Halifax's first monument for women to honour war volunteers

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Halifax's first monument for women to honour war volunteers

A new monument is coming to the Halifax waterfront, and for the first time in the city a statue will be dedicated to the contributions of women.

The piece is called The Volunteers/Les Bénévoles and pays tribute to the thousands of women who provided volunteer labour during the Second World War.

The Halifax Women's History Society spent years fundraising and commissioning the sculpture, which portrays three different women.

"One of our members felt that one of the groups that had been too long ignored were the thousands of women in the city and across the country who provided volunteer labour," said the society's chair, Janet Guildford.

'Very special' project

During that time, women collected salvage, sold war bonds, knit items to help those in the war and cooked.

The design of the monument was unveiled at Halifax City Hall Thursday morning, with four war volunteers on hand to see it.

"I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to realize how important the women were in those days," said Ruth Graham, who started volunteering in 1940. "They weren't acknowledged for their tenacity. The whole thing is very special."

Rare opportunity 

The three-piece design was created by sculptor Marlene Hilton Moore, who lives in Ontario but is originally from New Brunswick. She was honoured to be awarded the commission.

"I've created over two dozen figures, three are women. That's it," she said. "What I love about it, is that you can monumentalize the ordinary work of women and that contribution is massive."

It took Hilton Moore three months to make the design. She created a wax sculpture that will now be recreated in bronze before it is installed on the Halifax waterfront in November.

Women on the waterfront

The piece will be near the Seaport Farmers'Market, outside the Halifax Port Authority offices.

"We couldn't be happier," Guildford said of the location. "Because so much of the women's work was on the waterfront."

The project will cost about $750,000. The society collected donations from community members and the government, and even received a $100,000 anonymous contribution.

"Women's history has not had very much visibility and lots of research has been done but most of it is tucked away in archives and libraries," she said. "Transferring that information to a piece of public art I think will go a long way to making women's history more visible to people in Halifax and visitors to Halifax."