A Great War of Expectations: Men, Mothers, and Monsters in Toronto, 1914-1918
MetadataShow full item record
Gendered expectations about wartime duty were central to Toronto’s mobilization during the First World War. How Torontonians defined these duties and responsibilities – and how they imagined the war they were waging – exposes attitudes and reactions towards war that were contrary to those expected and promoted by the war effort. Many of these expectations were based on the prevailing imperial understandings of manhood, war, and militarism of the era. The historiography of the First World War generally presents ideas of a national coming of age. However, how Torontonians lived and imagined war from 1914 to 1918 demonstrates this experience was both contested and gendered. This case study of wartime Toronto examines how municipal, provincial, and federal authorities reinforced masculine expectations during wartime, and especially how active service was framed as the ultimate expression of manhood and masculinity. This study traces links between masculine duty and enlistment for war as communicated through war posters and the city’s municipal organizations. Wartime activities – including recruitment and conscription, the identification of enemy aliens, and civil unrest – were framed by understandings of manhood that valued active military service as its ultimate test. Toronto was a military centre for the recruitment of acceptable soldier-volunteers, and later soldier-conscripts; it was also a place where “enemy aliens” were identified, suspected, and registered and where veterans struggled to readjust to civilian life. While some Torontonians supported the war and the ideals of freedom and democracy it was believed to safeguard, others voiced their displeasure about the war and its effects within the city.