Four Families, One War

When war was declared in 1914, no-one knew what lay ahead. Unknown places far away suddenly became familiar names and were the topic of conversation at the dinner table every evening. War news and war work pervaded society.

Eventually, the initial confidence and bravado of 1914 gave way to a sense of horror and helplessness as losses on the battlefields mounted with no end in sight. 

Over the next four years known social structures and family dynamics changed dramatically. Young men and women grew up quickly, and their world was shaped and forever changed by their wartime experience.

Four Families, One War offers an intimate glimpse into those war years through the eyes and voices of four Toronto families whose sons, brothers and husbands fought in the Great War and whose wives, mothers and sisters kept the home fires burning. These excerpts from their personal diaries and letters allow us to eavesdrop on a long-past and complicated conversation. Although we can never reconstruct that conversation completely, these found voices reveal the anxiety and fear buried beneath a brave and cheerful front.


Toronto Public Library