Cold War Comforts
Canadian Women, Child Safety, and Global Insecurity
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$39.95 Paper, 306 pp.
Finalist for the 2013 Canada Prize in the Social Sciences awarded by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
Cold War Comforts examines Canadian women’s efforts to protect children’s health and safety between the dropping of the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima in 1945 and the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Amid this global insecurity, many women participated in civil defence or joined the disarmament movement as means to protect their families from the consequences of nuclear war. To help children affected by conflicts in Europe and Asia, women also organized foreign relief and international adoptions.
In Canada, women pursued different paths to peace and security. From all walks of life, and from all parts of the country, they dedicated themselves to finding ways to survive the hottest periods of the Cold War. What united these women was their shared concern for children’s survival amid Cold War fears and dangers. Acting on their identities as Canadian citizens and mothers, they characterized with their activism the genuine interest many women had in protecting children’s health and safety. In addition, their activities offered them a legitimate space to operate in the traditionally male realms of defence and diplomacy. Their efforts had a direct impact on the lives of children in Canada and abroad and influenced changes in Canada’s education curriculum, immigration laws, welfare practices, defence policy, and international relations.
Cold War Comforts offers insight into how women employed maternalism, nationalism, and internationalism in their work, and examines shifting constructions of family and gender in Cold War Canada. It will appeal to scholars of history, child and family studies, and social policy.
About Tarah Brookfield
Tarah Brookfield is an assistant professor at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Brantford campus, where she teaches in contemporary studies, history, and youth and children studies.
“If you wish to understand how the Cold War actually affected most Canadians, this is the book to read. Quite properly it directs our attention to women’s individual and collective efforts to ensure safety for children at home and abroad. Men might have supplied the Cold War’s military face, as with Dr. Strangelove, but the other not-so-gentle sex supplied many of the key strategists for peace. Tarah Brookfield does a wonderful job in telling us just how this happened. Her discussion of bomb shelters, disarmament campaigns, and support for the United Nations, foster parenting, and international adoption is lively and thoughtful and ought to help revitalize Canadian discussion of the relations between foreign policy and domestic affairs.”
— Veronica Strong-Boag, University of British Columbia, author of Fostering Nation? Canada Confronts Its History of Childhood Disadvantage (WLU Press, 2011)
“The years 1945 to 1975 take on a certain ‘golden era’ hue in collective memory, even while the domestic security this suggests belies the consistent, at times intense, Cold War anxieties of the larger global setting. In this study, Tarah Brookfield explores the historic complexities so deftly captured in her book’s title: the ‘Cold War comforts’ that the women at her story’s centre were so intent to bring about on behalf of children, ever the globe’s most vulnerable citizens. She offers a masterful analysis of the ways in which the period’s interwoven concerns about gender, family, class, ‘race,’ age, national identity and international security coalesced on the children who embody the future. In a lively and engaging manner, Dr. Brookfield draws upon the fascinating oral histories of the female historical actors and their families, to show how Canadian women faced the challenges of protecting and enhancing the welfare of children—our own and those of less fortunate nations—by vigorously taking up the cause of peace, security and human rights, at home and across the globe. As she demonstrates, although infused by ‘traditional’ commitments to maternalism, nationalism and internationalism, their courageous activism played a vital role in the reconfiguration of ideas and practices about gender, family, children’s rights and women’s roles that unfolded in this rapidly-changing postwar world. Tarah Brookfield’s Cold War Comforts: Canadian Women, Child Safety, and Global Insecurity, 1945-1975, is quite simply an inaugural study. It breaks new ground in our historical understanding of postwar Canadian society and culture, and national and international social policy formation, within shifting contexts of peace, war, and the persistent threat of global annihilation. We are delighted to welcome this important addition to Wilfrid Laurier University Press’s multidisciplinary Studies in Childhood and Family in Canada series.”
— Cynthia Comacchio, Department of History, Wilfrid Laurier University, series editor, Studies in Childhood and Family in Canada
“A compelling Cold War history whose engaging portraits—bomb-shelter civil defence enthusiasts, radical and anti-Communist child welfare crusaders, ‘ordinary’ mothers donating a baby tooth for radiation testing, prominent heads of foreign-aid projects, and the foster and adoptive mothers of children in the Cold War’s hot spots—breathe life into this analysis of maternalism and its links, both positive and problematic, to women’s nationalist and internationalist child-saving agendas.”
— Franca Iacovetta, president, Berkshire Conference of Women Historians