Thursday, 25 July 2013

Women who 'stayed at home' during WW1

Thursday, 25th July 2013

Please don't imagine that, because I am seeking out 'Inspirational Women' that in any way diminishes the high regard I have for those who 'stayed (or indeed stay) at home'.   I know that running a home is one of the hardest and most rewarding things a woman (or a man) can do - especially if there are others to care for - "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world".+

Those wonderful people at the Atlantic Canadian Poets Archive - Patrick O'Reilly and Lisa Banks - sent me a pdf of a magazine they have in their Archive so that I could find some more women poets and their poems from Newfoundland.  The magazine is called "The Distaff" and it was published in 1916 in aid of The Red Cross Branch of  The Women's Patriotic Association, Newfoundland which, at that time was a separate country from the rest of Canada. Check out the Atlantic Canadian Poets Archive -  http://w3.stu.ca/stu/sites/acpa/index.aspx

"The Distaff" is full of really inspirational women and is, I feel, a real tribute to all the women the world over who 'kept the home fires burning'** during the First World War.  It must also surely be a microcosm of what was happening elsewhere at that time.

For instance, just look at the sheer volume of items knitted (imagine the amount of wool needed, knitting needles, etc. not to mention the hours of dedicated work actually knitting the garments) from 1914 - 1916:

"Socks (pairs) ... 62,685, Shirts ... 8,984, Cuffs (pairs) ... 6,080, Mufflers ..... 2,422".

A similar report appears for bandages and other medical items.  A truly wonderful achievement.

Also mentioned are women who went to nurse in England - and I am sure there were women who also went from Newfoundland to nurse overseas;  and women who went to help out in other ways by visiting the wounded men and reminding them of home.

There must surely have been a need for the men and women fighting at the Front to know that things back home were all right:

"Stands the church clock at ten to three
And is there honey still for tea."*

I was surprised to see an advertisement on the back page of the magazine under the heading 'Special Electric Gifts!' - electric grills, electric toasters, electric percolators, kettles and egg boilers.  I wonder how many families in Britain had such household items in 1916?

Absolutely wonderful - educative and inspirational - thank you so much Patrick and Lisa.

+ William Ross Wallace, 1865

* Rupert Brooke, "The Old Vicarage, Grantchester", 1912
** Apologies if you all know this - Lena Guilbert Brown Ford wrote the lyrics to that song in London during WW1.  I have added Lena to my list of Female Poets - Edith Piaff believed that all songs were poems. . .

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