skip to Main Content

“Traveling Bags for Their Trip To Russia”: Canadian Right-Women and International Relations during the Cold War: Expressing Dissident Views 

“Traveling Bags For Their Trip To Russia”: Canadian Right-Women And International Relations During The Cold War: Expressing Dissident Views 


Cold War anti-communism played a significant role in Canadian provincial, as well as federal, politics and women members of the provincial branches of the Social Credit (Socred or SC) Party[1] represented an important element of this. Anti-communism was closely connected to international issues, particularly the possibility of war with the Soviet Union. In this sense, Canadian international relations had similar characteristics to the United States; Canadian conservatives, liberals, and even many social democrats, feared the possibility of a Soviet invasion.[2] Similarly, and perhaps more importantly, the prospect of domestic subversion preoccupied SC women and other conservatives and liberals, like anti-communists outside of Canada.[3] Social Credit women and men sometimes portrayed social democrats and other domestic leftists as being hostile to free enterprise and democracy, which they associated with American-style capitalism

We can this viewpoint illustrated when examining statements by prominent SC women. In particular, Ruth Hilborn, later to become President of the Alberta Social Credit Women’s Auxiliary (SCWA), once wrote that she had visited SCWA members in the neighboring province of Saskatchewan. She went on to equate social democracy with Soviet-style communism, stating that retiring CCF cabinet members in Saskatchewan were given “traveling bags for their trip to Russia,” implying that CCF members supported the Soviet Union and its supposed anti-Western, anti-capitalist perspective.[4] The statement linked domestic Canadian provincial politics with foreign policy issues. Here, we discuss Social Credit women and their views on foreign policy and Cold War international relations. I link domestic political issues, such as the threat of subversion, with right-wing women’s views of the international setting during the Cold War era of the late-1940s, 1950s, and 1960s.

Arguments and Orientation

In this article, I present two arguments. First, I argue that Social Credit women, like some women on the left, used maternalist ideology[5] as a spur to political involvement. SC female activists argued that conservative women had a duty to reshape public society in the image of the home. For many SC women, their ideology included opposition to war and international conflict. For SC women, the Cold War, like all wars, meant the destruction of traditional institutions like the home and the nuclear family – since wars took husbands, brothers, and sons away from families for long periods. Wars also led to the decline of small towns and rural areas, as well as traditional Christianity. Similarly, as the wives and mothers of soldiers who had fought and died in wars started by men, Social Credit women suggested that their husbands, brothers, and sons should not be fighting in conflicts that damaged Western Canadian society. In keeping with their connection to “first-wave” feminism,[6] some SC members asserted that, if women held more power in overseeing foreign policy, then violence, killing, and the loss of economic opportunity that resulted from war would not occur. Socred women implied that they represented the potential mothers of a new and better order.

Maternalism represented a kind of mechanism of political mobilization for right-wing women as well: they used the idea of women as “natural” mothers to buttress and reinforce many elements within their conservative world view, such as opposition to abortion. Maternalist ideology also symbolized a method of attracting women and others into politics who were otherwise not interested in SC ideology.[7] Yet, the idea of women as fundamentally mothers and wives was an absolutely core belief for SC women. While maternalism was certainly important for some liberal and leftist women as a kind of strategy,[8] SC women saw motherhood as an absolutely fundamental aspect of a woman’s role in life. For the right, motherhood became an undercurrent in virtually every statement by and related SC women. In contrast, left-wing women sometimes discussed gender issues without reference to motherhood and family. This symbolizes a subtle, but important, distinction. The maternalist focus of right-wing women remains an understudied tradition in Canadian gender and political studies. Here, I detail the views of Canadian rightist women on war and international politics as a way of drawing gender studies into the tradition of Canadian political history and international relations.

Second, the paper argues that SC women used conservative, even reactionary, arguments to oppose war. Wars meant increased industrialization, technology, and modernization – all aspects of post-World War II Canada that traditionalist SC women disdained. Wars also meant increased taxation, the growth of the state, and the loss of individual freedoms. SC women, at least rhetorically, favoured lower taxes, smaller provincial and federal state structures, focus on local towns and communities, and individual rights. Thus, SC women’s anti-war activism came from a conservative, even a reactionary, place. As we shall see, Socred female supporters often endorse an anti-government, “laissez-faire” viewpoint as well as a “localist” perspective, which valued freedom from government restraints, and a valuation of the local town, community, neighborhood, and church, rather than the overarching federal state. The SC women who endorsed this anti-war ideology came almost exclusively from the populist, grassroots, evangelical wing of the party, in contrast to the more elitist, pro-business, “big government” view, expressed by many men in the party.

SC women hoped for a return to an earlier period – it was never stated precisely when in history this period was – before the onset of urbanization, secularization, and the rise of the welfare state. These women saw the new world order as consisting of peaceful, Christian agriculturalists, living in small communities, free from the constraints of the all-powerful state. In opposing war, SC women differed from men in their party: Social Credit men often endorsed using the federal and provincial states to combat communism, and they were willing to pass laws that trampled on civil liberties to do this.

Mainstream Social Credit Views on International Relations

A brief word is, therefore, necessary regarding the views of male Social Credit leaders on issues of peace and foreign relations, since these opinions became the official policy of the federal SC Party, and its provincial branches. During a leadership convention in July 1961, the federal Socred Party outlined its official position on a variety of issues related to Canada’s Cold War policy. As part of an official document that outlined SC’s foreign policy positions, the party stated, “Canada is a peace-loving nation.” In the next sentence, the document argued that Canada should keep a well-trained reserve army, even in times of peace. SC insisted that practical plans needed to be developed in order to ensure Canada’s survival in the face of a possible nuclear attack by the Soviet Union or one of its allies. Presenting a common conservative viewpoint, the party noted, “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom so preparedness is the secret of survival.” Having asserted the need for defense against nuclear attacks, the publication promised that a Social Credit government would do “all in its power to bring about world-wide abolition of all nuclear weapons” under an international agreement. Nuclear testing would be restricted to “such uses and tests as are possible without creating radiation hazards” since “self-preservation is the first law of life.”9

Social Credit official policy surrounding the Cold War and the possibility of international peace was thus ambiguous. Rhetorically, the party based its foreign policy on “love of our fellow man.” According to party leaders’ statements, Canada had to carry its share of responsibility in the Western hemisphere and elsewhere in the world. Canada’s role was that of an “independent nation dedicated to the cause of world peace rather than as a member of power blocs and military alliances.”3 This position ignored the fact that Canada was already tied into the U.S. military alliance in the form of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and, as of 1958, the North American Air Defense Command [NORAD], the latter an attempt to integrate Canadian and American responses to a potential Soviet attack from the air. SC leaders, and some male members, whether knowingly or not, provided uncritical support for American foreign policy during the Cold War. In various issues of party newspapers, Social Credit members offered support for right-wing, anti-communist dictatorships, notably South Korea’s Syngman Rhee, and strongly criticized Third World politicians who received Soviet support, particularly Egypt’s Gamel Nasser.4

Alberta Premier Ernest Manning made frequent comments on issues related to the Cold War. At an SC convention in Edmonton in 1950, Manning presented a speech that encapsulated the official position of Socred elites on the Cold War. “Man’s problem today,” he argued, “is one of survival itself,” reflecting the sense of crisis present in much Cold War rhetoric. Manning expressed disappointment that many North Americans no longer participated in church-centered events; he cited a statistic remarking that 9 million out of 140 million American citizens took no active role in the church. “Is there any wonder,” he went on to comment, “that there are ears receptive to the wiles of atheistic Communism?” Like others in his party, Manning suggested that only a return to conventional Christianity could save the world from the communist menace. If SC supporters failed to challenge the lack of religious belief in the general populace, then “the entire world” would fall “under the enslavement of godless tyranny.”

Manning later remarked that communism was an evil that could potentially lead to the “annihilation of the human race.” Manning went on to argue, “if man is to continue to survive, he must retrace his steps to God.” Speaking in a style that highlighted the crusading appeal of the SC movement, he urged all Social Crediters to “prepare for leadership in the crucial hour.”5 Manning connected anti-communism to SC’s conservative religiosity and its messianic sense of purpose. The world had to be saved from atheism and communism; Social Credit was the only party that could effect a new order of Christianity and family values. Here, we see a common idea that developed through Socred discourse. In practice, and in spite of the noble rhetoric surrounding the love of one’s “fellow man,” Manning endorsed the military intervention of Western nations into other countries, particularly if these interventions resulted in the weakening, or downfall, of communist or left-wing governments. Ernest Manning was an elitist, in spite of his populist-sounding rhetoric; he was willing to use laws and corporations to expand the powers of government in order to fight communism and to develop the economy. As seen elsewhere, most SC women fell into the “populist” side of the debate, with their support for grassroots democracy, anti-war views, and social conservatism.[9]

An unpublished document dealing with the subject of “Defense” offers further evidence of the official Socred worldview on Cold War foreign policy. The item made reference to a speech given by Robert N. Thompson, then the leader of the federal SC Party. Thompson presented his vision of the Cold War: Canada was obligated to support the U.S. as a member of NATO and in making the North American air defense system work. Many in the SC Party subscribed to a conspiratorial worldview. Communism was an unseen force that promised to destroy all that the capitalist West had built. “Russia,” Robert Thompson noted, “spends two billion dollars a year on spreading the Communist message around the world.” “Five children study the principles of communism for every one learning the principles of Christianity,” he asserted. The climate of the 1950s and early-1960s, with the emphasis on security and insecurity, was ripe for the onset of paranoid-sounding language such as this. Thompson continued in the same vein, arguing that SC members needed to support the U.S., and other Western nations, in fighting communism and socialism in the “Third World.” “The works of Khrushchev and Mao, not the Bible, threaten soon to be the world’s best seller,” Thompson argued. “Should we really be surprised when illiterate nations, subjected to the barrages of this type of pressure, succumb to communism so easily?”6

Thompson’s statement tells us much about the foreign policy views of Social Credit elites. Thompson expressed support for colonialism viewpoint, which took on an assimilationist tendency in the context of the Cold War. As Franca Iacovetta has argued, many people of various ideological stripes during the postwar period suggested that non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Canada needed to be educated in becoming moral, non-communist, English or French-speaking Canadians, in order to fight off the perceived threat of leftist extremism.7 For SC members, the solution to the communist threat was to accept a messianic mission to bring Western civilization and “Christian principles” to these supposedly backward peoples. Social Credit needed weapons “of the spirit and of the mind,” to defeat communism and socialism. Christians had “a far superior armoury to that possessed by communism — if we will but orient ourselves to use it.” To that end, conservatives had to take the message of “freedom and democracy” to these less advanced nations in order to stop the spread of leftist ideals. SC leaders alleged that the world was engaged in a life or death struggle between the West, with its ideology of “free enterprise and the free way of life,” and the threat of leftist totalitarianism.8 Thompson, like virtually all Social Credit leaders, was a classic “humanitarian interventionist,” that is, one who argued that Western nations’ invasions of other countries could help those places to advance – economically, culturally, and socially – while at the same time defeating anti-capitalist ideologies.9

Robert Thompson, borrowing from the Douglasite perspective that was so much a part of early SC thinking, further asserted that the democratic way of life had been “placed in jeopardy by a system of distribution that the Western countries – all of them – have been unable to make work.” Unscrupulous bankers were out to control the world’s money system and install a slave state. The only answer was to institute a monetary system based on Social Credit principles. The new system would still be a capitalist, but one that would be based on a vision of evangelical Christianity, anti-modernism, and anti-communism. Social Credit men, then, rhetorically endorsed peace-making principles, and even libertarian ideas at times. Yet, in practice, almost all Social Credit men consistently supported American-style, “big government,” Cold War anti-communism.10

Social Credit Women’s Anti-War Maternalism

Socred women’s views on nuclear war and the Cold War were far more nuanced. In fact, we can safely characterize SC women’s views as “anti-war.” An example from a 1961 SC Women’s Auxiliary Convention serves to illustrate this point. The convention passed a resolution condemning nuclear testing. The testing of weapons resulted in “deadly fallout covering the world” which would be detrimental to the living and, especially, to “generations of unborn children.” With the stockpiling of nuclear weapons, people would “abandon normal common sense instead of reasoning.” This was a clear example of how conservative women used a maternalist perspective to argue against war. The Auxiliary explicitly noted that nuclear bombs, and a future nuclear war, would have negative impacts on unborn children. These SC women spoke to women’s status as mothers and called upon women to speak out against war and violence as mothers. The comments also imply that SC women’s opposed abortion and birth control. Indeed, this was the case: Social Credit women argued that the legalization of abortion would have horrendous effects on women’s health and mental well-being. Thus, SC women opposed war on the same basis as they opposed abortion and birth control. Yet, the socially conservative elements of SC women’s thought were not often expressed publicly. Still, this demonstrates how a conventionally right-wing perspective – opposition to abortion – dovetailed with an anti-war viewpoint. War, especially nuclear war, killed children, including unborn children. SC women, then, saw their anti-war views as an integral part of their reactionary perspective.11

An anti-war impulse among conservative women spanned several decades when Social Credit was in power. From the 1940s through to the 1960s, Social Credit dominated politics in Alberta; there were no other realistic political options for Alberta residents. SC MLAs and spokespeople were free to express varying opinions, even if the party’s, largely male, leadership did not often act on women’s views. Indeed, while a large number, perhaps even a majority, of Socred women opposed war, SC men did not feel the same way. Still, a substantial minority of SC members and activists held anti-war views.

We have seen how Socred women held different views from men in their party. In connection with their views on war, SC women held an ambiguous view of a man’s role in society. SC women, borrowing from first-wave feminism, often portrayed themselves as more virtuous and moral than men, even men in their own party. The first-wave ideology provided justification for conservative women to come out of the home: they needed to save society from unscrupulous elements in public life, as part of a reformation of the public sphere through women’s maternal natures. This view of men became particularly important in the context of SC women’s anti-war views, since populist conservative women blamed war and violence on stubborn men who started wars, and then expected women to “clean up” the mess left by wars. Thus, while SC women often lauded exemplary men, and male leaders of Social Credit –  notably Premiers Ernest Manning and W.A.C. Bennett as well as SC founder William Aberhart – they expressed concern, even disgust, at other groups of elite men who had started wars and left society in poor shape.12 We might see this view as a precursor to some branches of radical feminism from the 1960s and 1970s in its portrayal of men as the major problem with contemporary society.

Anti-war activism crossed ideological boundaries. Those on the left were often opposed to war but so too were traditionalist conservatives like Cornelia Wood – perhaps the most prominent of the elected SC women in Alberta – and “Old Right” politicians and activists in the United States. Indeed, many isolationist conservatives in the U.S. – some of whom would likely have rejected the label “conservative,” seeing themselves instead as representatives of nineteenth-century, laissez-faire liberalism – were strongly anti-communist and yet opposed expansionism and combatting communism abroad. These conservatives, notably John T. Flynn, William Jennings Bryan, and Senators Robert Taft and Robert LaFollette as well as women like Elizabeth Dilling and Kathleen Norris, supported small town, “Main Street” values of decentralization, local government, freedom from unjust laws, and improving society at home in North America, rather than dealing with issues overseas.13 SC women had much in common with these conservative isolationists. Social Credit women’s ideology must be seen as part of a continentalist, North American vision of conservatism that emphasized small town values, populism, Christianity, usually of the evangelical variety, local control, and the family. North American libertarian and localist conservatism was distinct from European brands of rightist thought, which were often elitist and based on support for monarchy and aristocratic traditions.

It is interesting that SC women’s anti-war activism continued into the 1950s and 1960s, while the “Old Right,” isolationist viewpoint declined during this period in the U.S., particularly among right-wing women. Many conservative women began to support Canadian and American international adventures during the 1950s and in subsequent decades. Similarly, SC women expressed a different viewpoint from mainstream Canadian conservatives. In Canada’s center-right Progressive Conservative Party (PC) – particularly at the federal level – a pro-business and internationalist view came to dominate the higher levels of the party. As a result of this perspective prominent PC Prime Ministers, cabinet members, and Members of Parliament (MPs) endorsed foreign interventionism, cooperation with NATO and the United Nations, and an enlarged welfare state. We might see this branch of Canadian conservatism as being similar to the “Eastern Establishment” of elites in the U.S., who dominated elements of U.S. foreign policy for many years.14

The anti-war focus of SC women came out elsewhere in even stronger terms. Drawing on images used to foster maternalist arguments, Cornelia Wood further stated that women needed to accept responsibility for preventing future wars. In particular, they had to come out of the home and save society from men’s folly: “surely we must agree that there is something radically wrong with these man-made systems that bring about such destitution with accompanying sorrow.”15 For Wood, the answer to the world’s ills, including war and violence, lay in establishing a money system based on C.H. Douglas’s vision of economics. Women, according to Wood, needed to bring their maternal virtues into the public sphere to save it from men who had started needless wars, which caused economic and social calamities. The Cold War and the looming possibility of war and nuclear destruction made it even more imperative that conservative women take on leading roles in Canadian society.

Laissez-Faire and Localism in SC Women’s Anti-War Ideology

SC member E. Vera Hattersley’s stance on international affairs offers further evidence of the reactionary impulse implicit in SC women’s anti-war stance. In an early passage, Hattersley offered a critique of nuclear weapons. Reflecting the religious and localist focus of the SC Party, she remarked, “we all have a duty to our home, to our church, and to our community” to save society and to “purge it of war and violence.” Presenting an analysis of the Cold War situation, Hattersley argued, “the world in which we live in is very sick.” It was up to SC women to cure the world of its ills for the sake of future generations. Like others in the party, Hattersley suggested, “only Social Credit offers a future that can be faced without horror. Only Social Credit has the answer. Let us help to spread the good news.” Hattersley’s answer to the problems of the nuclear age, unlike left women who focused on economic concerns, was to emphasize a return to spreading what Social Crediters termed the “good news” of traditional Christianity. SC women’s opposition to nuclear weapons was based on their vision of “freedom, individualism, and liberty.” This was not the kind of opposition that left women expressed toward war and violence, that is, one based on an anti-capitalist, or a welfare statist, viewpoint. Indeed, Socred women suggested that wars occurred because of decisions made by men as individuals.

Moreover, Hattersley suggested that male politicians and planners started wars because they did not sufficiently adhere to a laissez-faire vision of economy and society. In her view, laissez-faire capitalism involved removing the state from as many parts of society as possible, including in foreign affairs. Wars meant higher taxes, crackdowns on civil liberties, and, above all, increased state intervention, something that doctrinaire conservatives like Vera Hattersley opposed. Here, too, we can see the Socred focus on the local church and community as the foundation of society. We might see this as an extension of SC women’s maternalist ideology: right-wing women contrasted the impersonal power of the Canadian federal state and military, centered in Ottawa, against the hearth and home of Western Canadian Prairie towns and churches. Hattersley’s viewpoint reflected that of localists and regionalists in the United States, who argued for a similar focus on the local communities and towns that would be hurt by the rush to war by the federal government. In this way, Canadian rightist women offered opposition to war and imperialism from a laissez-faire and localist, as well as a maternalist, perspective.16

Mrs. J.A. Wyatt, President of the Calgary Council of the SCWA, expressed a somewhat differing view. Wyatt also argued against war, but from a perspective that borrowed from religious sects like the Quakers, Amish, and Mennonites. When commenting on the Cold War, particularly the battle between the Soviet Union and the United States, Wyatt asked, “why do these conditions prevail?” Expressing disdain for the rivalry between the two great powers, she answered: “it is a disregard for God’s commandments.”17 Wyatt expressed disgust at the state of the world, particularly violent conflict among human beings. Her opposition to war came out of a religious ideology, not unlike members of the CCF who subscribed to pacifism and the social gospel. Wyatt asserted that humans needed to return to God and the Bible, which would salve the wounds of the modern world. Wyatt’s vision of an anti-war world was not based on a maternalist ideology or on a belief in laissez-faire individualism but rather on the hope of return to a Biblically-ordered society. SC women’s anti-war activism, then, had a variety of origins, but, in general, we can say that these women opposed war from a rightist perspective. Indeed, the solution to problems found in democratic nations was an intensification of conventional, Western-style democracy and a return to an older, rural and Christian, vision of Canada, when the federal state and, consequently, militarism was weaker.

Yet, Cornelia Wood and her SC colleagues were not sympathetic toward a peace movement that included socialists and Communists. Social Credit also opposed most mainstream attempts at international cooperation or “peacemaking.” In this light, Wood expressed hostility toward the United Nations and efforts at creating post-war global community, equating these overtures with collectivism and communism.18 In the U.S., a similar situation emerged: anti-communists accused elite supporters of New Deal, “liberal internationalism,”19 and the U.N., like Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White, of passing on secrets to the Soviets, while “Old Right” conservatives like Senator Robert Taft opposed the U.N., fearing that it would draw the United States into more and more international conflicts.20 Social Credit possessed broadly similar views toward supporters of internationalism. During World War II, American diplomat Clarence Kirschman Streit proposed a federal union between the U.S. and all British Commonwealth nations.

Wood responded that such a situation would take away “sovereign power” from Canada. In keeping with her conspiratorial view of the world, she remarked that the proposal would result in “a large totalitarian state in which all effective power, including armed forces, would be centralized in a financially dominated international authority.” She also dismissed the “Four Freedoms” that Franklin Roosevelt had proposed. Wood asserted that people lacked these freedoms owing to a lack of money caused by the machinations of an international conspiracy, which had a monopoly on the world’s finances. Until the monopoly was broken up, “all talk of the Four Freedoms is idle chatter,” Wood claimed.21

SC women’s opposition to internationalism, which they equated with leftist values, came out more forcefully elsewhere. As part of an argument against international banks, Wood suggested that electing the CCF to power would play into the hands of “finance.”22 Social Credit even opposed the federal Liberal and Progressive Conservative Parties, seeing them as too moderate and overly interested in using the state to solve societal problems. In a 1949 speech, given in support of an SC candidate for federal parliament, Wood argued that the Conservative Party offered “no remedy against socialism and communism.” Similarly, the Conservatives had no solution for “the system that leads to these ‘isms’” she suggested.23 In an earlier speech, Wood had linked communism in Canada and the Soviet Union to the establishment of the “World Slave State,” a theme that she often mentioned in her writings and speeches. Calling communism a “creed,” she argued that the Canadian CP “decided to gain control of labour unions in order to support the CCF. Their plan is that once in office through the CCF, the Communists, under Russian international control, will take over.”24 Like most SC members, Wood supported the conventional Cold War view that Canadian CP and CCF members were tied to Moscow. SC members argued that the introduction of Communist and socialist regimes inevitably resulted in slavery and the loss of individualism and freedom.

Cornelia Wood further remarked that Stalin, like Hitler, was “built up by International Finance to undermine all the so-called democracies and build the one world slave state,” again reflecting the views of traditionalist conservatives. Many anti-modern conservatives around the world have argued that bankers and capitalists supported left movements with money and moral backing, in order to undermine the “permanent values” of order, tradition, family, and Christianity.25 Wood’s arguments here mark her as one of these traditionalists and, indeed, this kind of argument was common among populist right-wingers in Canada and internationally.

For SC, the party’s overall perspective since from 1943 – the year of William Aberhart’s death –  until 1970 remained fairly constant in most areas. The party’s male hierarchy, which emphasized winning elections, economic development, and increasing corporatism, maintained a strong hold over the party’s election platforms and internal and external policies. Cornelia Wood, in fact, chose to run as an independent in the 1967 Alberta provincial election, arguing that the party had strayed too far from its Douglasite, anti-monopolist heritage. Mainstream opinion within Social Credit had in some ways moderated from the 1940s until the 1960s – the party’s male hierarchy did not object strenuously to the introduction of medicare for instance – in an effort to stay in power. Technocratic, pro-statist conservatives in the province became the voting base of Peter Lougheed’s Progressive Conservatives. The Lougheed Conservatives appealed to young urban and suburban voters in Edmonton and Calgary, as well as to others who had felt left out during SC’s time in power. The Progressive Conservatives replaced Social Credit as Alberta’s ruling party in 1971.

As we have noted, many women remained part of Social Credit’s anti-modern, evangelical wing, even as this faction of the party declined during the late-1960s and 1970s. In 1966, three female Socred partisans penned a letter, addressed to all party members, arguing that SC had become too liberal. Lois McDearmid, Ivy Bourcier, and Verna Cole wrote that “the iron hand of socialism seems to have gripped the very heart of Alberta and the pulse of individual liberty and Christian principle grows ever more faint.” The women expressed disillusionment with the direction that the Socred government was taking, alleging that it was “no longer greatly concerned with the teachings of its founding father, Major C.H. Douglas.” They posed the question: “because Russia, China, Hungary, Poland, Cuba have a condition of state enslavement, does this imply that such Satanic systems are RIGHT?” The women used maternalist language to support a conservative viewpoint: state-sponsored programs, particularly those that they perceived to be a result of the welfare state, were negative for families. Using a gendered argument against unwanted state intervention, the three women remarked that “we are mothers, and we believe we are ENTITLED to the care of our children’s health and well-being without” the bogey of “GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION.”26 (emphases in document) Women, in this perspective, had certain rights based on their positions as mothers of children who would later become citizens. These women claimed the right to ask for private health care, run without the state’s involvement, for their children.

Elsewhere, the views of the three women reflected the anti-war perspective of many Socred members. Along with maternalism, the authors turned to patriotic rhetoric, remarking that men had died during two World Wars and Vietnam while “thousands more are willing to die for ONE REASON ONLY … to ensure freedom of choice and individual liberty, as opposed to STATE COMPULSION AND STATE APPROPRIATION of fundamental and god-bestowed rights.” (emphases in document) The women appealed to conservative religion in the fight against communism and the welfare state. They posed the question: “shall we have Jesus Christ or Karl Marx?” They further asked their readers whether they supported “Divine Revelation or Human philosophy? Love and forgiveness or hatred and cruelty (class warfare?) Private property or government ownership? Free enterprise or state monopoly? Freedom of movement or Berlin Wall or Bamboo Curtain?” The women argued that the response “lies with every individual Christian who has lost the vision of his faith, and his belief, incarnated into the reality of action, truly ‘making the word flesh.’” The letter concluded with an appeal to the Alberta government, “may God guide you in your very difficult work in the days ahead.”27

The women expressed concern that men had fought and died in the First and Second World Wars, as well as in Korea and Vietnam, to preserve “freedom” and combat the spread of communist ideals. The letter asserted that a return to traditional Christian belief was necessary to forestall any future wars and to hold back any increase in liberal and left-wing thought in Canada. Rather than going to war, the women argued that an individualistic approach was necessary to combat the problems of the modern world. If individual men and women could return to the church, and to the values of freedom and individualism, then the turn to the “World Slave State” could be stopped. This was in keeping with populist Social Crediters’ vision of the new world as consisting of peaceful, Christian agriculturalists. The comments of these three women suggest that traditionalist conservatism, as well as Douglasite economics, continued to be important within some factions of the SC Party, even after many members had ceased to follow Douglas’s teachings. It is, of course, impossible to know whether or not the letter was actually transmitted to all members of the SC Party. Nonetheless, the letter suggests that a strong, unrelenting populist, anti-war ideology existed among some SC women as late as 1966.28

Internationalism and Reaction

Although traditionalist SC women were anti-war, they still held anti-communist views. In this vein, Socred women took notice of events occurring in Europe and elsewhere. E. Vera Hattersley commented on the events of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Calling the rulers of Hungary “professional thugs,” Hattersley offered a vitriolic denunciation of communism. She remarked that Hungarian refugees from the revolution were “entering the free world, most of them for the first time. We are ambassadors to these people for the free way of life.” This symbolized typical rhetoric for SC women and men on this issue. During the course of making her argument on the need to help Hungarian refugees, Hattersley suggested that Canadians should fear a potential Communist takeover. “We have to help these people,” she stated, “and while we do it let us pray that the lot of the refugee fleeing before the Communist colossus may never be ours. Can we even be so sure of that?” She followed up this point by charging that “kill, kill, kill!” was the credo of Hungarian Communism but that “kill Communism is the credo of enlightened youth.”29

The events of 1956 in Hungary had a profound impact on conservatives, as they did for those on the left. Many conservatives and liberals in the West expressed shock at the suppression of the Hungarian revolt. This, in turn, led to an increase in anti-communism in Western nations, even if anti-communists in the United States and elsewhere offered little practical help to the 1956 revolutionaries. Hattersley’s comments on communism stemmed from her reaction to events in Hungary. Given her earlier expression of dismay against war, and against male politicians who waged wars, we can assume that Hattersley meant that communism as an ideology needed to be killed by a superior ideology, not through “bombing wars.” This was a common viewpoint among populist conservatives in the U.S. as well as in Canada.30

Provincial cabinet minister Ethel Wilson also offered commentary surrounding the Cold War and anti-communism. In a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation [CBC] telecast in June 1966, Wilson remarked that during World War II, as well as in China and Vietnam, “the free world paid the price for victory” and “is engaged is no less a struggle today” against “the spread of Communism.”31 Canada needed to take a more aggressive approach in its foreign policy in order to counteract this threat. Wilson stated that Canada needed to support NATO and the United States in the Cold War by increasing the amount of money invested in its armed forces. Continuing in the same vein, Wilson noted that “there are sinister forces at work, the purposes of which are as clear and as potent as were the forces against us twenty some years ago” in the World War II era. These evil entities were “undermining national unity,” destroying moral and social standards, and damaging faith in the democratic process and “Christian principles.” Wilson linked these events to the spread of juvenile delinquency among Canadian youth. Malevolent individuals were responsible for “corrupting youth and bankrupting our nation financially and morally.”

Wilson’s language, with its conspiratorial attitude toward the causes of perceived social and political ills, was typical of Social Credit women. The atmosphere of the Cold War only enhanced these manichean views. Wilson argued that a moral, rather than an economic, change was necessary to lessen the problems of modernity. It is significant that Wilson, one of the only women who had any real influence on official SC Party policy, did not utilize a maternalist or anti-war discourse, but instead presented similar views to SC men. Indeed, as we have seen earlier, Wilson had a foot in both the elitist and populist wings of Social Credit. Here, she expressed views that went along with those of traditionalist conservatives; however, she was also sympathetic to using state and military power to challenge communism internationally.

Wilson asserted that, if communism could be defeated internationally and militarily, then this might lay the groundwork for the defeat of secularism, welfare statism, liberalism, and socialism at home. This was a common viewpoint among SC women and men: putting more material and ideological resources into anti-communist actions overseas, most notably in Vietnam, would help to defeat communism, thereby arresting the decay in Canadian society. In this way, SC women linked international and domestic concerns.32

The Cold War and nuclear issues were equally important among Social Crediters in the province of British Columbia. SC MLA Lydia Arsens was particularly interested in ideas related to the Cold War. She connected her anti-nuclear stance with opposition to the fluoridation of water. “No state, government, or group of individuals” had the right to force citizens to take medicine without their consent. This was totalitarian and contrary to the will of “freedom-loving” people, Arsens argued. The fluoridation of water would open the door for other forms of mass medication and the introduction of nuclear weapons and war without the consent of the people. The introduction of fluoride, in particular, would be the perfect set up for “an enemy” – members of the Communist Party – to take over a city without loss to industry or property: “atomic bombs or civil defence will not be needed.” Arsens, like Cornelia Wood earlier, cited expert advice, specifically that of Harold Deith Box of the University of Toronto and Charles Eliot Perkins, a biochemist and physiologist. Both had argued that the introduction of fluoride would lead to cancer.33

In other statements, Arsens expressed similar ideas. She used the image of men dying to save the “free world” from some unknown menace, usually the vaguely defined “totalitarian state.” The notion of “totalitarianism” was very strong during the Cold War years, and many conservatives and “Cold War liberals” used it to discredit left movements. Instead of far-left or far-right totalitarian movements, they asserted, the West should subscribe to “vital center” liberalism, which would bring in New Deal-style social programs to keep communism out.34 Lydia Arsens, too, subscribed to Cold War orthodoxies; however, SC women’s opposition to communism came from a different space than that of liberals. Indeed, SC women argued that New Deal-style social programs were part of the problem: they led toward socialism and communism. Traditionalist conservatives like Arsens argued for a return to individualistic values. Still, like Cold War liberals, including many in the CCF, Arsens suggested that a battle between good and evil was being waged in the world. Like the three women who addressed the SC Party in Alberta, she drew on the image of brave soldiers dying in two World Wars in order to keep the world free from totalitarianism. This image from World War II seems to have been portable to some extent; the left used it as well to argue for more state benefits and a peaceful world.

The SC Party used the Second World War to argue against communism. A World War III, Lydia Arsens argued, “is brewing and brewing fast.” “Communism,” Arsens stated, “is rapidly spreading because millions are still starving, naked and dying of disease.” Reflecting a Douglasite viewpoint, Arsens remarked, “our free enterprise democracy has fallen down badly only because its monetary system is as outmoded as the scythe, the buggy and the foot messenger.” Arguing that Socred provincial regimes in Alberta and B.C. had made great strides in improving economic conditions, Arsens asserted that “our economy is suffering because our federal government has not yet had the intestinal fortitude to regain the control of credit and currency from the banking institutions so it can inculcate enough purchasing power to balance the demand and the output.” 35 She also criticized the banking system and suggested Douglasite economics as a solution to the world’s problems, including communism, which, she suggested, would collapse of its own weight when presented with a feasible alternative.

Foreign policy concerns could be found elsewhere in Arsens’s language surrounding the economy. She argued that Social Credit supporters had to “form a solid army of men, women and children such as was never known before.” This army would not seek to “kill or slaughter”; rather, it would seek “to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and restore life and joy into the hearts of men.”36 This foreshadows the rhetoric of American conservatives during the Vietnam War, with their talk of defeating communism by fighting for the “hearts and minds” of colonized peoples. Rather than a physical war, which would be instituted without the people’s consent, Arsens, using a libertarian perspective, advocated for a propaganda war against communism. This would win over people in communist-led countries to the capitalist viewpoint.

Instead of supporting “hot” wars around the globe, SC women argued for a peaceful, propaganda campaign against communism. Arsens’s anti-war perspective was closely related to her attack on the central state, a key part of her libertarian vision. Arsens alleged that federal government warehouses stored millions of pounds of butter at the taxpayer’s expense. She also charged that Ottawa intended to offer this butter to foreign countries at a great loss to Canada. Instead, SC members like Arsens suggested that the government distribute the excess butter to war veterans, pensioners, or welfare recipients.

In criticizing the federal government, Arsens gave voice to an anti-statism, and a sense of Western alienation, in the SC Party that paralleled conservative, anti-war attitudes in the United States. A significant number of SC members, including populist women, viewed the federal government as a tool of vested interests. Socred supporters particularly disdained Central Canadian elites whom, they argued, had little sense of what farmers, workers, and small business owners in Western Canada experienced. Moreover, traditionalist SC women presented the federal government, and its allies in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal business alliance, as modernizing warmongers, whose policies destroyed traditional values of family and church by sending young men away from their families and small towns.37

In the United States, too, anti-war conservatives from outlying regions – that is, regions outside of the orbit of New York City and Washington, D.C. where foreign policy decisions were largely made – like Senators Robert Taft of Ohio, Kenneth Wherry of Nebraska, Charles Percy of Illinois and, later, Congressman Eugene Siler of Kentucky – expressed suspicion of Eastern and Wall Street business and warmongering power brokers in D.C. These conservatives valorized small business owners and farmers, and argued that war was destroying rural and isolated regions of the United States, much as SC women argued against modernity and centralized power in Canada.38 Conservative Christianity also played a role in both Canadian and American conservatism. American conservatives advocated opposition to communism based on the allegation that Communist nations were anti-religious. If anything, Social Credit supporters went even further, expressing their dislike for the federal government, and by extension welfare statism and socialism, by advocating a return to Christianity. God and the Bible, they suggested, not the secular state and its laws, should be the basis on which society should be run. Traditionalist SC women argued that God’s law, which mandated against war and violence, transcended all human laws.

Conclusion: Social Credit Women, Anti-War Views, and the Future of Conservatism

Here, we have seen that that SC women used maternalism as a spur to political activism.   conservative women organized against anything that they thought might threaten the home and family – in this case, the prospect of war – and sought to bring their particular virtues out of the home to reform public society. I have also argued that SC women’s opposition to war came from a conservative, even a reactionary, place. War, they argued, was a product of the modern state, with its high taxes and assaults on freedom and traditional values; for SC women, war was “the health of the state.” SC women suggested that if Canada could return to the traditional values of home, family, and church that existed before World War II, then this might forestall the drive toward war and the growth of state coercion. Similarly, some SC women used support for laissez-faire capitalism as an ideological mooring for their anti-war viewpoints: modern warfare meant a huge increase in the powers of the impersonal, federal state, something that principled laissez-faire conservatives opposed. With the notable exception of Ethel Wilson, this anti-war perspective was the exclusive domain of populist SC women. Elitist, pro-corporate, SC women, along with virtually all Socred men, endorsed the Cold War and the bombing wars of Korea and Vietnam that went along with it. A common maternalist ethic, based on anti-war principles, sometimes united right and left-wing women on this issue, although right-wing women argued against war from a traditionalist, laissez-faire perspective, and not from an internationalist, welfare statist point of view.39

It is worth asking how much impact SC women’s anti-war pronouncements had on Socred party policy as a whole. Here, the answer has to be, at least in the short term, “very little.” Ethel Wilson, the one SC woman who held a cabinet post, largely went along with male SC views on the Cold War. Women like Cornelia Wood and Lydia Arsens, who did present ideas that varied from men in the party, had little influence on SC party policy. The Alberta and B.C. Socred Parties, as provincial entities, did not have a massive influence on Canadian foreign policy in any case, nor did the Federal Social Credit Party, with its relatively small, and regionally-based, contingent of MPs. Still, the Socred Party functioned as a strong repository of right-wing ideas that produced a particularly Western Canadian kind of conservatism, one much more influenced by evangelical Christianity than the statist, “big government,” interventionist brand of conservatism seen elsewhere in Canada. Indeed, the interventionist view of Canadian Progressive Conservatism, with its increased secularism, urbanism, and moving away from Christianity was precisely the kind of conservatism that George Grant argued against in his famous Lament for a Nation. In a strange sort of way, we might see Social Credit women as echoing Grant’s critique of modernity.

In the longer term, SC women’s views had some influence on later Canadian conservatism. The non-interventionist, even isolationist, viewpoints that SC women presented on foreign policy resonated with a significant number of Western Canadians. We can see echoes of SC’s traditionalist, small town perspective in the Reform Party of Canada from the late-1980s and 1990s.40 Social Credit women activists should receive some credit in having played a significant role in inculcating populist, traditionalist conservative viewpoints in Alberta and British Columbia.41 Similarly, and like left women, SC women’s anti-war perspective prefigured the increase in anti-war activism among various groups on different points of the political spectrum during the 1960s.

Populist SC women’s use of maternalist and conservative anti-war arguments actually led to an increase in women’s visibility and activism in the party. Like their counterparts on the left, Socred women’s maternalist musings allowed them to make an argument that supported women coming out of the home to reform society in women’s image.42 In effect, SC women’s rhetoric may have been conservative, but the result was not. Indeed, the use of maternalism led to increased Socred appeal to women who were otherwise not interested in politics. When maternalist language began to decline, during the late-1960s with the onset of second-wave feminism, women’s roles in the SC Party also declined. If other Socred women beyond the traditionalist faction had used maternalist arguments and tactics, it may have allowed for a larger, more independent voice for SC women. This, however, was not to be. Yet, in today’s society, with capitalist modernity, wars, and the devaluing of tradition becoming even more a part of North American culture, it is perhaps worth revisiting some of the ideas of Canadian anti-war female conservatives from earlier decades. Contemporary conservatives often claim to support traditionalist values. In this way, a look back at earlier variations of traditionalist, anti-war values might offer clues for how to manifest a conservative opposition to war and imperialism in later years.



1 The Social Credit Party was a rightist, populist political organization, strongest in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia from the 1930s-1970s. The party supported rights for farmers and workers but also strongly endorsed an ideology of anti-communism, social conservatism, and, rhetorically, a “free market” viewpoint. For background see Alvin Finkel, The Social Credit Phenomenon in Alberta (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989); Brian T. Thorn, From Left to Right: Maternalism and Women’s Political Activism in Postwar Canada (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2016), chapters one and two; Thorn, “Ladies, Let Us Hold High the Banner of Social Credit: Reaction, Tradition, and Localism in Right-Wing Canadian Women’s Ideology,” VoegelinView, June 23 2019.

2 Ironically, members of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), later to become the New Democratic Party (NDP) – the Canadian equivalent to the British Labour Party – were often more vehemently anti-communist than more conservative Canadians. See J. William Brennan, ed., Building the Co-operative Commonwealth: Essays on the Democratic Socialist Tradition in Canada (Regina, SK: University of Regina Press, 1985); Reg Whitaker and Gary Marcuse, Cold War Canada: The Making of a National Insecurity State, 1945-1957 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994); Thorn, From Left to Right, chapter five and passim

3 Many texts could be cited on anti-communism and its strength in North America. See especially John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History (New York and London: Penguin Books, 2006); John Lukacs, ed., Through the History of the Cold War: The Correspondence of George S. Kennan and John Lukacs (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010); Richard Gid Powers, Not Without Honor: The History of American Anticommunism (New York: The Free Press, 1996). In the Canadian context, see, most recently, Julie Guard, Radical Housewives: Price Wars and Food Politics in Mid-Twentieth Century Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019).

4 Busy Bee, Vol. 1, No. 5, October 1956. The Busy Bee was the major SC newspaper that devoted specific attention to Socred women’s concerns. I say “supposed” because some historians, conservative as well as more liberal, argue that the Soviet Union’s ideology came from traditions particular to Russian Slavophilism, and Russian history, and not from an endorsement of leftist or socialist views. See especially John Lukacs, A History of the Cold War (New York: Doubleday, 1961).

5 A viewpoint that portrayed women as natural wives and mothers and presented a view that women should bring their maternal views of care, nurturance, and intuition out of the home into the public sphere of politics, law, and economics. In doing this, women would help to reshape the public sphere into a more caring and nurturing sphere of life. Women who endorsed this perspective borrowed much from “first-wave” – ideas particular to the 1890-1920 period – feminist views. See Tarah Brookfield, Cold War Comforts: Canadian Women, Child Safety, and Global Insecurity (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012); Brian Thorn, “Peace is the Concern of Every Mother: Communist and Social Democratic Women’s Anti-War Activism in British Columbia, 1948-1960,” Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research 35:4 (October 2010): 626-657. For the American situation see Molly Ladd-Tayor, Mother-Work: Women, Child Welfare, and the State, 1890-1930 (Urbana and Chicago.: University of Illinois Press, 1994). In an international context, see Seth Koven and Sonya Michel, eds., Mothers of a New World: Maternalist Politics and the Origin of Welfare States (London: Routledge, 1993).

6 Sometimes known as “maternal feminism,” this ideology – exemplified by figures such as Nellie McClung and Emily Murphy in Canada and Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the United States – emphasized women’s differences from, and moral superiority to, men as the basis for women’s increased involvement in public life outside of the “domestic sphere” of home and family. Temperance, anti-slavery, support for eugenics, “moral purity,” and, arguably, Anglo-Saxon superiority, were among the issues that first wave feminists supported. See Mariana Valverde, The Age of Light, Soap and Water: Moral Reform in English Canada, 1885-1925, revised ed., (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008); Aileen S. Kraditor, The Ideas of the Woman Suffrage Movement, 1890-1920 (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1981); Judith Wellman, The Road to Seneca Falls: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the First Women’s Rights Convention (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004).

7 For further explanations of Social Credit ideology, see Bob Hesketh, Major Douglas and Alberta Social Credit (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997); Thorn, From Left to Right, chapter two.

8 Liberal and left women used maternalism to draw in female supporters who otherwise would  have opposed left-wing views. See Thorn, From Left to Right, chapter three; “Peace is the Concern of Every Mother,” 637-648.

9 Trinity Western University Archives [TWU Archives], Robert N. Thompson Fonds. Box 1, File 23. Working Draft of Social Credit Policy for National Leadership Convention, Ottawa, 4-7 July 1961.

10 Ibid.

11 For the remarks on Rhee and Nasser see Canadian Social Crediter [CSC], Vol. 9, No. 1. January 1957. There are a number of different views on Canadian foreign policy during the late-1940s and 1950s. Some have argued that Canada was forced into an economic and military alliance with the United States. Here see Stephen Clarkson, An Independent Foreign Policy for Canada? (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1968) and the interesting and useful George Parkin Grant, Lament for a Nation: The Defeat of Canadian Nationalism (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1965). Others have argued for the “middle power” approach, that is, the notion that Canada fulfilled a mediating role between the United States and the Soviet Union, and eschewed extreme political and foreign policy positions. This view predominates in mainstream Canadian political and military circles, especially within the centrist and centralist federal Liberal Party. For examples of this view see Adam Chapnick, The Middle Power Project: Canada and the Founding of the United Nations (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2006); Douglas A. Ross, In the Interests of Peace: Canada and Vietnam, 1954-1973 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984). Still others have stated that Canada actively chose to support the American military alliance, and consequently Cold War anti-communism. This viewpoint prevails largely on the left of the political spectrum. Here, see Yves Engler, The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (Black Point, NS: Fernwood Publishing, 2009); Victor Levant, Quiet Complicity: Canadian Involvement in the Vietnam War (Toronto: Between the Lines, 1986); Reg Whitaker and Steve Hewitt, Canada and the Cold War (Toronto: Lorimer, 2003).

12 See the material in CSC, Vol. 1, No. 25. 13 December 1950.

13 For an excellent explanation of the differences between populist and elitist approaches to politics, see Jeff Taylor, Politics on a Human Scale: The American Tradition of Decentralism (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013). See also Thorn, “Ladies, Let Us Hold High the Banner of Social Credit.”

14 British Columbia Archives and Records Services [BCARS], Peer Vernon Paynter Papers. Box 4, File 10. Unpublished MSS, “Defense – to help with your speech making,” n.d. I assume from the context of the arguments that the item was written during the 1950s.

15 Franca Iacovetta, Gatekeepers: Reshaping Immigrant Lives in Cold War Canada (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2006).

16 BCARS, Peer Vernon Paynter Papers, Box 4, File 10. Unpublished MSS, “Defense – to help with your speech making,” n.d.

17 We have seen in more recent decades that this is still a staple of Western, particularly American, foreign policy. See especially Diana Johnstone, Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2002).

18 The quotations are from BCARS, Peer Vernon Paynter Papers, Box 4, File 10. Unpublished MSS, “Defense – to help with your speech making,” n.d. For a look at the differences between libertarian leading, often anti-war, conservatives and those who supported the “warfare-welfare” state, with the “big government” ideology, see Justin Raimondo, Reclaiming the American Right: Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, second ed., (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2008).

19 Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA), Social Credit Women’s Auxiliary Papers (SCWA Papers), Box 1, File 11. Resolution passed at the 24th Annual SCWA Convention, Calgary, 20 November 1961. Yet, during the 1950s and early-1960s in Canada, much like in the United States, abortion remained a controversial issue.  Abortion became legal, but only in accredited hospitals and if the health of the mother became threatened, in Canada in 1969. In 1988, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the federal abortion law, making abortion, effectively, an issue for the different provinces in Canada. Today, different Canadian provinces have somewhat different regulations surrounding abortion, ranging from extremely liberal to more restrictive. See Angus McLaren and Arlene Tigar McLaren, The Bedroom and the State: The Changing Practices of Abortion and Contraception in Canada, 1880-1997, second ed., (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997). 

20 Wayne S. Cole, Roosevelt and the Isolationists, 1932-1945 (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1983); Andrew L. Johns, “Doves Among Hawks: Republican Opposition to the Vietnam War, 1964-1968,” Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research 31:4 (October 2006): 585-628; Ronald Radosh, Prophets on the Right: Profiles of Conservative Critics of American Globalism (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1975); Taylor, Politics on a Human Scale, 89-155.

21 On the decline of the Old Right in the Cold War era see Justus D. Doenecke, Not to the Swift: The Old Isolationists in the Cold War Era (London: Associated University Presses, 1979); Raimondo, Reclaiming the American Right, 173-220. On conservative women in the U.S., and the decline of an isolationist tradition after World War II, see Mary C. Brennan, Wives, Mothers, and the Red Menace: Conservative Women and the Crusade Against Communism (Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2008), 59-84; Michelle M. Nickerson, Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012), 21-31. For Europe see especially Karina Urbach, ed., European Aristocracies and the Radical Right, 1918-1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). In the Canadian context, see Ron Dart, The North American High Tory Tradition (Albany, NY: American Anglican Press, 2016); Bob Plamandon, Blue Thunder: The Truth About Conservatives from Macdonald to Harper (Toronto: Key Porter Books, 2009). On the “Eastern Establishment” see Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment, reprint ed., (San Diego, CA: Dauphin Publications, 2013).

22 PAA, Cornelia Wood Fonds, Box 1, Item 227. Pamphlet, “Canadians Must Awaken.” Speech by “Mrs. C.R. Wood, MLA for Stony Plain, Alberta,” 8 June 1945, published by the Canadian Social Crediter.

23 The Hattersley quotations are all from CSC, Vol. 7, No. 1, April 1955. For evidence of this localist perspective see Bill Kauffman, Look Homeward America: In Search of Reactionary Radicals and Front-Porch Anarchists (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2006); George Hawley, Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2017), 74-100; Radosh, Prophets on the Right.

24 PAA, Cornelia Wood Fonds, Box 1, Items 41 and 42. National SCWA Bulletin, 9 March 1964.

25 On Hiss, see Athan G. Theoharis, Ed., Beyond the Hiss Case: The FBI, Congress, and the Cold War (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1982). On White see R. Bruce Craig, Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004). On Taft, see Radosh, Prophets on the Right, 178-195.

26 PAA, Cornelia Wood Fonds, Box 4, Item 95. Address by Wood, n.d., subject “What Are We Being Offered?” On 6 January 1941, as part of his State of the Union Address, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke of “Four Freedoms” that people “everywhere in the world” were entitled to: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Roosevelt used the image of the “Four Freedoms” as a justification for fighting Nazi fascism and Japanese authoritarianism during World War II. The freedoms became part of the basis for postwar optimism that a new order of freedom from poverty and oppression might be commencing in the wake of the defeat of fascism. See David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

27 PAA, Cornelia Wood Fonds, Box 4, Item 95. Address given by Wood with “Mr. Bourcier” in the Lac St. Anne Constituency, week of 16-22 September 1945.

28 PAA, Cornelia Wood Fonds, Box 4, Item 81. Election Speech by Wood, 1949, introducing Walter Kuhl, Socred nominee in the Jasper-Edson federal riding.

29 PAA, Cornelia Wood Fonds, Box 6, Item 144. Election Address to the Stony Plain Constituency organization, 1948.

30 Ibid. For versions of this traditionalist argument, see Gary Allen with Larry Abraham, None Dare Call it Conspiracy, reprint ed., (San Diego, CA: Dauphin Publications, 2013); Kerry Bolton, Revolution from Above (London: Arktos, 2011).

31 PAA, Cornelia Wood Fonds, Box 14, Item 301. Letter to the Members of the Social Credit Party, signed by Lois McDearmid, Ivy Bourcier, and Verna Cole, 16 April 1966.

32 PAA, SCWA Papers, Box 1, File 22. CBC Provincial Affairs Telecast, the Hon. Ethel Wilson, 29 June 1966.

33 Ibid. On the continuing strength of Douglasite ideology in some sectors of Social Credit see  Finkel, The Social Credit Phenomenon in Alberta; Hesketh, Major Douglas and Alberta Social Credit.

34 CSC, Vol. 9, No. 2. February 1957.

35 Doenecke, Not to the Swift; Radosh, Prophets on the Right. Even Senator Joseph McCarthy argued against overseas interventions in communist-led nations, even as he zealously persecuted suspected Communists and leftists in the U.S. itself. See Taylor, Politics on a Human Scale.

36 CSC, Vol. 8, No. 2. February 1956.

37 Ibid.

38  Doenecke, Not to the Swift, 21-29; Johns, “Doves Among Hawks”; Bill Kauffman, Ain’t My America: The Long and Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle American Anti-Imperialism (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008); Radosh, Prophets on the Right.

39 CSC, Vol. 8, No. 2. February 1956.

40 Here see Grant, Lament for a Nation, passim; Trevor Harrison, Of Passionate Intensity: Right-Wing Populism and the Reform Party of Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995).

41 The most relevant studies on regionalism in Canada are David Laycock, Populism and Democratic Thought on the Canadian Prairies, 1910-1945 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990); W.L. Morton, The Progressive Party in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967.

42 Randolph Silliman Bourne, War and the Intellectuals: Selected Essays, 1915-1919 (Cambridge, MA: Hackett Publishing, 1999). The comparison of right-wing women with more liberal and leftist female activists can be found in Thorn, “Peace is the Concern of Every Mother,” 630-636.


Also see “‘Ladies, Let Us Hold High the Banner of Social Credit!’ Reaction, Tradition, and Localism in Right-Wing Canadian Women Ideology.”

Brian ThornBrian Thorn

Brian Thorn

Brian Thorn teaches North American history and English at Nipissing University in Canada. He is interested in various modes of North American and European conservative thought, localism, populism, the "Old Right," and gender politics. He is the author of From Left to Right: Maternalism and Women's Political Activism in Postwar Canada (University of British Columbia Press, 2017).

Back To Top