Discussion Questions

Consider the photographs in the Private/Public Lives series in the Library and Archives Canada War Records—Manufacturing collection with the following discussion prompts:

Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl

Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl. Veronica Foster, an employee of John Inglis Co. Ltd. known as The Bren Gun Girl, operating a lathe on the Bren Gun production line. Toronto, Onatrio (10 May 1941). National Film Board of Canada / Phototheque / Library and Archives Canada, PA-051587

  1. Compare Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl to Mrs. Jack Wright. How do these two different representations of women on the home front foreground different narratives surrounding gender? Do they appeal to different social or economic groups? Do they offer alternative views of women’s roles in the history of the World Wars?
  2. The photographs of Mrs. Jack Wright are archived under Canadian Families. How would we know if this depiction is accurate? What does accurate mean? Do you think that the roles depicted were typical of married Canadian women during the war?
  3. What social purpose would the distribution of these photographs serve? How do the depictions of women serve to undermine or reinforce gender norms? What purpose would these photographs serve for soldiers on the front, who were completely detached from the relative normalcy depicted?
  4. In the Photographer’s Showcase of the archive, two female photographers, Pearl Samment and Elyse Gagnon, are presented, though little information is known about them. Why are these photographs important? How do they enrich, or detract from, the official version of history?

Works Cited

  • Library and Archives Canada. Canadian War Industry During the Second World War. War Records—Manufacturing. Government of Canada, 5 Sep, 2007. Web. 14 Nov. 2012.