Rosies of the North website homepage image, with text: Rosies of the North - Our goal is to bring to life the stories and experiences of the extraordinary women who built Hawker Hurricane and Curtis Helldivers at the Canadian Car and Foundry factory in Fort William, Ontario during the second World War

Rosies of the North website homepage

Rosies of the North

  • Active date (Rosies): 1939-1945
  • Project creation: 1999 (film), 2022 (website)

During World War II, hundreds of women began working at the Canadian Car and Foundry (CanCar) plant in Fort William. They comprised up to half of those 7,000 employed at CanCar, which previously had an all-male workforce. These women, known as Rosies, came from all over Canada to join in the war effort by building Hawker Hurricanes and Curtiss Helldivers. Their efforts, and the consequences their workforce participation had on Canadian society, are documented in the Rosies of the North project, both as a film and now a website.

The project began with the research phase of Kelly Saxberg’s “Rosies of the North” film, which took place between 1997 and 1999. In 1999, Bombardier donated hundreds of photos and employee records of the Rosies to the Friends of the Finnish Labour Temple. These records, alongside interviews, became the basis for a narrative of exceptional women in the region.

The film showcases the contributions of women made at the Canadian Car and Foundry (CanCar) plant in Fort William during the Second World War. In this documentary, Saxberg interviewed numerous women who worked at the Fort William CanCar plant during WWII, where they shared their experiences and memories of working there. Rhoda McKay, one CanCar worker, explained how “I started in the assembly line, and it was riveting and drilling holes and stuff like that.” Another woman who worked at the CanCar plant, Margaret Gandier, commented, “I think that this experience of living away from home and working at CanCar certainly matured us.”

In 2022, as part of the Rosies of the North project, Saxberg's team of students, graduates, and volunteers created a website to bring to life the work these women did. The website is interactive, using audio interview recordings, photographs, employee records, newspapers, and other archival materials offer insight into everyday life of the Rosies at the CanCar plant. The biographies page showcases some of CanCar’s finest workers, including Isabella Spicer, Glenus Lenore Johnson, Rose Alice Louise Bernst, Mildred Main, Nellie Venasky, and many more.

Submitted by: Bryson Irvine on behalf of the Rosies of the North Project

View the Rosies of the North website

CanCar plant 
CanCar plant
(Photo courtesy of the Rosies of the North website)

Rosies at CanCar
A group of Rosies
(Photo courtesy of the Rosies of the North website)

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