November 12, 2018

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Women and war

From the medical tent to the front line: Women’s roles and opportunities in the Canadian military have evolved in the last 100 years

This article was published 7/11/2015 (1101 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The troops standing in formation in a farmer’s field in the century-old, black-and-white photograph look as if they’re ready to fight the enemy in the First World War.

They can’t, though — posing at a dairy farm in Headingley, they’re a good 6,500 kilometres from the front in Europe. And there’s another glaring obstacle even the strongest among them couldn’t overcome; an obstacle that would thwart even their daughters and granddaughters when it came to roles within the Canadian military.

They are women. And in 1915, and for several decades to come, that’s a problem.

The role of women in the Canadian military — and in Canada itself — has come a long way since the First World War. Women have gone from being relegated to serving only as nurses to being able to serve in any role, including (beginning in 2000) on Royal Canadian Navy submarines.

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This article was published 7/11/2015 (1101 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The troops standing in formation in a farmer’s field in the century-old, black-and-white photograph look as if they’re ready to fight the enemy in the First World War.

They can’t, though — posing at a dairy farm in Headingley, they’re a good 6,500 kilometres from the front in Europe. And there’s another glaring obstacle even the strongest among them couldn’t overcome; an obstacle that would thwart even their daughters and granddaughters when it came to roles within the Canadian military.

They are women. And in 1915, and for several decades to come, that’s a problem.

The role of women in the Canadian military — and in Canada itself — has come a long way since the First World War. Women have gone from being relegated to serving only as nurses to being able to serve in any role, including (beginning in 2000) on Royal Canadian Navy submarines.

The Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) began recruiting in 1941, and grew to 21,000 strong. Early on, their duties were as cooks and medical assistants, but they went on to drive ambulances and trucks and work as radar operators.

Stacey Barker, acting historian of art and war at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, has delved into the issue as curator for the recently opened, special exhibit World War Women. The exhibit, which runs until April, explores changes brought to the lives of women during the war years.

"The biggest change is, I believe, (the military) is fully integrated now," she said.

"But that’s not the way it was in the world wars. Women could only be service nurses (they were called "nursing sisters") in the First World War, and that’s how 3,000 of them went to war... that was the only way they could serve with the Armed Forces back then."

It didn’t mean women didn’t face risks, Barker said. They were close to the fighting so they could help treat injured soldiers.

"The danger was always there," she said.

Forty nursing sisters died during the First World War when field hospitals were bombed or ships sank. But that’s the closest a woman could come to the fighting as all other doors and opportunities in the military were closed to them, Barker said.

However, the respect women gained for their service caused those doors to open a crack the next time Canada went to war.

By the time the nation entered the Second World War, things had changed for the 50,000 women who joined the military, Barker said.

"They were still working as nursing sisters, but there were also women’s service units: the WACs, the Wrens, the WD of the Canadian Air Force. But they were all non-combative positions. They took over a man’s job to free them up to go into combat. Signalling and coding are examples."

The Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) began recruiting in 1941, and grew to 21,000 strong. Early on, their duties were as cooks and medical assistants, but they went on to drive ambulances and trucks and work as radar operators.

The Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (known popularly as Wrens) began in 1942 and recruited about 7,000 women. They worked in clerical and administration, but also as on-shore radar operators.

The Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division (WD) began recruiting in 1941 and had 17,000 women join.

While women in the other two arms of the military mostly stayed in Canada, many of those with the air force served with Canadian squadrons in Britain. They were trained to take on clerical and administrative roles but later also worked in the mechanical section.

Norine Anderson was one of those who joined the Women’s Division of the RCAF — just don’t make the mistake of saying she served in an auxiliary.

"We weren’t all nurses," the 91-year-old Anderson said. "I was working in Bomber Command with the air force. I have an air force uniform. We were a division of the air force, and we were proud of that.

Norine Anderson served in Bomber Command. In the foreground is a photo of Anderson in 1944 and her husband, Ted Anderson.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Norine Anderson served in Bomber Command. In the foreground is a photo of Anderson in 1944 and her husband, Ted Anderson.

"And we were proud of our motto in the Women’s Division — ‘We serve that men may fly.’ "

Anderson (née Parker) said her parents wouldn’t let her sign up until she had graduated from high school, a few weeks before she turned 19. Shortly after, she headed to Ottawa for basic training. A few months later, Anderson was serving in air bases in coastal British Columbia.

"I wanted to get out into the world. The adventure. And we wanted to help," she said.

It still bugs Anderson girls had to wait until their 18th birthday to join while boys could do so at 17 1/2. "I’ve never figured out the difference six months would make."

Anderson’s training wasn’t just on how to take on the role of men at the bases, but also how to take on men she would meet at the bases.

"We were warned about the men. We were to behave like ladies... I remembered — most of the time," she said. "They were very strict with us girls. We had a woman officer of our own, and she kept track of us.

"We had to be in our barracks by 10 (p.m.) or maybe even earlier."

Anderson said most of her counterparts served on the East Coast, while she was one of three deployed to the west, where they kept track of the bombers.

"The bombers would take off on their own runway, and the fighters would take off in figures of three... the pilots came into our office in the morning," she said.

A detail of the uniform Norine Anderson wore in 1944.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A detail of the uniform Norine Anderson wore in 1944.

"They came in and saw our officers about where they were to go that day. What they were to look for. What they were to do if they saw it. Then, hopefully, return to base and tell the officers what they saw and did.

"I had to post it all on a big blackboard showing where such and such a number of planes had gone, where they left and when they were back."

Anderson said she also had to keep track of the weather to relate it to the pilots, as well as sea conditions. She also worked in the signals section, relaying messages from pilots to officers.

Because Anderson was on the West Coast, she continued to serve for several months after hostilities ceased in Europe because the war was still ongoing in the Pacific.

Anderson, who was discharged in November 1945, returned to Winnipeg, where she met her husband (who coincidentally had also served in the air force) and raised her family. Her husband, Ted, died in 2005.

"We did a lot of things during the war years we never would have been able to do if there wasn’t a war and we stayed in school. It was different. It wasn’t the way girls were usually raised." — Norine Anderson

While never able to fly a plane in the military "officially," she said with a chuckle (a former boyfriend had let her take the controls during a spin), she was still close to tragedy.

"Once, a plane flew into the mountain," she said. "They had a search party that climbed up and found smashed parts all over the place. (A searcher) brought in a piece of uniform not more than the size of his palm.

"It really gave us a reality check."

While there were no female pilots, Anderson said, women were taking on non-traditional roles at the base. "One was very good in the mechanical section because she came from a farm where there were no sons and had learned to fix tractors."

More than two years in the military shaped the rest of her life, Anderson said. And it means so much to her that, while she had downsized through the years and now lives in a seniors complex, she still keeps her full uniform in her closet.

"We did a lot of things during the war years we never would have been able to do if there wasn’t a war and we stayed in school," she said.

"It was different. It wasn’t the way girls were usually raised."

Retired Sgt. Linda Jardine spent more than 30 years in the navy and armed forces, including service as a peacekeeper in the Golan Heights in the 1970s.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Retired Sgt. Linda Jardine spent more than 30 years in the navy and armed forces, including service as a peacekeeper in the Golan Heights in the 1970s.

It was the summer of love in 1967, peace signs were everywhere, and Linda Jardine knew there was something she had to do.

She didn’t want to go to San Francisco, she wanted to join the Canadian navy.

"Joining the military was not something most women would have thought of doing then," she said. "I was one of about 1,300 women in the military at the time."

Jardine joined the naval reserves in 1967 and the regular force in 1968. She wore a uniform for a total of 34 years.

"When I was 16 or 17, I saw a guy in uniform, and it made me think of uniforms and the military," she said.

Retired Sgt. Linda Jardine, ca.1979

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Retired Sgt. Linda Jardine, ca.1979

"Later, I heard an aunt of my mother say she always wanted to join the air force and she regretted never joining. I didn’t want to have that regret. I joined up. I’ve never regretted it."

However, Jardine said, opportunities for women were limited: she was assigned to be a finance clerk.

"That was one of the positions open for women at the time. Another was dental hygienist," she said. "The only other role I would have liked to have done would have been in construction. Building things. I don’t know what I would have built, but I would have liked that."

In November 1994, Jardine landed in Israel as part of a Canadian peacekeeping mission to help the United Nations monitor the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights. She served there for seven months. "It’s a fairly beautiful part of the world. When you’re at camp, it’s a normal job. It’s the outside point that changes."

Jardine said the Canadians would either go to the beaches in Israel or shopping in Damascus or Syrian towns during days off — times when her gender was more an issue than when she was doing her job.

"It was like going back 200 years — the men walked with the women behind them," she said. "They told us, ‘If you are ever going to Damascus, go in a group. Two is not enough. Four, six and eight — go with as many as possible.’ They never did really tell us what would happen. We could only imagine."

Jardine said she also learned how to pack when going to Syria.

"We quickly learned to put your nightgown close to the top of your bag because the man searching wouldn’t go any further," she said with a chuckle. "And some moisturizer or cleansers were made in Israel, and you couldn’t take Israeli products into Syria. So you put it into another container."

Jardine’s peacekeeping stint means, aside from her naval uniform, she can also wear the UN’s distinctive light blue jacket. She now volunteers for the local Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping.

Despite joining the navy, Jardine never served on a ship. She said by the time women could serve on board, it would have meant putting her career on hold while she retrained. She retired with the rank of sergeant.

"I have never ever regretted joining. I have such wonderful memories."

*  *  *

Dee Brasseur, shown in 1989, was one of the first two female CF-18 pilots in the world.

HANDOUT / DND / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Dee Brasseur, shown in 1989, was one of the first two female CF-18 pilots in the world.

The first machine Dee Brasseur worked with after she joined the military was a typewriter. The final one: a fighter jet.

Brasseur was one of the first two female CF-18 pilots in the world when she and Capt. Jane Foster graduated from training in 1988.

"I had no idea when I started," Brasseur said. "My going into the military was a way to spread my wings from home."

Shortly after joining, and seeing the limited opportunities for women at that time, Brasseur considered putting on the red serge and becoming a Mountie. ("I thought that sounded interesting, but I didn’t (do it).")

Brasseur joined the air force because she grew up a military brat — her dad was in the air force and brought the family to 11 different military and civilian postings scattered throughout six provinces and two American states.

"I was comfortable with the environment," she said. "The military was a place where they would feed me and clothe me and give me money."

Brasseur dreamed of flying as a child, but when she joined the military in 1972, women weren’t allowed to be pilots.

Instead, Brasseur was assigned to be an administration clerk. Her first posting was at CFB Winnipeg, where she served as a typist in the dental office.

"I remember when I was 12 and I saw planes flying at the base and I thought, ‘Boys are really lucky.’ It wasn’t on my wish list because it was not allowed.

"I didn’t join to change the system."

Months later, after taking courses, she was next posted to North Bay, Ont., as an air weapons controller. From there, she continued taking on roles in the military while taking private flying lessons.

In 1979, Brasseur was one of four women selected when the military decided to first try women as pilots. She received her wings in 1981 and became the first female flight instructor.

Brasseur later flew the CF-18 in both Canada and Europe. She retired as a major in 1994.

She never continued her flying career into the corporate sector. "It would be like grass-cutting. I went to 47,000 feet supersonic," Brasseur said.

Looking back at her career path, Brasseur said limited opportunities for women indirectly led her to become a pilot.

"It was very limiting, but, in 1973, they opened up some more trades to women. They should have been open anyway, but if some of these trades had been open before, I might have become an aircraft mechanic instead of a pilot," she said.

"I think the only door closed right now is Catholic priest, but you can be a deacon in the air force. I don’t think any doors are closed now."

Meryl McKeand spend more than 20 years working underground. She reveals few secrets of the now-sealed bunker.

COLIN CORNEAU / BRANDON SUN

Meryl McKeand spend more than 20 years working underground. She reveals few secrets of the now-sealed bunker.

A blond-haired mannequin wearing a flower-print blouse sits locked in time in front of a decades-old switchboard tucked inside the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum located at CFB Shilo east of Brandon.

In a black-and-white photograph taking up a portion of the wall of the display, a dark-haired woman wearing a solid-coloured blouse sits in front of the same switchboard.

Meryl McKeand worked as a switchboard operator in CFB Shilo's underground bunker during the Cold War era.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Meryl McKeand worked as a switchboard operator in CFB Shilo's underground bunker during the Cold War era.

"(The mannequin) that’s certainly not me," Meryl McKeand, the woman in the photograph, said with a laugh.

"I was surprised when I saw the exhibit. I was never blond. But that’s my switchboard."

McKeand, 89, worked for 21 years as a switchboard operator at CFB Shilo. It was far from a normal workplace environment: the switchboard was located in an underground bunker.

In the 1960s, during the height of the Cold War, the bunker was designed to continue functioning in the event of a nuclear conflict. It was also where the premier and cabinet would be rushed from Winnipeg to ensure government continued to function.

McKeand was fully prepared for a day the door to the surface would be closed and she would be locked inside for an undetermined period to continue manning the phones.

That day never came, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t ready.

"We knew what we’d have to do," she said. "We were informed that if that day ever came, we would be there. It would be sealed and that’s where we would be.

"You couldn’t even phone home."

McKeand had been a teacher but left the profession while raising her family.

She was thinking of going back into the workforce when, while at a function near Shilo, she was sitting beside the base’s commanding officer.

"I just casually said, ‘I think I’ll get back to work,’ and he said, ‘We have a position on base. Why don’t you apply? It’s operating the switchboard.’ "

McKeand went to the interview — and lost out to a person who had switchboard experience. But it wasn’t long before that person moved to another position and the base called McKeand. She continued to operate the switchboard until she retired at 65.

"Being in the underground bunker all the time didn’t bother me at all," she said. "Some people would have felt claustrophobic, but I had no problem."

The bunker is now sealed with concrete. Not because the military is worried people might try to break in or discover national secrets — sealing it means the military doesn’t have to pay taxes on it.

The bunker was stripped of all its furniture to furnish a similar structure outside Ottawa intended to house federal officials and the prime minister. The so-called Diefenbunker is now a tourist attraction, but McKeand is still tight-lipped about the Shilo facility.

"Yes, there was more than one floor. We were underground," she admitted.

McKeand said she retired just as the position of switchboard operator was discontinued because of new technology. As a retirement present, the base presented her with the switchboard she sat in front of for all those years.

"I had it for years, but then I was going to move from the house to a seniors residence. I couldn’t take it with me," she said. "I phoned the museum and asked, ‘Would you like it back?’ And they said yes."

During her years working underground she said never had any problems as a woman.

"I got along great with everybody. Everybody always treated me with great respect and politeness. I couldn’t have enjoyed anything more."

*  *  *

Jennifer Bennett is the navy's first female rear admiral.

CORPORAL MÉLANI GIRARD, CANADIAN FORCES SUPPORT UNIT (OTTAWA)

Jennifer Bennett is the navy's first female rear admiral.

Rear Admiral Jennifer Bennett spent most of her career calling superiors "sir" while she was addressed as "ma’am."

It is only recently, having served more than 40 years in the Forces, that Bennett has to call a superior ma’am again.

Bennett is the navy’s first female rear admiral and the country’s senior ranking reserve officer. While she is the navy’s highest-ranking female, Bennett is the second-highest-ranking woman in the Canadian military since Lt.-Gen. Christine Whitecross, the military’s top female general, was promoted to her current position in May.

"I haven’t had to call anyone ma’am in years, but now I have to again," Bennett said.

"But that’s a good thing. It’s nice so many opportunities are open and we’re seeing so many serving all across the Forces. And they have examples that I didn’t have."

Bennett, who has not served in Manitoba but has been here many times in her various positions, said she joined a "very different military" when she enrolled in the Naval Reserve in 1975.

"The practices inside were also reflected in Canadian society," she said. "Our dress uniforms had a skirt, not slacks. We had purses. I joined the navy, but women were not allowed to go to sea.

"I’ve had the unique opportunity to see doors open and see new opportunities throughout my career... people who joined just five years before weren’t able to do things I’ve been able to do."

“Women were nurses even in the Northwest Rebellion. Nurses were on the front lines, and they did incredible things. Women rose to the occasion... we stand on the shoulders of those women.” — Jennifer Bennett

Bennett served with the Naval Reserve for years while working as an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator.

Even when women were finally allowed to go on ships, there were still restrictions initially. While sailing during daytime training, it had to be close enough to shore so she could leave the ship at night.

If there is anything Bennett regrets about her career, it is not being able to spend more time at sea.

"I would have liked that," she said. "By the time the seagoing trades were opened for women I was senior enough that I would have had to put my career on hold and re-qualify."

The military isn’t for all women, she said, but it is one of the few careers that has equal pay regardless of gender. "And for career setting, once you receive qualifications and experience, someone else lets you know you’re ready for your next role, and you can take it on."

Bennett said where she is today is a testament to all the women who came before her in the Canadian military.

"I have them to thank," she said. "Women were nurses even in the Northwest Rebellion. Nurses were on the front lines, and they did incredible things. Women rose to the occasion... we stand on the shoulders of those women."

Leading Seaman Jessica Leiblein now has a naval rank, but she was an infantry soldier early in her military career.

In 2006, she was deployed to Afghanistan, where she was part of Operation Medusa, a Canadian-led offensive during which 12 Canadian soldiers died.

Leiblein, who enlisted in 2003, doesn’t divulge details about her time in combat, but admits she wasn’t far away when fellow soldiers were being attacked or died.

"It was luck of the draw," she said. "I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I was in close proximity to a lot of stuff that happened, but I was never directly involved."

In one instance, two U.S. aircraft mistakenly fired on a friendly platoon, killing one soldier and injuring dozens of others.

Leading Seaman Jessica Leiblein started her military career as an infantry soldier. Men and women are expected to do the same job.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Leading Seaman Jessica Leiblein started her military career as an infantry soldier. Men and women are expected to do the same job.

"Our platoon was within 500 metres of that bombing drop," she said. "They pulled our medic to help... the ground shook that day. I still don’t like overhead aircraft today. It was just chaos."

Participating in ramp ceremonies for fallen comrades as they were flown back to Canada was never easy.

"You never get used to going to one," she said. "The first one I went to... I said I didn’t want to go again. But we had to time and time again. You pay your respects and then carry on."

There were separate washrooms and showers for women during training, Leiblein said, but otherwise they were together with their male counterparts. And in a combat zone, there is little room for modesty.

"When I was in camp, I was in a room with other females," she said. "But as soon as we were out of the camp, there was no segregation. I went 23 days without a shower. That’s actually low. Some didn’t have a shower for 50 days.

"Sleeping arrangements and peeing were together," she added. "You just had to do what you had to do regardless. When you have to stay in this immediate area, you had to. I would crouch under a vehicle or try to hide behind a LAV wheel, but sometimes you just have to get over it."

Leiblein said men and women carry the same equipment. They are also expected to do the same jobs. "We were carrying sandbags up the mountain, and there were a lot of bags," she said.

"The guys could carry two bags up at a time, but I couldn’t do that. The commander said we’re all taking the same amount of weight so some will finish earlier. We all carried the same weight up. It just took me longer."

Leiblein says she’s sure there will be a day where the number of women in the military will equal men (the ratio is currently about 15 per cent women).

"I don’t think you’ll ever see women en masse applying in the military," she said. "But as it becomes known and women find what is possible, you could see the numbers increase.

"There was never any door closed. Everything was open and possible when I joined. I didn’t give it much thought. I just worked with a lot of guys at work and I get along with them. I didn’t give any thought to not being around other females."

During her career she has seen attitudes changing towards women.

"When I first came to the battalion it was, ‘We have another female? Why are you here? Why did you join? Did I know what I got into?’

"Now it is, ‘Oh, we have another female in.’ I’ve helped change attitudes."

The Tri-Service statue on Memorial Boulevard. It depicts women serving in the air force, navy and army.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Tri-Service statue on Memorial Boulevard. It depicts women serving in the air force, navy and army.

In downtown Winnipeg’s Memorial Park, near the cenotaph where veterans and the public gather each Remembrance Day, is a statue of three women in uniform.

The tri-services memorial was originally dedicated in 1976 to those in the British Commonwealth who gave their lives or served during the two world wars. (Forty nursing sisters died in the First World War, while 71 women died during the Second World War.)

Capt. Nichola Goddard, of 1 RCHA at CFB Shilo, became the first Canadian woman killed in combat.

HANDOUT / CANADIAN ARMED FORCES / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Capt. Nichola Goddard, of 1 RCHA at CFB Shilo, became the first Canadian woman killed in combat.

It was erected by the Women’s Tri-Service Association, a group formed by veterans to raise funds for the project.

The sculpture, by Helen Granger Young, who also created the Famous Five statue on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature, depicts women in uniform who served in the air force, navy and army during the Second World War.

Perhaps the greatest sign of how far women have come in serving with the Canadian military is women can now die while serving in combat roles.

Capt. Nichola Goddard, who served at CFB Shilo, was killed during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2006. She was the first Canadian female soldier killed in combat.

Stacey Barker of the Canadian War Museum said there are now no limits on what women can do in the military.

"The women’s units were disbanded in 1946, but for Korea (1950-53) they reintegrated back in," she said.

"And the role of women continued to change through the 20th century as women’s rights progressed. Women entered combat after trials in the 1980s. But it was a relatively slow progression through the years."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

 

Historical milestones of women in the Canadian Armed Forces

1885: Women serve as nurses for the first time in Canadian military history during the Northwest Rebellion.

1901: A permanent Canadian Nursing Service is created.

1898-1902: Nurses support the Canadian military with the Yukon Field Force in 1898 and the three Canadian contingents in the Boer War in South Africa. During the Boer War, they become a permanent part of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps.

1906: Nurses are admitted to the Regular Force.

Winnipeg Women's Volunteer Reserve at Kinalmeaky Farm, Headingley, October 1915, with Dr. Douglass in the foreground.

ARCHIVES OF MANITOBA, FOOTE COLLECTION 2306

Winnipeg Women's Volunteer Reserve at Kinalmeaky Farm, Headingley, October 1915, with Dr. Douglass in the foreground.

1914-1918: More than 2,800 women serve with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps between 1914 and 1918, with the majority serving overseas in hospitals, on board hospital ships, in several theatres of war and in combat zones with field ambulance units. The First World War also sees the first organization of women in a military capacity other than nursing. Canadian women form paramilitary groups, outfit themselves in military-style uniforms and undertake training in small arms, drill, first aid and vehicle maintenance in case they are needed as home guards.

1939-1945: Approximately 5,000 nurses serve in the Army, Navy, and Air Force Medical Corps during the Second World War. They serve overseas in hospitals, casualty stations near combat zones, mobile field hospitals and in many theatres of war. They are not permitted to serve in warships, combat aircraft or combat arms units.

1941: The Canadian government decides to enrol more than 45,000 female volunteers for full-time military service other than nursing. All three services establish women’s divisions, and the range of duties broadens during the war from traditional trades — clerks, cooks, drivers, and telephone operators — to mechanics, parachute riggers and heavy-mobile-equipment drivers.

1942: Mary Greyeyes of the Muskeg Lake Indian Reserve becomes the first aboriginal woman to enlist in the Canadian army.

1950-1953: Women are once again recruited for military service when military personnel are committed to the Korean War. More than 5,000 women are serving by 1955.

1965: A government decision is made to continue to employ women in the Canadian military. A fixed ceiling of 1,500, to include women in all three services, is established. The limit represents roughly 1.5 per cent of the total force of the day.

1970: The Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommends changes necessary to provide a climate of equal opportunity for women in Canada, with six recommendations aimed specifically at the CAF. They include: standardization of enrolment criteria; equal pension benefits for women and men; opportunity for women to attend Canadian military colleges; opening of all trades and officer classifications to women; and, termination of regulations prohibiting enrolment of married women and requiring release of servicewomen upon the birth of a child.

1979: Military colleges open their doors to women.

1987: Colonel Sheila A. Hellstrom, a graduate of the National Defence College, becomes the first women serving as a Regular Force officer to be promoted to the rank of brigadier-general.

Combat Related Employment of Women trials are announced for selected army units and naval vessels. The air force announces no further trials are required and all areas of air force employment, including fighter pilot, are open to women.

1986-1988: Following a discrimination complaint, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders the CAF to continue the Combat Related Employment trials as preparation for the full integration of women in all occupations of the CAF rather than as a trials program; fully integrate women into Regular and Reserve Forces (with the exception of submarines); remove all employment restrictions and implement new occupational personnel selection standards; and devise a plan to steadily, regularly and consistently achieve complete integration within 10 years.

1989: Pte. Heather R. Erxleben becomes Canada’s first female Regular Force infantry soldier.

Maj. Dee Brasseur and Capt. Jane Foster become the first female fighter pilots of a CF-18 Hornet.

Major Anne Reiffenstein in 2003

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Major Anne Reiffenstein in 2003

1991: Lieut. Anne Reiffenstein (née Proctor), Lieut. Holly Brown, and Capt. Linda Shrum graduate from artillery training as the first female officers in the combat arms.

1992: Cpl. Marlene Shillingford becomes the first woman selected to join the Snowbirds team. She takes part in the 1993-94 show season as a technician.

1994: Maj.-Gen. Wendy Clay becomes the first woman promoted to that rank.

1996: Lieut.-Cmdr. Wafa Dabbagh becomes the first Canadian Muslim woman to wear the hijab in the CAF.

1997: Col. Patricia Samson is appointed Canadian Forces provost marshall; she is later promoted to brigadier-general.

1998: Lieut.-Col. Karen McCrimmon is appointed commander of 429 Transport Squadron in Trenton, Ont., becoming the first woman to command an air force squadron.

Chief Petty Officer Second Class Holly Kisbee becomes the first female combat chief of a major warship.

2000: The chief of the maritime staff announces women can serve in submarines.

Lieut.Ruth-Ann Shamuhn of 5 Combat Engineer Regiment becomes the first female combat diver.

2001: Capt. Maryse Carmichael is the first female Snowbird pilot.

2002: Chief Warrant Officer Camille Tkacz is the first woman appointed to a command chief position as assistant deputy minister (human resources-military) chief warrant officer.

2003: Master Seaman Colleen Beattie becomes the first individual qualified as a submariner, followed shortly by Master Seaman Carey Ann Stewart.

2006: Brig.-Gen. Christine Whitecross becomes the first woman serving as a Regular Force officer to command Joint Task Force North.

Capt. Nicola Goddard, serving with the 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, is killed in action in Afghanistan.

2007: Commodore Jennifer Bennett becomes the first serving woman to be appointed commander of the Naval Reserve and is thus the first woman to command a naval formation.

2009: Commander Josée Kurtz is the first woman appointed to command a major warship — HMCS Halifax.

2010: Lieut-Col. Susan Wigg, director for cadets, one of the initial women to enrol at the Royal Military College in 1980, becomes its first female director of cadets. Lieut.-Col. Maryse Carmichael becomes the first female commanding officer of the Snowbirds.

2011: The Royal Canadian Navy marks two historic milestones when Commodore Jennifer Bennett is promoted and becomes the first woman to reach the rank of rear-admiral, as well as the first woman to be appointed chief reserves and cadets, the CAF’s highest Reserve Force position.

2012: Capt. Ashley Collette receives the Medal of Military Valour for her "fortitude under fire and performance in combat" as a platoon commander in Nakhonay, Kandahar province, Afghanistan during the period of May to December 2010.

— source: Department of National Defence

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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