Sunday, 29 December 2013

The YMCA in WW1 - Fascinating Facts of the Great War

The first YMCA branch was founded in London by George Williams (a draper from Somerset who had moved to London to find work) in 1844 as a place where working men could go after work, the idea soon spread around the UK and then world-wide.

During WW1, the YMCA "Huts" provided home comforts for weary soldiers - hot drinks, sweets, refreshments, writing materials, newspapers, magazines and games of housey housey (as Bingo was known back then) and dominoes.  Huts were manned by volunteers - many of them women - and ranged from large hostels, accommodating and catering for hundreds through requisitioned buildings and wooden huts to tents.

November 1914 saw the first of the YMCA Huts in France.   Eventually there were over three hundred of these Huts along the line of the Western Front.   The word “hut” is slightly misleading - as Arthur K. Yapp describes in his Introduction to the 1916 book “Tales from the Huts” which told some of the stories of the soldiers and volunteers and which was sold in aid of the YMCA’s work:

“Huts that are not huts! Huts that are mere stables or farm outbuildings (or tents)! Huts that are palatial establishments catering for the needs of thousands of men.  The little brown Hut made of timber and roofed with felt, serving the men at the outposts of the danger zone of the East Coast – on the wilds of Salisbury Plain – dotted about in hundreds of camps in all parts of the United Kingdom!   And then there are the Huts in France … the Hostel Huts, too, where friends of dangerously wounded men are entertained by the Y.M.C.A. free of charge!'

The YMCA also provided facilities for civilians wishing to visit seriously wounded personnel or to attend funerals in France and Belgium.  They were met by cars from the ferry driven by volunteers and taken to the YMCA hostel and the relevant hospital or cemetery and looked after until it was time to return home.

One of the women who volunteered for service during WW1 was Betty Stevenson, the YMCA heroine volunteer, who joined up when she was 19 and was killed during an air raid near Etaples in 1918.  Betty is buried in the Military Cemetery at Etaples.

Today, the YMCA continues its good work and is a world-wide organisation with an HQ in Geneva and the motto "Empowering Young People".

Sources:  “Tales from the Huts” (published by Jarrold & Sons, London, 1916) with illustrations by WW1 Artist Cyrus Cuneo - it was Cyrus's last work - sold in aid of the YMCA's work.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Elsie Janis - American writer, actress, music hall entertainer, lyricist, composer, film director and film producer

I have just been writing up an Exhibition Panel for Inspirational Women of WW1 and discovered that Elsie Janis, the American actress, composer, film star, film producer and film director, was also a poet! 
Elsie was born Elsie Bierbower in Ohio in 1889. By 1917, Elsie was a famous actress, silent film star and music hall entertainer and went to entertain the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front, travelling in a chauffeur-driven Cadillac accompanied by her Mother, Jennie. Elsie was one of the first American women to entertain the troops. 
After a long and illustrious career, Elsie died in Los Angeles in 1956 with her friend Mary Pickford by her side. She left her estate to be divided between her housekeeper and her chauffeur - who had stayed with her after driving her about on the Western Front.  Truly an Inspirational Woman of WW1.
google images

Friday, 13 December 2013

Olive May Kelso King - Australian Inspirational Woman of WW1

I am very grateful indeed to Faye from Stanley Kaye's Facebook Group "Remembering World War One in 2014 one hundred years" who answered my request for other Inspirational Women of WW1 by suggesting I research Olive May Kelso King.   Thank you Faye - over the past eighteen months I have written loads of letters, e-mails and messages;  only a tiny number receive replies so your help is greatly appreciated.

Olive May Kelso King (1885 - 1958) - Australian

Olive May Kelso King, an adventurer and mountaineer, was born in Sydney, Australia on 29th June 1885 - she was the daughter of Sir Kelso King, a Sydney-based company director.

During the First World War, Olive was in England where she purchased a lorry and had it converted into an ambulance which she drove in France, joining the Scottish Women's Hospital.  Later, Olive went to Serbia where she ended up driving ambulances for the Serbian Medical Service.   She was awarded the Serbian silver Medal for Bravery and the Order of St. Sava for her work with the poor in Serbia after the War. 

Olive died in Melbourne on 1st November 1958.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Betty Stevenson - YMCA volunteer killed in the line of duty 30th May 1918, Etaples, France

Betty Stevenson is surely one of the most inspirational women of all time.

Bertha "Betty" Stevenson was born in York on 3rd September 1896. The family moved to Harrogate.   Betty went to boarding school in 1910 and to Brussels to study music in 1913.

When War broke out, Betty, who was eighteen, and her family went to London and helped some of the large number of Belgian Refugees who were camped out in Alexandra Palace, some of whom they took into their home in Harrogate.

When her aunt went to France in 1916 to work in a YMCA canteen, Betty volunteered to go as well.

It took a while for permission to be granted because Betty was by then still only nineteen. In those days a woman needed her parents' permission to do anything because she was officilaly their responsibility until she was 21.

When her aunt had to return home, Betty's Mother took her place and the pair worked together, living in Paris and travelling by tram and train to the YMCA hut in St. Denis.   They returned to the UK in November 1916.  But Betty could not settle down at home - she missed her friends in France.  In 1917, Betty went back to France, where she worked as a driver but the long hours, hard work, erratic meals and weather took their toll on her health and Betty had several bouts of 'flu and even contracted mumps.
She was transferred from driving back to working in a canteen in Etaples in 1918.  After a brief period of home leave, Betty was killed in an air raid on 30th May 1918  and was buried with full military honours in the British Cemetery in Etaples.   Betty received the French Croix de Guerre aver Palme.

"Betty Stevenson, YMCA Croix de Guerre avec Palme Sept. 3rd 1896 - May 30th 1918"
Edited by G.G.R.S. and A.G.S. published by Longmans Green and Company, New York, 1920

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Peter Pan and WW1

The other night we went to the opening of "Peter Pan" which is this year's Christmas Pantomime in our local theatre.  This was the first time I had seen a performance of "Peter Pan" since reading "Peter Pan's XI The Extraordinary Story of J.M. Barrie's Cricket Team" (by Kevin Telfer, Sceptre, London, 2010) as part of my research for WW1 Commemorative Exhibitions.   It was very clear to me from watching the play the other night that Barrie was Peter Pan. As Telfer  says: "Barrie himself later speculated that perhaps he was the real-life embodiment of Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up, as much as any real boy ..." (p. 17).  I feel certain that Barrie would approve of the production we saw.

I could not help wondering what happened to the cast members of the first play in 1904.  And I kept thinking how poignant it was that George Llewelyn Davies - one of the boys Barrie looked after following the death of their parents and for whom he devised the sort of adventures embodied in his play "Peter Pan" - was killed on The Western Front in World War One on 15th March 1915. Geoge's brother, Peter who took part in the Battle of the Somme, was invalided home suffering from shell-shock, returned to the front and was awarded a Military Cross (MC).

During WW1, Barrie worked at the British Government's Propaganda Bureau, along with writers Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, E.V. Lucas, Thomas Hardy, G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells and John Buchan - Conan Doyle and Lucas having been members of Barrie's recreational Cricket Team.

Picture:  "Grand Theatre" - an original watercolour by Geoff Winch the artist.

From Review of "Peter Pan" Best Kept Secrets, 6th December 2013 -

Rin Tin Tin and WW1 - Fascinating Facts of the Great War

I'm working on a panel for the Fascinating Facts of the Great War section of my Exhibitions - it's about Rin Tin Tin, the famous German Shepherd Dog movie star.  

The original Rintintin was one of a pair of Parisian street urchins ('titis' in Parisian slang) drawn as a cartoon by a French Artist in 1913 and called Nénette et Rintintin. The little cartoon couple became famous throughout France during WW1 because of a popular song and people made little dolls representing the couple out of bits of left-over wool.  Paris was not occupied during WW1 but it was during WW2 when the artist who drew Nénette et Rintintin was put under house arrest for designing patriotic posters, cartoons and cards during WW1.

The drawings and song depicted the couple as escaping unscathed from the various bombardments that Paris was subjected to during the First World War, so they were made into good luck charms and also brooches and distributed widely. The artist designed a postcard with the woollen dolls pictured on it with a little poem and these were sent to troops at the Front for luck, which may be how Lee Duncan knew about them.

Rin Tin Tin was found by an American Army Corporal called Lee Duncan in a bombed out kennels in Lorraine in the east of France (which back then was under Germany rule) in August 1918.   The kennels had bred guard dogs for supply to the German Army.    The story goes that there was a German Shepherd bitch still alive in the kennels and she had just given birth to six puppies. Duncan rescued them and took them back to his Regiment's camp to look after them - the puppies were so tiny they apparently hadn't opened their eyes. 

Once they were weaned, Duncan chose two puppies for himself - a male and female - and called them Nanette and Rin Tin Tin.  He took them back to America with him after the War - Nanette died but Rin Tin Tin survived.  Lee Duncan trained his dog and the rest, as they say, is history.   Rin Tin Tin lived until 1932, starred in 27 films and even had his own radio show from 1930 - 1932.  Duncan took the body of his dog back to Paris where Rin Tin Tin is buried.   There were eleven more dogs, reportedly related to the original Rin Tin Tin, after his death and a TV film series was also made using his name.
Sources:  Sources: and

Note: “titis” is a word in Parisian slang meaning ‘street children’.   For fans of “Les Miserables”, Gavroche is a ‘titi’.   "Titi"is also the name used in France for Tweetie Pie the cartoon character.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

"A Nurse at The Front The First World War Diaries of Sister Edith Appleton"

I am extremely grateful to Sonia Bidwell the textile artist/storyteller based in Scotland (see left for examples of Sonia's work) for sending me a copy of the book edited by Ruth Cowen, Edith Appleton's great niece.

I look forward to reading this very much when I have finished preparations for the exhibition panels that are to go to Stow Maries WW1 Aerodrome in Essex.  I hope to review the book once I have read it - having 'dipped in' it looks extremely interesting.

You can also have a look at Sonia's work on her website:

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Fascinating Facts of the Great War - Australian Troops camped out on the Wiltshire Downs

Photo taken by George Donohue, 1917
As those of you who follow my weblog will know I have added a section entitled 'Fascinating Facts of the Great War' in order to be able to include topics other than poetry and inspirational women.

Here is one such fact about the Australian troops camped out in WW1 on the Wiltshire Downs in Compton Chamberlayne, near Wilton in Wiltshire, England, before leaving for the various theatres of war on the Continent of Europe and elsewhere.

If anyone knows of a relative of any of those mentioned below, please could they get in touch. Thank you.

My grateful thanks to Yvon Davis of the wonderful Mud, Mining, Medals Facebook Page for her continuing support of my project.

When George Gross took over Compton Park in Compton Chamberlayne, Wiltshire - the manor house had been built rebuilt during the 1500s by Sir Edward Penruddocke and remained in the same family until the early 20th Century - the estate was in need of a great deal of repair.

In the chapter of his book entitled “Wiltshire” George shares with us a “very human record of Australia’s share in the Great War.  On a number of beech trees in Compton Park, probably planted before the discovery of Australia, are the names or initials, wrought with their own hands, of young men who came from that far-distant land to give themselves to the Empire in her hour of need.  They were encamped in their thousands at the foot of the Wiltshire Downs, in Compton Chamberlayne and the adjoining parishes, and many a strong man’s thoughts as he sauntered through the silent woods and saw the smooth grey skin of the beeches must have turned to his dear ones, and he felt irresistibly impelled to leave some record of himself before he faced annihilation." 

George wondered, “how many of those fine fellows are alive and well today?  Of some hundreds of names and initials, many partly obliterated, I mention a few:

C. Delarvillers was no mean woodcarver, R.M. of Sydney was madly in love with his Nina; her name in his hand-carving is still all over the wood.  I trust he survived and between them they now have grown-up children.  J.A.B. was a good designer as well as a carver;  C.D. climbed twenty feet up the tree to leave his mark.  C.A.W. of London, NSW, had a big bulbous heart; let’s hope he proved a better lover than a woodcarver!  Tom May – I suppose it is Tom May? – the design is ingenious but rather cryptic – is a man of ieas and if he lives has probably made a fortune. Private G. Penny and E.J. Rowlands were evidently great chums.

On the Downs overlooking the main road these handy lads outlined in the chalk a map of Australia as large as St. Paul’s Cathedral, and although overgrown by grass it can still be clearly seen.

Some of the AIF have, dead or alive, left their tangible mark behind – those strong, dare-devil, handsome cousins who had come to our aid from beyond the seas.  In the little cemetery off the village street rest the bodies of thirty or forty who died before they were vouchsafed an opportunity of firing a shot for their motherland.” (pp. 419 – 420 "Suffolk Punch").

From the autobiography “Suffolk Punch A Business Man’s Autobiography” by George Cross. Published by Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 1937.

Note:  The badges are still clearly visible on the Downs and as far as I know they are very carefully tended, however, I understand that the map of Australia has unfortunately been allowed to grass over which is such a shame.

The photograph of George Herbert Cross is one that has been in our family for a very long time.  It must have been taken around 1910 -  the name of the photographer has faded.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

In memory of WW1 Munitions Workers - The Devil's Porridge Museum need our help

The Devil's Porridge Museum, which commemorates the state of the art WW1munitions factory in Gretna needs our help.  They have been short-listed for the People's Millions and will go head-to-head with another good cause on Border TV. Eastriggs Primary School have combined forces with their volunteers to make a short film to be broadcast on 26thNovember 2013.

They need as many votes as possible to win £50,000 towards our new inter-active museum which is set to open next year. It will ensure that the amazing story of how Eastriggs and Gretna were built in WW1 for the greatest munitions factory of the time, is told to future generations. It will also be a lasting commemoration to those who died in both world wars.

You can phone in your support from 9.00am to midnight on Tuesday, the 26th of November. The number will be available on the People's Millions website from early morning and also on Border TV News at 600pm where supporting films will be aired.

Please, please vote (10p) and vote often. Thank you.

Photo from The Devil's Porridge showing volunteers stirring a replica "Devil's Porridge"  - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle coined the phrase.  Munitions factories were vital to the cause of winning the war.  The soldiers said that those who worked in munitions factories faced as much danger as those who were fighting.   Many munitions workers were killed or injured.
You can also Like their Facebook page here

The Devil's Porridge Museum, Daleside, Butterdales Road, Eastriggs, DG12 6TQ.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Female Auxiliary Nursing Yeomanry

I have been searching for a women's re-enactment group from WW1 for the past 18 months for my Inspirational Women exhibition section.  Today I found these on Facebook

They look extremely interesting.  I will try to find out more and bring you an up-date.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Marie De Page (1872 - 1915) - Belgium

I am indebted to Mary, a nurse from the Unites States of America, and to Stanley Kaye of the Facebook Group "", for bringing Belgian nurse Marie De Page to my attention.

Marie was born in Belgium in 1872 and trained as a nurse.  Her story is amazing and she is definitely going to be one of the Inspirational Women to be featured in my next exhibition.

Marie died in the Lusitania disaster in 1915, after helping to save children from the sinking ship.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Luxembourg, Lise Rischard and "The Secrets of Rue St. Roch"

I have been searching for some time for a Female Poet from The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.  I am very grateful indeed to all of the people in Luxembourg I have contacted - they have all replied to me with helpful suggestions but I am still without a female poet to represent Luxembourg.

The Germany Army went into the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg on 2nd August 1914.  During WW1 people from Luxembourg fought on both sides.   Luxembourg was important as, due to its geographical position and the railway system, trains from Germany to France went through there.

In her wonderful book "The Secrets of Rue St. Roch" Janet Morgan tells us about the activities of a lady from Luxembourg who was recruited by the British Secret Service and whose exploits during WW1 are amazing.   Please try to read this fantastic book - I could not put it down!

So Lise Rischard is there among my list of Inspirational Women of WW1 - representing the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

"The Secrets of Rue St. Roch" written by Janet Morgan, published by Allen Lane Penguin Group, London, 2004.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Snapshots from the Exhibition at Fleetwood Library (Lancashire, UK) until 11th November 2013

I wanted to share with you some of the panels that are on display at the Library in Fleetwood.

Mary Riter Hamilton was the inspiration behind the creation of this weblog and the inclusion in my Poetry Exhibitions of a section entitled "Inspirational Women of WW1".

Mary was not a young woman when she undertook the journey to the Western Front in 1919, travelling to a barren and hostile land in order to paint what she saw so that we would have a lasting record of the horrors and devastation of the First World war.

Mary spent three years living in a tin hut among the Chinese workers who cleared away the mess left at the end of the war.   She painted several hundred paintings, became ill and lost the sight of one eye.   It was difficult to find food because most of the local people had been evacuated and there was little left.  At first Mary was looked after by a Canadian Regiment but when they left after six months, she was left to her own devices.

The Canadian War Amputees Association ( commissioned Mary, who was by then a very well known and respected artist who had travelled to Europe to study and had painted scenes of Canada to take to Europe and scenes of Europe to take back to Canada.  Don't forget there was no radio or television, etc. back then and people did not travel like they do today so that was one of the few says of sharing information.

At the end of her time in Europe, Mary exhibited her work in Paris and London.  When she returned  home, she donated her paintings to the National Archives of Canada where they are currently kept.  You can view some of her amazing work on their website:

I have also added a section entitled "Fascinating Facts of the Great War" because I could not possibly leave Wilfred Owen out of a poetry exhibition in Fleetwood now could I?   Wilfred was based in Fleetwood for several weeks during October/November 1916 at the Gunnery School which had their Headquarters in the North Euston Hotel which was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence for the duration of the War.   Wilfred lived in a house in Lord Street and you can see a blue plaque on the wall there.   He also travelled to Blackpool on the advice of his Mother, Susan Owen, to purchase a trench coat before he left for the Front in December 1916.

In this section of the exhibition at Fleetwood Library, you will also find reference to the trawlers which were requisitioned as minesweepers by the Royal Navy.

I should like to thank Margaret Stetz, who is Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women's Studies and Professor of Humanities at the University of Delaware, for her continuing support and encouragement of my project.

Fleetwood Library
North Albert Street

ENTRY FREE - usual Library opening hours.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Nellie Spindler - nurse from Wakefield, Yorkshire - killed in WW1 on the Western Front

Thank you to Jonathan D'Hooghe who runs the website  Jonathan answered my request for information about Inspirational Women.  He suggested Nellie Spindler who was a British nurse of the Queen Alexandra's Military Nursing Service.  Nellie was killed while she was working in a Field Hospital and is buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium - she is the only woman there.

French, German and Chinese graves are also in that Cemetery.

Read more about Nellie here

and if you want the lyrics to Bram Vermeulen's song, which is called "Testament" and is on YouTube, you will find them here (in English):

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Until 23rd November 2013 Ground Floor Gallery, Grolier Club, New York, USA: Exhibition of Extraordinary Women in Science and Medicine

Stanley Kaye of poppy fame, has sent me details of an exhibition about "Extraordinary Women in Science & Medicine: Four Centuries of Achievement," at New York City's Grolier Club. 

Among those included are: 

Florence Nightingale, 
Marie and her daughter Irene Curie, 
Italian Jewish neurologist Rita Levi-Montalcini, and 
British Jewish scientists, Hertha Marks Ayrton and Rosalind Franklin. 

Marie Curie had a mobile ex-ray unit on the Western Front in WW1.

Hertha Ayrton, deeply involved with the suffragist movement and stepmother to Israel Zangwill's wife Edith, refused to participate in the 1911 census and wrote across the census form, as here noted in the exhibition: "How can I answer all these questions if I have not the intelligence to vote between two candidates for parliament? I will not supply these particulars until I have my rights as a citizen. Votes for women. Hertha Ayrton."

"Extraordinary Women in Science & Medicine: Four Centuries of Achievement." 

The exhibition explores the legacy of thirty-two remarkable women whose accomplishments in physics, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, computing, and medicine contributed to the advancement of science. 

More than 150 original items are on view, including books, manuscripts, periodicals, offprints, dissertations, and laboratory apparatus (such as that used by Marie Curie during her earliest work on radioactivity), providing a remarkable overview of the lives and activities of this eminent group. 

For further information, please check out the website:

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Joyce Dennys (1893 - 1991) - artist/illustrator

Joyce was born in India where her Father, who was an Army Officer, was posted at the time.  She is perhaps better known for her work during WW2 but she was an illustrator during the First World War and her paintings are fantastic.

Browsing the Internet to find examples of her work, I discovered this site:

and was quite surprise to find that one of my favourite artists - Pisarro - was also a WW1 artist.


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mrs Mary Humphrey Ward (1851 - 1920)

The novelist/philanthropist Mary Augusta Ward was born Mary Augusta Arnold in Hobart, Tasmania - her father Thomas was a brother of Matthew Arnold the poet/critic.   The family returned to England and Mary was brought up in Oxford.

She met Thomas Humphrey Ward a fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford and they married in 1872.  During their time in Oxford, Mary spent her mornings in the Bodleian Library and her evenings writing.

Thomas and Mary moved to London in 1881 when Thomas went to work for "The Times".   Mary continued writing novels.  She was also involved in charitable works and founded the Passmore Edwards Settlement in Tavistock Place, London, which was an education centre for working class men and women.  This included a play centre for children - a forerunner of after-school care centres.

Mary was a very successful and renowned writer and by 1914 she was the best-known Englishwoman in America.   The American Government approached Mary with a request that she write about the War from the British perspective.   Mary agreed and became the first woman journalist to visit the trenches of the Western Front and was afforded special facilities by the War Office to this end.   Mary wrote two books about what she saw - "England's Effort (1916) and "Towards the Goal (1917).

Mary died in 1920 but her memory lives on in The Mary Ward Centre for adult education in London -

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Louise Weiss

In her memoirs, Louise Weiss (1893 - 1983), one of the first people to suggest that a united Europe may be the best way of preventing wars and founder of the pacifist weekly "L'Europe Nouvelle", describes with horror what happened in Paris on Armistice Day:

"Soon I was carried along by a crowd shrieking with joy and hate.  To me it seemed quite awful. Worse! It seemed stupid.  Here a victory was being celebrated that had seemed indeed worth while and in which I too had believed, and towards which I had made my own small contribution as best I could. But little by little, this victory seemed to me undeserving of celebration.  The people here seemed to be savages.  They glorified their own lack of wisdom and the triumph of aggression."

From "Memoires d'une Européenne, translated by Agnès Cardinal and featured in ""Women's Writing on the First World War" (pp. 329 - 330) edited by Agnes Cardinal, Dorothy Goldman and Judith Hattaway and published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK in 1999.

That is surely why we advocate COMMEMORATION - definitely not celebration of the Centenary years of The First World War.

Friday, 4 October 2013

"The only way to prove that women can do this, that or the other with success is to go and do it"

British born Mabel Annie St Clair Stobart (1862 - 1954) is definitely high on my list of Inspirational Women.  Mabel was born in Woolwich in England on 3rd February 1862 and went on to found the Women's Sick and Wounded Convoy Corps.

In an extract from her diaries reproduced in "Women's Writing on the First World War" (pp 95 - 101), which I mentioned in an earlier posting, Mabel explains her reasons for founding the Corps.  In 1912 when the Balkan was broke out, the British Red Cross Society announced 'that there was no work fitted for women in the Balkans'. "Thus", said Mrs Stobart, "by the utterance of a few words, was the sphere of work which had been so hardly gained for women by Florence Nightingale to be taken from them'.

And so, having been training women for years 'to do all the work which concerned the sick and wounded between the field and base hospitals', Mrs Stobart 'determined to go out on my own account to the Balkans and see if it was true that there was indeed no work for women in those poorly equipped and impoverished countries.' ( p. 95).

The Queen of Bulgaria and the Bulgarian Red Cross accepted Mrs Stobart's offer of help gladly. So 'three women surgeons, six trained nurses, ten orderlies, cooks, others to carry on the general work of the hospital' and Mrs Stobart as directress travelled to Kirk Kilisseh in Bulgaria to set up their hospital, which they ran for over three months.

Undoubtedly, the experience gained in the Balkan War drove Mrs Stobart to continue with her work once back in England.  However, when World War One broke out, a friend of hers - 'an eminent English surgeon' with 'mid-Victorian notions as to the sphere of work of women' (p. 101) -  informed Mrs Stobart that 'soldiers objected strongly to being nursed by women and that they would deeply resent being under the care of a woman surgeon.'

Mrs Stobart explained that she "knew that against official statements of this sort, argument by writing or talking would be ineffective.  The only way to prove that women can do this, that or the other with success is to go and do it" (p. 96).   Oh how I agree!

Does that not inspire one to redouble efforts to ensure that women's hard won independence is not eroded?

More soon.

Inspirational Women of World War One - Their Legacy

I am indebted to Dr. Margaret Stetz of the University of Delaware in America who sent me information regarding the writings of some of the women in the nineteenth century to whom women in the west surely owe their current relative independence.

Women like Mona Caird, who produced pamphlets, wrote to newspapers and worked tirelessly to inform people of the plight of many women and of animals during the 1880s and 1890s.

I am also dipping into another book which I discovered recently while researching the First World War - "Women's Writing on the First World War" edited by Agnes Cardinal, Dorothy Goldman and Judith Hattaway and published by Oxford University Press in 1999.

That book features brief extracts from the writing of many women of the era such as E. Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst the Suffragette, who visited Scarborough shortly after the bombardment of the east coast of England by German warships in December 1914 and described in detail the aftermath of the bombardment.    "No street here had escaped;  in some streets house after house was conspicuously battered..." (p. 52).  

As she returned to London by train, Sylvia felt "unnerved" and the thought came to her "How should one give one's mind to anything save the War?", whereupon she and her companion Norah Smyth decided to 'go over to France' and 'passports and visas were obtained without difficulty' (p. 53), which is how they came to visit Sylvia's mother who was in Paris aiding the war effort at that time. The pair saw for themselves the many prestigious Parisian hotels that had been turned into hospitals and were by then full of wounded men.

One of the wounded they visited was "a Yorkshire footballer who had lost for ever the use of a foot and a hand".   Sylvia asked him what he would do when he returned home.  He answered: " 'I don't know, unless the Government have some idea of setting me up in a little business'.  He turned to me as though he thought I had some power to intercede for hi, his eyes dumbly pleading for assurance that his case would not be overlooked.  I could not meet his gaze'. (p. 58).

Sylvia and Norah returned to England and worked in the East End of London helping the poor and those affected by the War.   Sylvia Pankhurst's memoirs were published in 1987 by Hutchinson with the title "The Home Front" and the extract in the book I read is from pp. 114 - 126.

More soon!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Kathleen Scott

I have just finished reading "A Great Task of Happiness  The Life of Kathleen Scott" by Louisa Young, published in 1995 by Macmillan, London.

Kathleen's life story has been brilliantly told by her granddaughter, Louisa Young, in a most fascinating and readable manner.  I could not put the book down.   Kathleen is very high on my list of Inspirational Women - she was a sculptress and artist, who had studied with Rodin in Paris in the early part of the twentieth century and was the widow of the Antarctic Explorer Captain R.F. Scott and Mother of Peter Scott who founded the organisation is now called the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

During the First World War, Kathleen transported cars and ambulances to France, helped in a French Army hospital in a chateau in France - which she located - recruited her friends to war work, worked in the Vickers Factory in Erith making electrical coils and worked with plastic surgeons on the re-creation of badly disfigured faces.   She was also the confidante of the British Prime Minister in the early days of the War - Herbert Asquith.   Kathleen knew most of the celebrity writers of the era - J.M. Barrie, J.B. Priestly, G.B. Shaw - as well as politicians.

After the War, Kathleen married Hilton Young, a politician who had lost an arm during the raid on Zeebrugge in WW1 and later joined the Dunsterforce.  They had a son - Wayland - Louisa's Father.

Kathleen's numerous works of sculpture include a marble statue of Captain Scott which is in Christchurch, New Zealand with a bronze of the same design in Wellington Place, London.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Inspirational Women of World War One - List so Far

I promised you my List so far.  Here it is:

Anna Airy (1882 - 1964) British Artist.  One of the first women to be commissioned as a war artist
Mildred Aldrich (1853 - 1928) America writer.  Lived in Paris for 16 years prior to WW1, retired to the Marne in July 1914 and wrote about her "Little House on The Marne" in the early days of the war.
Clare Atwood (1866 - 1962) British Artist
Gertrude Bell - British spy
Lady Blomfield (1859 - 1939) born Ireland
Maria Bochkareva - Russian woman soldier - recruited over 2,000 women into the Russian Army
Mary Booth (1869 - 1956) - Australian Pyhsician and Welfare Worker
Maude Bruce - forewoman at Munitions Factory in Gretna, awarded medal for extreme bravery
Lady Elizabeth Butler (b. 1846) - military artist/illustrator - sister of Alice Meynell the poet
The Dick Kerr's Ladies Football Team - Dick Kerr's Factory, Preston - raised large sums of money for the war effort by playing football, organising matches after their factory shifts were over
Dora Carrington - artist
Edith Cavell - British nurse shot as a spy for helping British soldiers to escape after the early battles of the War
Dorothy J. Coke - artist
Maria Corelli (1855 - 1924)  - British novelist who sold more books than Conan Doyle, Wells and Kipling combined;  9 films were made of her novels
Dorothy Crewdson (b. 1886) - British nurse
Marie Curie - created mobile radiography units for use in WW1
Margaret Damar Dawson - woman police officer in munitions factory
Janet Daniels - Munitions factory worker - awarded medal for extreme bravery
Joyce Dennys (1893 - 1991) - served as a VAD in Cornwall - War Artist for the "Daily Sketch"
Jessica Dismorr (1885 - 1939) - British painter/illustrator (Vorticist Movement) served as a VAD, nursing in France
Olive Edis (1876 - 1955) - Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society 1914 - Official War artist
Helen Fairchild (died 7th July 1917) - American - assigned to duty as a nurse in France 7th July 1917, died 18th January 1918
Elsie Mabel Gladstone - British nurse, killed in WW1 (buried Belgrade Cemetery, Namur, Belgium)
Norah Neilso Gray (1882 - 1931) - war artist
Margaret Haig Thomas (1883 - 1958) - Welsh - saved with her Father from the Lusitania
Mary Riter Hamilton - Canadian artist who went to paint the Aftermath in Flanders
Zora Neale Hurston (1891 - 1960) - American writer
Dr. Elsie Inglis (1864 - 1917) - Scottish doctor and suffragist; founded Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service in WW1 (France, Serbia and Russia) and went to Serbia to run a hospital
Elsie Janis - American entertainer who went to entertain the troops in France/Belgium
Gwen John - War Artist
M. Jones - nurse - described air raids in Salonika
Lucy Elizabeth Kemp-Welch (1869 - 1958) - military artist
Bahiyyih Khanum (1846 - 1932) daughter of the founder of the Baha'i Faith - imprisoned in 1867 at the age of 21 and freed in 1980.
Olive May Kelson King (1885 - 1958) - Australian.  Funded and drove ambulances in France and Serbia.
Dame Laura Knight (nee Johnson) - (1877 - 1970) - British war artist
Ellen La Motte - American nurse who wrote about her experiences in WW1
Dorothy Lawrence - British Journalist - enlisted in BEF Tunnelling Company as Denis Smith in 1915
Flora Lion (1878 - 1958) - British artist commissioned by Ministry of Information to paint factory scenes
Elizabeth Lucas (wife of poet E.V. Lucas) - founded a children's home behind the lines in France WW1
Misstanguett - (1875 - 1956) French entertainer and spy WW1
Olive Mudie-Cooke - British artist - drove ambulances in France and Italy WW1
Rose O'Neil (1874 - 1944) - American sculptor, suffragist, inventor, novelist, poet, musician, creator of Kewpie dolls
Gabrielle Petit (1893 - 1916) - Belgian spy - executed
Ellie Annie Rout (1877 - 1936) - New Zealand - pioneer in sexual transmitted diseases in WW1
Helen Saunders - artist
Kathleen Scott ((1878 - 1947) - sculptor. Wife of the explorer Captain Scott of the Antarctic (later Baroness Kennet).  Among other things, she worked on innovative plastic surgery treatments WW1
Nellie Spindler - British nurse killed i WW1 on the Western Front (buried Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium)
Mabel Annie St Clair Stobart (1862 - 1954) Founder of The Women's Sick and Wounded Convoy Corps who organised hospitals in France and Belgium for St. John's Ambulance  in WW1
Elizabeth Ann Slater Weaver (1878 - 1956) - housewife/weaver who lived in Burnley, Lancashire
Bertha (Betty) Stevenson (1896 - 1918) - British - YMCA volunteer killed in the line of duty May 1918 and buried with full military honours in Etaples Military Cemetery
Mrs Mary Humphrey Ward (1851 - 1920) - first woman journalist to visit the Western Front trenches
Maria Yurlova - Armenian Cossack Soldier
Clara Zetkin - Founder of International Women's Movement

As my research continues I am certain to find many more women to include.  Please feel free to let me know of any I have missed so far.

Monday, 9 September 2013

They also served . . .

I had a very strange dream the other night.   I dreamt about a young girl who was working as a VAD waiting at table in a hostel for women employed in an Armaments Factory in the First World War.

The young lady felt that her contribution was trivial and she longed to join the ranks of those 'doing proper war work', risking their lives daily as they helped to make shells and ammunition.

I took her on a journey round the various Fronts and explained to her that everyone's contribution was vital, like cogs in a wheel making machinery turn.   Or like the links in a chain.   Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so it seemed to me the message was to be strong, do her work with zeal and be the best she possibly could.

There must have been many like that young lady who felt their contribution did not count.  But I believe it did.

The image is by English War Artist Flora Lion "Women's Canteen, Phoenix Works, Bradford, WW1"

Flora Lion (1878 - 1958) was commissioned by the Ministry of Information to paint factory scenes during the War.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

An Inspirational Women from Turkey

The idea of having an "Inspirational Women" weblog came out of research for the Female Poets of the First World War Exhibition when I found details about the Canadian artist Mary Riter Hamilton.   Since then, I have found a great deal more information which I hope to share with you soon.

I salute all the women who lived through the Great War, no matter who or where they were or what they did, for it was a very difficult time for the world.

Contrary to popular opinion, there were many women who fought during the First World War (and before).  Here is one of them from Turkey:

Second Lieutenant Fatma Kara (Fatma Seher Erden) (1888- 1955)

Fatma was married to an officer called Derviş Bey and fought alongside him in The Balkan War. She recruited a group of nine other women and they fought on the front in the Caucasus during the First World War.  

Following her husband's death, Fatma joined the National Forces of Mustafa Kemal Pasha and fought against Armenians in the east. She formed a fighting group which fought against the Greeks at Bursa and Iznik. Her son and doughtier ware also members of her group of fighters. 

They fought in the battles of the River Sakarya and the Great Attack against the Greeks on 26th August 1922. She was taken prisoner by the Greeks near Afyon Karahissar but managed to escape.  After the War, she was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant.   

There is to be a Conference on the Caucasus in WW1.  For details, please see

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Elizabeth Lucas

Elizabeth was married to the poet E.V. Lucas and was mother to Audrey Lucas. One of Audrey's poems is featured in some of the Exhibitions and in Volume I of Female Poets of the First World War.   Audrey was at Downe House School in Kent during WW1.  

With financial backing from author J.M. Barrie, Elizabeth Lucas took over a chateau at Bettancourt in the war zone on the River Marne in northern France during WW1.   She set up a refuge for orphaned and displaced children.   Her daughter helped out during the school holidays and when she left school, worked as a nurse in Paris.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Inspirational Women who helped Serbia in The First World War

Flora Sandes (1876 - 1956) was born in Yorkshire.  Her father was a clergyman and the family moved to Suffolk when Flora was nine.

When war was declared, Flora volunteered to nurse but was turned down as she had no formal qualifications.   She joined an ambulance unit organised by an American woman - Mabel Grouitch whose husband was Serbian.   Mrs Grouitch took the ambulance unit to the Eastern Front.

In Serbia, Flora joined the Serbian Red Cross before enrolling in the Serbian Army as an ordinary soldier.

Flora's story is amazing.   "A Fine Brother: The Life of Flora Sandes" is by Louise Miller, published by Alma Books.  Definitely worth a read!

Milunca Savic (1888 - 1973) cut her hair and wore men's clothes to take her brother's place in the Second Balkan War in 1913.   Her disguise was only discovered when she was wounded.

Milunca went on to fight in both World Wars, receiving medals for bravery and was in a concentration camp for ten months in WW2.

There were other women who fought during the First World War and I will endeavour to tell you about them as their countries are featured in the Female Poets section.

The exhibitions at The Wilfred Owen Story, 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, CH41 6AE
(Tuesdays - Fridays during 2013 11 am - 2 pm)

and at

The Ace Centre, Cross Street, Nelson, Lancashire BB9 7NN (Mondays - Saturdays 10 am - 4 pm) until 3rd September 2013

and at

Fleetwood Library, North Albert Street, Fleetwood, Lancashire FY7 6AJ (Mondays - Saturdays 9 am - 5 pm but Wednesdays
9 am - 12.30)

feature Flora, Milunca and other Inspirational Women of WW1, as well as some other interesting facts about the War.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Inspirational Women of WW1

During the course of my research yesterday, I found this weblog which is extremely well researched and interesting: - definitely worth a look.

As WW1 progressed, women began to be taken more seriously.  Early in 1917, they lobbied for the chance to serve their country as their men folk did. The plan was to give women the duties of cooking, mechanical and clerical work and other, more menial tasks that would occupy a man who could be fighting.

For the first time, in the summer of 1917, women were able to wear uniforms and go to work in jobs normally reserved for men. Their pay was less than that of their male colleagues and would remain so for many years. 

And women could not rise to higher ranks. By the end of the war, 80,000 women had volunteered to serve at the front with the WAAC, the Women's Relief Defence Corps or the First Aid Nursing Yoemanry. Their amazing contribution to the war effort deserves recognition.

Photo: Women of the Queen Mary's Auxiliary Army Corps entertain troops with a tug-of-war-match, Etaples, 1918.

For more amazing photographs see the Facebook Page Wipers: A Soldier's Tale from 1914 - 1918

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Inspirational Women

As the main point of my research has been to find women who wrote poetry at the time of the Great War, my list of Inspirational Women is not as long - yet!

I should like to enlist your help - if you know of any women who you feel come under the heading of "Inspirational" for whatever reason during WW1, please let me know and I will add the to the list and give you a mention.

Women like Anna Airy (1882 - 1964) who was born in Greenwich.  Anna was one of the first British women to be commissioned officially as a war artist.

One of the inspirational women featured in the Exhibition at the Ace Centre until 4th September 2013 is Gertrude Bell, an English writer, traveller, administrator, archaeologist and spy.

The Ace Centre
Cross Street

Entry is free and the Centre is open from Mondays to Saturdays 10 am till 4 pm (but not Bank Holidays - but Colne R & B Festival is on over the August Bank Holiday so you definitely won't be stuck for something to do!).

If you've never been to the Ace Centre, they also have a lovely Bistro for breakfast, teas, coffees, lunches and of course afternoon teas.

The poster features inspirational woman Elizabeth Ann Slater whose handwritten book of verse was given to me by her granddaughter Kathleen Holyhead, herself now a great-grandmother.   The poems are, in my view, just as inspirational today as they were when Elizabeth Ann wrote them out.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

An interesting Facebook Page

Many people find Facebook annoying - while there is a great deal that is not relevant, there are also several, in my view excellent, Pages dedicated to remembering the First World War and I salute those who dedicate so much of their time to educating us.   Wipers: A Soldier's Tale from the Great War is an example.

We bumped into Ella the other day - Ella is a former Beauty Queen and she has become a friend - she is a true inspiration.  Life today is just as hard in many ways as it was at the beginning of the 20th Century and I feel very sure that the inspiration of those women who lived through the Great War is helping us all today.

Women like Edith Cavell, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Mary Riter Hamilton, Mildred Aldrich, Elsie Inglis and Kathleen Scott - to name but a few.

Photo:  Munitions Workers - a panel from the Exhibition at the Ace Centre in Nelson, Lancashire (GB) until 4th September 2013.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Exhibition at the Ace Centre, Nelson, Lancashire - 15th August - 4th September 2013

Apologies - I have not forgotten about Inspirational Women - far from it.  Several of them are featured in the Exhibition at the Ace Centre which we went to set up and launch last week.

One of the Inspirational Women is Elizabeth Ann Slater Weaver who is featured on the flyer.   She was Grandmother to Kathleen Holyhead who lent me a wonderful notebook full of poems written in Elizabeth Ann's own hand.

Another Inspirational Woman featured in the Exhibition at the Ace Centre is Mary Riter Hamilton, the Canadian artist who travelled to France in early 1919 to paint the Aftermath.  Mary lived in a little tin hut among the Chinese workers who were clearing away the mess left when the War ended, spending three years painting what she saw.

Also featured are Edith Cavell, munitions workers. spies, women pilots, nurses and 'VAD's and other Inspirational Women, as well as lots of poets.

The Exhibition is on the first floor of the Ace Centre in the Pendle Art Gallery.  Viewing is from 10 am till 4 pm Mondays to Saturdays (but NOT Bank Holidays) and entry is Free.

Nelson is easily reached by road and parking in Nelson is free but you must have a 'blue badge' which is available free of charge from shops and/or the Reception area at the Ace Centre.

Or you can go by train via Preston, taking the Blackpool South - Colne train.  Nelson is the stop after Brierfield and the Ace Centre is a short walk into the centre of Nelson - opposite the Library and Town Hall.  And while you are there, don't forget to have a look at the War Memorial outside the Library.

The Ace Centre has a lovely Bistro for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or just a drink or a snack.

The Ace Centre
Cross Street

Monday, 12 August 2013

Kathleen Bruce - 1878 - 1947

Kathleen Bruce married Scott of the Antarctic and it is by that name that she is remembered as a sculptress.

Kathleen was very much ahead of her time - she went to live in Paris on her own and studied with Rodin, meeting many of the interesting people who lived and worked in Paris in the early 1900s.

Kathleen also travelled a great deal on her own - I was reminded of her yesterday at the Rebellion Festival when I met up with Monika from Sweden.  Monika also travels the world on her own.

Kathleen's story has been written by one of her Grand daughters and is published as "A Great Task of Happiness" by Louisa Young (Macmillan, London, 1995).

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Today's question

To coincide with Rebellion, the annual Punk Rock gathering at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, I have
a question:

"To what extent do Punk Rockers identify with those who served at the Fronts during the First World War?"   

I do not exclude women, as there were many who served, albeit not in the trenches, at the different Fronts. However, having said that, Flora Sandes from Suffolk joined the Serbian Army, fought on the Eastern Front and was wounded and there were many Russian women who fought during WW1.

Food for thought?

Friday, 9 August 2013

Queen Victoria's Daughters

Having seen a television documentary about Queen Victoria's daughters and how strong and independent they were, in spite of their mother's attempts to control them, I have begun to revise my thinking about the situation of women in the early part of the 20th Century.

As I mentioned previously, the play "Hindle Wakes" was written in 1910 and deals with the story of a young lady who works as a weaver in a Lancashire mill.   She goes on holiday with a girl friend to Blackpool.   I had never imagined that young, single ladies living with their parents would have been allowed to go on holiday alone at that time.

However, reading Katherine Scott's biography has also been an eye-opener.  Katherine travelled extensively alone and lived in Paris in 1905, where she studied sculpture with Rodin.

So it seems to me now that it was not the First World War that began to set women free but the Industrial Revolution and the discarding of the distaff.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Something Different again

I explained to Dave of the WW1 Aerodrome Stow Maries in Essex that Grandfather was an 'Old Contemptible' and that I was dedicating my exhibitions to his memory and to that of Great Uncles James Yule who was killed at Arras in 1917 and William P. Yule who survived but died early in WW2.

Dave asked me if I had a photograph of my Grandfather, so I decided to introduce him to you.

MAJOR LEWIS JACKSON, TD, RA (18th April 1888 - 30th September 1948)

Grandfather, Lewis Jackson TD, RA, was an 'Old Contemptible'.  He joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1905 at the age of 16.  He was a Sergeant when his Regiment was sent as part of the British Expeditionary Force to Belgium on 22nd August 1914.   By 29th November 1914, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.   After service in France, Belgium, Mesopotamia and India, he ended the War with the Dunsterville Column (Dunsterforce).  

He became a temporary Captain in January 1918, survived the War, returning home at Christmas 1919.  In 1923, the British Government reduced the Armed Forces and to his great disappointment because he 'only knew soldiering', he lost his job.   He joined the TA the same day with the rank of Honorary Captain, Regular Army Reserve of Officers.  

Grandfather also served during WW2.   While he was in command of 208 Battery at Green Street Green, they made headline news when they shot down two Dornier 17s with one salvo on 8th September 1940. 

He retired from the Army on the grounds of ill health in 1942 and died on 30th September 1948.

He was a past president of the Royal British Legion Crayford Branch, a member of the Old Contemptibles, Woolwich and of the Royal Field Artillery Old Comrades.  He was a Freemason and had a military funeral with pall bearers from the RA Depot, Woolwich, with the gun carriage being accompanied by members of RFAOCA, Q Battery, 458 Heavy AA Regiment and Old Contemptibles Association, Woolwich.   

In the photo Grandfather is a Major - the one in the middle holding a baton - which he became in 1929.

Lucy London, August 2013 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The play "Hindle Wakes" (1910) as a backdrop to the situation of women in the UK during WW1

Having watched the 1950s version of the play "Hindle Wakes" by Stanley Houghton, which was written in 1910, I was curious to have a look at the original work.  The play was performed on stage in Manchester for the first time in 1912.

For those who have not seen the play or the film, the story is about a young, unmarried woman who works as a weaver at a mill in Lancashire and the scandal caused when, instead of staying with her girl friend in Blackpool on their annual holiday, she goes to Llandudno with a gentleman.

Fanny, the central character is a strong-willed young woman who lives with her parents.

It is a fascinating insight into what life was like for working class people before the First World War and will be very useful in helping me put into perspective the situation of women in the UK at that time for my project.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Conference: "War Horses of the World"


A weekend Conference at the School of Oriental and African Studies [SOAS], London.

DATES: Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th May 2014

VENUE: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS Main Building, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG

AGENDA: This conference is part of an exciting ‘stable’ of biennial conferences first initiated on the Greek island of Hydra and are now held at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London – the Donkey Conference (2005, 2007, 2012), the Camel Conference @ SOAS (2010, 2011, 2013) and the Elephant Conference @ SOAS (forthcoming 2015). Working quadrupeds, studied in social and historical context, and from all disciplinary viewpoints.  

This year we turn our attention to War Horses of the World.

PARTICIPATION: We are concerned to cover the widest possible range of topics, geographical regions and historical periods. In particular, we are keen to right the balance between the 'West' and the 'Rest'. For this conference we welcome papers that include mules as well as horses.

THEMES: The conference will be cross-disciplinary, and our approach is critical rather than celebratory. We are particular interested in what happens at interfaces, in areas of in-betweenness and transition. For instance, the affective relations between fighting people and their mounts; or what happens when horse cultures meet camel or elephant cultures in war; or the change from chariot warfare to cavalry and mounted archers; or horses meeting motorised armoury; or how the horse operates at the cutting edge of colonialism, fighting the as-yet unhorsed; or where the horse as embodiment of power meets the subaltern horse; or how 'martial horseness' is created as socio-cultural practice in given societies.

We invite contributions in that spirit.

SUBMISSIONS: If you wish to propose a paper for this conference, please send your proposal by e-mail to the conference organiser:

The proposal should include a provisional title for the paper; an abstract of the paper (200 words maximum); and a CV of the author(s) (100 words maximum). 

Deadline for submissions: Monday, 4th November 2013.

REGISTRATION: The conference is open to the academic community and to members of the general public. Registration for presenters of papers is free.

William Gervase Clarence-Smith [SOAS, Conference chair]
Ed Emery [SOAS, Conference organiser]

"The Bob"

Searching the Internet for biographical details of French Feminist, poet and writer Henriette Sauret, I came across a very interesting book entitled "Civilization without Sexes:  Reconstructing Gender in Post War France, 1917 - 1927" by Mary Louise Roberts, published by the University of Chicago Press, London and Chicago, 1994.

An initial perusal shows up a very interesting discussion about the 1920s short hair cut known as "The Bob"- "Unlike Sampson … quipped Sauret, we may gain total power in shorting our hair" - Roberts, p. 87

I remember years ago a hairdresser suggested a short style for me.   This came with a warning - "short hair seems to empower women". . .  Would you believe it, he was right where I was concerned.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Edith Cavell

I had assumed that pretty well everyone knew about Edith Cavell - who, along with Florence Nightingale, Grace Darling and Elisabeth Fry is one of my all-time star heroines - but looking on the Facebook Group WW1 Buffs, I see this is not the case.

Edith was a British nurse who was working in a Brussels hospital when WW1 broke out.  She helped hundreds of British soldiers to escape after the Battle of Mons.  Edith was arrested by the Germans, tried and shot.  

It seems a little odd to me that Marthe McKenna, who was a secret agent working for the British during WW1, had her death sentence commuted to imprisonment, whereas Edith Cavell who was not a spy did not.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Mildred Aldrich's mysterious 'Captain S"

I have just been informed by the Facebook Group WW1 Buffs that The Western Front Association Thames Valley Branch has details of the 'Captain S" mentioned in Mildred Aldrich's "Hilltop on the Marne", including a photo of 'Captain S":   

There is also a suggestion that the person Mildred corresponded with in America during the early days of the War (her letters form the bulk of the book) is Gertrude Stein, the American poet who lived in Paris. 

However, I thought Gertrude purchased an ambulance during the First World War when she lived in Paris and drove it to take supplies to hospitals in the area.   I think a little more research is needed...

with grateful thanks to the wonderful Facebook Group WW1 Buffs - find them here:

How very sad.   I expect Mildred was devastated.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Scarlet Finders and Lady Helpers

My grateful thanks to Sue Light from the beautiful and most informative website Scarlet Finders -   Sue flew to my rescue when I asked what "Lady Helpers" were in WW1 - one of the poets on my list - Beatrix Brice Miller - was awarded a medal and she was described as a "Lady Helper".  I just had to find out what they did, how they got there and where they stayed while there!   

Beatrix Brice Miller, incidentally, went with the BEF to France in August 1914. 

Sue says:

"The 'Lady Helpers' are an interesting group.  I'm not sure that the term was widely used other than in grouping together a varied selection of women on the medal index cards held by The National Archives - probably finding some difficulty in classifying them, 'Lady Helpers' was used as a catch-all term.

Looking at the women so described, they fall into many different categories.  To take a few of them, Mabelle Egerton started a 'coffee stall' in Rouen for French soldiers; Lady Bradford wrote letters home for soldiers throughout the war; Lady Michelham put a great deal of money into supplying and funding a hospital train (among other things); several were involved in setting up hospitals or mobile medical units, such as Lady Murray, Lady Dudley.  Lady Angela Forbes did a variety of things, but probably most remembered for her soldiers' canteen at Etaples.

They were, on the whole, rich, influential, philanthropic women who wanted to be involved in the war and self-financed various projects to do so.  The War Office had learnt a lesson during the Boer War about rich women who made a nuisance of themselves, and during the Great War were fairly stringent in removing anyone who didn't toe the line, or tried to get involved in anything that might prejudice the reputation of the British army.   So I don't know where Beatrix Brice Miller fitted in - I see there was also a Mary Brice Miller - possibly her sister-in-law? (Note from Lucy:  This was, we believe Sue, Beatrix's Mother).  

There might be an answer within the Women's Work Collection at the Imperial War Museum - most women who did some sort of voluntary job get a mention somewhere.  Also, the actual medal roll, to which the medal index card relates, might give some idea of what her role was, though equally, it might not!

Assuming that they had permission from the War Office to go to France, they would have travelled in the normal way for the time - boat across the Channel, and then probably motor car on arrival.  Of course, they were never 'at the front.'  If working for the British, they would almost certainly have been confined to the base towns - the Channel ports of Boulogne, Calais etc., and those towns that housed British soldiers - Etaples, Rouen, Abbeville, Treport, etc.  If they were working for the French, or wanted to go farther afield, then they would probably cross the Channel into somewhere such as Le Havre or farther south, and would need permission from the French authorities.
Accommodation would depend entirely on what sort of work they were doing.  Many would stay in hotels, private rooms or with friends. If they were involved in hospital work, then probably on the premises.

I suspect that the IWM might be the best bet to get a clue as to what she did, but sometimes it's hard to find out, especially if they didn't stay in France for long.  If her name turns up anywhere on my travels I'll certainly make a note and let you know."
Best wishes - Sue

Thank you very much indeed Sue.   I shall follow up those leads.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Mildred Aldrich

I first became aware of Mildred Aldrich through looking at Matt Jacobsen's wonderful website

Now, I am 'haunted' by Mildred Aldrich's "Hilltop on the Marne" - it spans about two months from July to September 1914 and is in the form of extracts from letters written to a friend in America.  It is, to my mind, extremely well written and makes you want to find out what happened next.

Mildred, an American writer, had lived in Paris for sixteen years before deciding she needed to find somewhere quiet to spend her retirement years.   It took her just over a year of searching to find the cottage overlooking the River Marne.  After a little restoration work, she moved in in July 1914.

Her story is amazing - you can find it on the Internet, entitled "Hilltop on the Marne".  Mildred travelled to Paris and back twice during those early days of WW1 and, in spite of earnest requests from departing neighbours that she should accompany them, she refused to leave her home.

Mildfred describes being relieved that she stayed put when she hears reports of how the refugees were stuck on the roads.   She also describes the arrival of various groups of soldiers - two lots of British and one of French - and her efforts to help them with refreshments. When the French arrive, some are billeted in her house.

I should love to know what happened to the Uhlans rumoured to be camped out in a wood near the River, or to Captain S- of The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 13th Infantry Brigade, 15th Division of the British Expeditionary Force, one of the first soldiers Mildred comes into contact with.

Photo:  German Uhlans - courtesy of WW1 Buffs Facebook Page.