20th century
Gelatine silver print mounted on card
21.7 x 30.1 cm
This artefact belongs to: © New Brunswick Museum
Keys to History
Philanthropic associations often arose in response to specific events. During the First World War, several associations including the Women's Patriotic Leagues and the Soldiers' Wives Leagues were organised to provide services for the families of soldiers in Canada. The government took an unusually active role by legislating support for soldiers' families through separation allowances and assigned pay regulations. In typically Canadian fashion, however, these funds were administered by the Canadian Patriotic Fund, a semi-private group, and its middle-class visitors. As a rule philanthropists (and the government) were hesitant to help families, since they did not want to challenge the breadwinner ideology that held men responsible for providing for their wives and children. The rights of soldiers and the desire to stabilise families on the home front altered this approach temporarily, but aid was still largely distributed on the basis of need and often in a very moralistic way. Nonetheless these war-time efforts represented the first hesitant step toward Mothers' Allowances and the assumption of government responsibility for social assistance.
This is an illustration of a special activity-a Christmas treat-organised for the children of soldiers who had left their families in Canada to fight in Europe during the First World War.
The event is taking place in the Centenary Church on Carmarthen Street in Saint John, New Brunswick.
By December 1915, when this photograph was taken, Canada had already been at war for more than a year. Activities such as this would have been seen as important for maintaining family morale.
This particular event was organised by the local Soldiers' Wives League. This organisation had been founded during the Boer War and was reactivated in the First World War. It served to provide support among families and to lobby governments on their behalf.