Sign Your Name to Victory! – The U.F.A. During World War Two

Alberta may have seemed far away from the front lines in Europe during World War Two (1939-1945), but rural communities were affected by the war in a variety of ways. The United Farmers of Alberta (U.F.A.) worked hard to support Canada in the war while still supporting agriculture and rural communities around the province. The prairies had a sometimes difficult, but mostly rapid recovery from the Depression after World War Two began (Muir, 2012). As the financial state of Alberta recovered, the U.F.A. and its related organizations – the United Farm Women of Alberta (U.F.W.A.) and the Junior Branch of the U.F.A. – were able to move their efforts from trying to recover from the Depression to the war effort. Each organization continued to work on supporting farmers in Alberta as well as encouraged rural Albertans to band together to help win the war. 

One of the most involved organizations was the United Farm Women of Alberta . The U.F.W.A. were engaged in community service throughout their existence, and the war offered an opportunity to get even more involved. There were a wide variety of resolutions that the women worked diligently on throughout the war. From the beginning, they advocated for women’s labour. U.F.W.A. Executive Meeting Minutes from 1939 reveal letters sent to the federal government fighting for an “Hours of Work Act” which would protect women from being forced to work long hours. 

Women were increasingly vulnerable to being overworked and underpaid for a variety of reasons. At the time, it was less common for women to be in certain fields of employment and they often had jobs that could be dangerous, such as in factories (Schiebelbein, 2012). Since the U.F.W.A. had already been active participants in campaigning for healthcare, they were especially concerned for nurses. Nurses were in high demand during the war and often had to work long, difficult hours. The U.F.W.A. sent numerous letters to the federal and provincial governments arguing on behalf of nurses rights.

Marie Malloy, longtime director, and President of the United Farm Women of Alberta during World War Two, in 1937-1940 (UF 2005.0044.74).

The U.F.W.A. were also concerned about a variety of healthcare issues that Albertans were dealing with. Proper medical attention at the time was expensive and access to healthcare was limited, for rural Albertans in particular. Patients often had to wait extended periods  for procedures such as blood transfusions. The U.F.W.A. proposed a plasma bank at the Department of BioChemistry at the University of Alberta as a solution for faster, less expensive, and more accessible healthcare for rural Albertans. They also strove for the creation of midwife courses so that more doctors could be sent to help soldiers at the front without leaving Canadians devoid of proper care.

These were far from the only responses that the U.F.W.A. had to the war. They also held tin drives to gather metal for factory use, encouraged the purchasing of War Savings Stamps for patriotic effort, taught women how to knit, sew, and craft for the soldiers, and even lobbied for free transit for soldiers on their way to training camps.

However, not all of the U.F.W.A.’s efforts were positive. They also held a strong anti-immigration stance and regularly contacted the government to ask that pacifist religious groups such as Mennonites and Hutterites not be exempt from conscription, which came into effect in Canada in 1944.

A call to arms from a U.F.A. pamphlet printed in 1942 that summarizes the goals of the organization during World War Two (UF 2002.0012.6).

The U.F.W.A. was not the only group that worked hard to support Alberta communities and the war effort during this time. The U.F.A.’s response to the war was to focus their efforts into gaining fair prices for wheat and ensuring that farmers would have a stable economy after the war ended. In a pamphlet from July, 1942, the final line reads “Join the U.F.A. and Help to Win the Nation’s War and the Farmers’ Battles.” This became the main theme of the U.F.A. movement during the war. The U.F.A. wanted to work internationally to get fair prices for farmers through the United Nations to create an International Farm Organization (whether this came about is unclear). This unity paid off after the war ended, and the U.F.A. continued the fight to prevent another Great Depression. Farmers were still dealing with the repercussions from the struggles of the 1930s and there was a great deal of concern about what would happen once the war ended. 

Ads and promotional material advocating for farmers to buy a Victory Bond to help Canada recover after the war (UF 2003.0081.72).

This fear came from the economic struggle that happened after World War One, with prices rapidly dropping. One of the ways in which the U.F.A. worked hard to prevent this from happening again after the Second World War was to press for the Agricultural Prices Support Act of 1944, which gave the funds of $200,000,000 to stabilize farm prices after the war ended. There was also a great deal of work done to encourage awareness that agriculture was an important part of the Canadian wartime economy, and that farmers’ sons who were needed to stay at home to make sure that the farm could continue running should receive special recognition from the military. Like the U.F.W.A., the U.F.A. Board regularly communicated with the provincial and federal governments to encourage a stand for democracy and peace internationally, as well as to create infrastructure to support the reconstruction of international relations once the war was over.

The U.F.A. Board of Directors in 1940, one year into the war. George Thring, President of the Junior Branch of the U.F.A. from 1939 to 1942 and private in the Canadian Army during the war is in this photo, along with  other well-known U.F.A. members (UF 2003.0081.12).

The Junior Branch of the U.F.A. was especially affected by the war since many of its members were young men of the right age to sign up for military service. Rural youth movements in Canada struggled during the war with many members either fighting in the war or working in support roles such as nursing, transportation, and factory work. However, the Junior U.F.A. continued to keep the movement dynamic. The Junior U.F.A. meetings in Consort, Alberta continued to keep rural youth interested through organizing events including a carnival, which raised money for the Red Cross in February, 1940 (tickets to the carnival were 10 cents and lunch was 15 cents). The Consort Junior U.F.A. Board sent $5.00 to the Red Cross after the event, which in today’s currency would be about $90.00.

 During Junior Consort meetings, the girls worked on handicrafts, which mostly consisted of knitting socks for soldiers. Other efforts that local Junior U.F.A. branches were part of included donating money to local hospitals, making scrapbooks for British children who were sent to Canada to avoid the bombings in London, and sewing handkerchiefs to be sent out through the Red Cross. Junior U.F.A. meetings were not all serious – they kept the organization going with ice cream socials, tea parties, ice skating trips, and games to end the meetings. In a meeting on September 9 in 1943, the members of the executive board answered roll call with the best joke that they could think of (unfortunately, the jokes were not included in the meeting minutes). In this way they were able to help keep morale up among the Junior Branch. When the war seemed to be coming to a close in 1945, there was a great deal of joy in the thought that many of the ‘farm young people’ would be coming back to their homes.

George Thring, President of the Junior U.F.A. from 1939-1942 sent this letter to the local branches for the Christmas of 1941 describing his time training as a private for the Canadian Army in Camrose and encouraging the local branches to keep up the good work (United Farmers Historical Society, 31-53).

World War Two affected many, including the citizens of rural Alberta. The United Farmers of Alberta and its various branches, the U.F.W.A. and the Junior Branch, worked hard throughout the war to support rural farmers in a variety of ways while still supporting the war effort internationally. After the difficulties that Albertan farmers handled during the Great Depression, it was especially important for the U.F.A. to continue to stay engaged in the community and to fight for the recognition of the importance of agriculture in Canada.

Written by Katherine Funk, Mount Royal University Practicum Student

References and Further Reading:

“Junior UFA Minute Book – Consort, 1940-1949.” Fonds 14, Series, 1, File 1. In custody of the United Farmer’s Historical Society. Retrieved from

Thring, George. (1941). “George Thring letter.” Fonds 7, file 3. In custody of the United Farmer’s Historical Society. Retrieved from

[1931-1940?]. “Marie Malloy.” Fonds 1, Series 15, File 5. In custody of the United Farmer’s Historical Society. Retrieved from

“Minutes – Junior U.F.A. Board, Executive, and Conferences — 1939 – 1948.” Fonds 3, Series 2, File 2. In custody of the United Farmer’s Historical Society. Retrieved from

Muir, James. “Alberta Labor and Working-Class Life, 1940-59.” In Working People in Alberta: A History, edited by Alvin Finkel. Edmonton, Alberta: Athabasca University Press, 2012. Retrieved from

Rouillard, Jacques et al. (2015). “Working-Class History” In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Schiebelbein, Joan. “Women, Labor, and the Labor Movement.” In Working People in Alberta: A History, edited by Alvin Finkel. Edmonton, Alberta: Athabasca University Press, 2012. Retrieved from

“U.F.W.A. Convention Minutes 1943-46 — 1943-1946.” Fonds 1, Series 2, File 84. In custody of the United Farmer’s Historical Society. Retrieved from

“The United Farmers of Alberta (The U.F.A.) – 1942.” Fonds 1, Series 5, File 7. In custody of the United Farmer’s Historical Society. Retrieved from

“United Farmers of Alberta – Board of Directors for 1940.” In custody of the United Farmer’s Historical Society. Retrieved from

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