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Sadie Reports from the Home Front


While Harry provided his account of the war in Europe, Sadie did what she could to keep Harry connected to civilian Ontario. The war was changing her life as well, and in one letter she described the fundraising and enlistment efforts in Toronto.

"This has been one of Toronto’s very busy days in aid of the War. In three days they are trying to raise 2000000 just Toronto and York. In the paper tonight, there are names of those who contributed very generously – one man having given $25000 another 20000 etc. The automobiles were all decorated and everyone seemed to be hustling. It is also a big day for the soldiers. Each company is trying to see which one can get the largest no. of recruits. The music was grand – so many bands passed – seemed like some big holiday."

Sadie, 25 Jan 1916

Letter to Harry Mason from Sadie Arbuckle, January 25, 1916
Click to see a larger image

Letter to Harry Mason from Sadie Arbuckle, January 25, 1916
Sadie Arbuckle fonds
Reference Code: F 848
Archives of Ontario, I0070152
Letter to Harry Mason from Sadie Arbuckle, January 25, 1916
Click to see a larger image

Letter to Harry Mason from Sadie Arbuckle, January 25, 1916
Sadie Arbuckle fonds
Reference Code: F 848
Archives of Ontario, I0070153


Sadie is conscious of her role as Harry’s connection to the Home Front, though, and often interrupts her own observations to scold herself for speaking too much of war.

" I can’t understand why they don’t have a monstrous battle and end it all in a hurry, but they just keep taking more men on all the time and yet there doesn’t seem to be any victories won. Guess I don’t understand enough about it – about war – I only know it is a great big world and into it, all the boys are going – not knowing really what it is they are going into, but brave enough to take their chance. I can picture the celebration when it is over Harry can’t you – and all the happiness when the boys come back. Must not say any more about it. You hear enough about that subject, don’t you? "

Sadie, [27 Feb 1916]


graphic of speaker

Click below to hear a portion of the letter
above


Perhaps the most interesting moments in Sadie’s letters come when she reveals what news of the war is available back home in Ontario, and how it makes her feel. For example, she often gets glimpses of the war at the local movie theatre:

" There was a splendid picture being shown. A war picture showing both the German & British in action. It is the only picture known to show actual fighting. We could see the Germans firing at the allies... Harry some of the scenes were terrible... We saw one man fighting, saw him shot & saw him die. I thought they weren’t allowed to show pictures like that. "

Sadie, 14 Aug 1917

Nurses at the Red Cross tent, Casa Loma, Toronto, Ontario, 1915
Click to see a larger image

Nurses at the Red Cross tent, Casa Loma, Toronto, Ontario, 1915
John Boyd
Black and white print
John Boyd fonds
Reference Code: C 7-3, Item 12385
Archives of Ontario, I0003529
Unidentified military nurse, [ca. 1914-1918]
Click to see a larger image

Unidentified military nurse, [ca. 1914-1918]
Black and white print
Sadie Arbuckle fonds
Reference Code: F 848
Archives of Ontario, I0050251



Sadie also muses on the role of women in WWI. While lamenting the limitations of her gender, she writes about the women who are engaged in the war, and speculates about her own usefulness at the front.

" So you have quite a large hospital have you? Is there a possible chance of any amateur nurses getting in I wonder. Think the next thing I will try for will be training for Red Cross nurse… I would love it but that is impossible. "

Sadie, Sunday @ 6 pm [1916]



" I wonder how many times I have wished I were a boy. I seem to like their sports much better like riding, climbing trees, etc. Oh! I would just love to be going as a soldier & if I had been a boy (worse luck I’m not) I surely would have been one of some kind. A girl has to wait for results, where a boy can go and see them. Suppose you are shocked at me by now. "

Sadie, 6 Feb 1916


graphic of speaker

Click below to hear a portion of the letter above


Munitions, fuse factory, [between 1914 and 1919]
Click to see a larger image

Munitions, fuse factory, [between 1914 and 1919]
Original drawing by Dorothy Stevens
Print
Canadian War Memorials Fund fonds
Reference Code: C 334-1-5-0-17
Archives of Ontario, I00013280

" [S]o long as there is war men must fight and women yearn. "

Harry, 25 Jun 1916