During World War II, Gunda Lambton and her two young children left England to live in Canada. In Sun in Winter: A Toronto Wartime Journal 1942-1945 (McGill-Queen’s), she tells her story: a precarious life with no family allowance, subsidized daycare or social housing. In Sun in Winter: A Toronto Wartime Journal 1942-1945 (McGill-Queen’s), she tells her story: a precarious life with no family allowance, subsidized daycare or social housing.
For Lambton, a child’s bout with bronchitis, a swollen tonsil or a neighbour with scarlet fever could mean the end of her job and her family’s security. Her life would be a complete disaster without a network of new friends to lend her furniture, recommend trustworthy landladies and refer her to employers. In her journal, Lambton reports everything without despair, never complaining about sleep deprivation while working the night shift, or lack of financial support from her husband, or co-workers who think she’s “fast” because she lives without a man. She does find time and money for a few pleasures, though, such as cycling through the countryside on a hostelling trip with her women friends and attending parties with CCF politicians and union leaders.
The war years seem so much part of modern history that it is surprising to find Gunda Lambton and her resourceful female friends using Depression-era strategies to stay afloat, rather than the Canadian social programs we now take for granted.