Sarah Glassford

Sarah Glassford

Dinner at Mrs. Cohen's: Supporting Servicemen on the Cape Breton Home Front, 1939-1945


Dr. Sarah Glassford is an award-winning teacher and scholar of post-Confederation Canadian social history. Her research interests include 19th and 20th century social and cultural history, war and society, women’s history, children’s history, the history of medicine and the work of voluntary and humanitarian organizations in Canada and abroad. Dr. Glassford’s published work includes the edited collection A Sisterhood of Suffering and Service: Women and Girls of Canada and Newfoundland during the First World War (UBC Press, 2012) and her recent monograph, Mobilizing Mercy: A History of the Canadian Red Cross. Her examination of the experience of women and girls during Canada’s wars will be a significant contribution to our conference program.

Presentation Abstract

Dinner at Mrs. Cohen’s: Supporting Servicemen on the Cape Breton Home Front, 1939-1945

This paper uses a small cache of servicemen’s letters to community-minded activist Nina Cohen (the moving force behind the later establishment of the Glace Bay Miner’s Museum) to explore the nature and significance of humanitarian war work in Cape Breton during the Second World War. As Hospitality Convenor for the Sydney Branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society, Cohen coordinated and participated in a modest morale-boosting initiative with outsized emotional impact. Dinner in a Cape Breton home was more than dinner: it was a meaningful and important way of shoring up the resilience of young men caught up in the deadly Battle of the Atlantic. Taking a closer look at small gestures like these help us recognize the ways that home front and front line participants interact and impact each other in wartime, shaping the experience of war for both sides.