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!