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Women on the Home Front

Rationing in Canada and Home Front War Posters


To familiarize students with the contributions and sacrifices made by Canadian women on the home front during the war years.

Learning Outcomes

Students will be expected to demonstrate an understanding of what rationing was and how Canadian women on the home front were encouraged to contribute to the war effort by conserving valuable resources.

Target Audience

This activity is aimed at youth aged 12 to 18 years.

Required Class Resources

Optional Class Resources

Sequence of Activities and Anticipated Time Frame

Background (10 minutes)

With your students, brainstorm a list or create a thought web listing the various ways Canadian women supported their country on the home front during the war years.

Some suggested questions to spur student reflection and input:

  • What was rationing?
  • What kinds of items do you think were rationed?
  • Why do you think rationing was necessary during the war?

As ideas are being generated, you may fill in any perceived gaps in student knowledge. For example, you could explain how some foods were more freely available during the war (e.g., many vegetables) while some were tightly rationed (e.g., sugar, coffee and meat).

Activity One: War Rationing Poster Analysis (40 minutes total)

During this activity, students will become familiar with rationing and other home front contributions and their importance during the war years. They will then examine some posters used during wartime to encourage Canadians on the home front—particularly women—to conserve and ration what they had. A discussion will then follow to allow students to develop a deeper understanding about the use of rationing posters and other “propaganda” posters on the home front.

Step 1 – Introduction (10 minutes)

Have students read the historical sheet Canada Remembers Women on the Home Front to become more familiar with the important roles women played during our country’s wartime efforts. One such vital role they played was in their effort to conserve, salvage and ration goods that were considered to be key to the war effort.

Step 2 – Reviewing Rationing Posters (15 minutes)

Choose a rationing poster from the gallery of posters. Since most households were “managed” by women, you could stress that much of the government messaging regarding rationing and conserving was aimed directly at women.

You could have the students consider the following questions as they review the poster:

  • What is the poster trying to say? What is its main message?
  • What emotions or feelings is the poster trying to provoke?
  • What techniques are used in the poster to reinforce an idea or value?
  • To what extent do you think the poster might have been successful?
  • Do you think the poster reflects a shift in our country’s society between back then and now?

Step 3 – Discussion (15 minutes)

Once everyone has had a chance to view the poster and make notes, have a class discussion to collectively answer the above questions, while encouraging the students to brainstorm and share their own individual findings. A list or a concept-map could be made as students answer the questions and expand on one another’s thoughts and feelings on the subject.

Activity Two: Home Front Rationing Poster Creation and Judging (60 minutes total)

During this activity, students will have the opportunity to create and share their own poster with a message that would have been effective in getting war-era women to do their part by rationing or salvaging.

Step 1 – Brief Review and Poster Viewing (5 minutes)

Take a few minutes to revisit what was learned about rationing during the Second World War and the effectiveness of posters. (You could use the poster and the points that were discussed during the first activity.) The class as a group should view the entire gallery of war posters that were used during wartime to encourage women to salvage and ration. These examples can serve as inspiration for the students as they design a poster of their own.

Step 2 – Poster Creation (30 minutes)

The students will be part of a design team whose job is to create a poster to encourage women on the home front to ration. Students could work in small groups of two or three to design and create a poster, with their finished product being brought before a “panel of judges” consisting of the other students in the class.

Step 3 – “Panel of Judges” (15 minutes)

Once the students have designed and created their own posters, they will come before the panel of judges. Each group of students will bring their poster to the front of the class and very briefly describe the message they are trying to convey and why they chose the design elements that they did. Here are some suggested criteria that the class could use to judge the posters:

  • Clarity and meaningfulness of the message
  • Neatness
  • Creativity and effective use of colour and images
  • Attention-grabbing attributes of the poster’s design and message
  • Likely appeal to women of the day (e.g., would it resonate with women’s daily lives, or would it perhaps tug at the heart strings’?)

After the groups present their posters to the class, the artwork could be hung on the walls of the classroom, cafeteria, hallways or library to create a “Rationing Poster Gallery.” Students from other classes could then come view this gallery as well so they could learn about rationing and the contributions of Canadian women on the home front.

Step 4 – Closing (10 minutes)

Students could take part in a closing discussion on the role that women played on the home front during the war years and the effects rationing and recycling had on the lives of those living in Canada. A parallel could be drawn between these efforts and the present “green” trend in our society toward household recycling and reducing waste in order to help the environment.

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