Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

Shop Stewards at Burrard Drydock

With younger men increasingly called up for active wartime service and teenage boys busy with school, women entered many areas of the work force in huge numbers. Burrard Dry Dock Company was obliged to hire women in order to fulfill the demands of its contracts. It was the first Canadian shipyard to do so. From 1942 until the end of the war in 1945, women made up about seven percent of the company’s work force. Although women worked alongside men on riveting crews, there was strict workplace segregation — typical at the time in many walks of life — with women expected to eat separately and use their own entrance/exit gates. In March of 1943, the company’s north yard opened a women-only building with a lunchroom, nurse’s room, offices, locker rooms and washrooms. By August, the south yard had one, too, with accommodation for 250 women per shift.

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The women’s hat and shirt pins, which reveal their allegiance to groups within the yard, such as a riveting crew or the electrical shop.

This photo was taken in the temporary women’s canteen, located above the No. 2 plate shop in Burrard Dry Dock’s north yard.

In 1942 Burrard Dry Dock hired the first of more than 1,000 women. At the end of the war, they were dismissed to make way for returning men.

These five Burrard Dry Dock union shop stewards would have worked to ensure fair wages and appropriate working conditions for female employees.
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