Saturday, April 29, 2017

National Volunteer Week



A huge thank you to all our supporters, donors, members and volunteers for all you do for Tyrconnell Heritage Society, John E. Pearce Provincial Park, and Backus-Page House Museum.  You are appreciated.

Anyone wishing to volunteer, please contact our office at 519-762-3072  info@backuspagehouse.ca

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

World War Wednesdays: First World War Crafts and Material History

Two French women in the recently liberated village of Maretz, France, October 1918, Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs [AWM E03556]
     Something we don't often cover on WWW is material history, which uses artifacts and objects to discuss a particular historical moment. I recently found a great resource for some First World War women's history and thought I would share it. All text is copied directly from the National Museum of American History collections on French stitchery and Belgian War lace, and all photos come from the two collections as well. I hope you enjoy these wonderful examples of traditional crafts that were given new meaning during the Great War.

French Stitchery
Northern France was one of the most war-torn areas of the Great War—the Germans entered early on in the war, displacing thousands of French people and destroying much of the region.  As fighting continued in France and trench warfare began, the country became even more devastated.  For the people who remained in northern France during the war, life itself was a battle, a daily struggle to survive, to make ends meet, and to rebuild lives.
The objects in this section are embroidered household items, which at first glance may seem quaint and unconnected to the hardships of living in a war zone.  However, these objects and their backstory show how profoundly World War I affected civilian women and how these women fought to meet the challenges of war.  Through the Society for Employment of Women in France, women in the region of Lorraine were able to sell this hand-made stitchery in America, with all of the proceeds going to the women and their families.  A June 1916 letter that accompanied some of these items paints a vivid picture of the women's lives and their efforts at survival: "The women sit inside their houses under fire constantly, and embroider. When a shell is heard on its way they duck into the cellars until it bursts, and then come out again at once. The cellars are all marked—that is[,] the safe ones, with signs pointing to them and telling their capacity. The women who embroider are those whose men—sons, husbands, and fathers are at the front or wounded or killed . . ."
This powerful scene of French peasant women working tirelessly to embroider household items, close enough to the front to be under constant fire, becomes all the more impressive when you see what the women were making.  The meticulous needlework represents the main Allied forces of the Great War in extraordinarily detailed cross-stitched tableaux depicting colorful soldier figures, flags, coats of arms, and even the city of Paris with planes flying overhead, protecting the city.  In addition to embroidery, which the women typically did during the winter months, they also took to the fields during the summer and tended crops, working until the fields were all harvested.
The flax for these objects was grown in Africa and shipped to France, where it was hand-woven to make the linen.
WWI French stitchery, ca.1914-1918: tea napkin with Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom motif (red, gold, and blue shield at center; gold lion at left standing on blue banner; silver unicorn at right standing on blue banner; gold crown at top with red and silver accents). Green embroidery around edges. Pictured at top center of photo. Made by French peasant women in French Lorraine. Sold in America through the Society for Employment of Women in France. 2011.0086, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center. (Other napkins hold the coat of arms of The Kingdom of Serbia, the French Third Republic, Belgium, the Russian Empire, and the Kingdom of Italy).
Linen cover for unknown object, ca.1914-1918. Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom motif in center (red, gold, and blue shield at center; gold lion at left standing on blue banner; silver unicorn at right standing on blue banner; gold crown at top). Red and blue border around motif. Made by French peasant women in French Lorraine during World War I. Sold in America through the Society for Employment of Women in France. 2011.0086, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.

WWI French stitchery: large drawstring knitting bag, ca. 1914-1918. One side has the French Third Republic emblem motif (blue "RF" embroidered on red shield at top; 4 masted French flags below; green and white croix de guerre [war cross] at bottom with gold center) with "1918" embroidered underneath in red. The other side depicts 7 soldiers from different Allied nations. Proceeding from left to right, the soldiers are as follows: French (holding a large French flag), Russian, British, Belgian, American, Serbian, and Italian. To the right of the soldiers is a flag pole flying the Allied flags, from top to bottom: Italy, Serbia, America, Belgium, Britain, Russian Empire, and France. Below the soldiers is "1914 - 1918" stitched in red and blue. Green embroidery along the bottom and green X stitch holding drawstring on both sides. A rusty needle is in the top flap of the bag. Made by French peasant women in French Lorraine. Sold in America through the Society for Employment of Women in France. 2011.0086, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.
Rectangular brush and comb case with scene of "Aeroplanes Guarding Paris" embroidered on front,ca. 1914-1918. Four gold airplanes fly over a gray and black Paris skyline. Red and blue border. Price tag is pinned to the inside flap and indicates that this brush and comb case was sold for $1.50. Made by French peasant women in French Lorraine during World War I. Sold in America through the Society for Employment of Women in France. 2011.0086, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.
Belgian War Lace
The laces made in Belgium during World War I are an important part of the lace holdings of the Division of Home and Community Life's Textile Collection in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. They are representative of laces made by about 50,000 lace makers, many of whom were women, throughout Belgium from 1914 through 1919, especially during the Great War.
In August 1914, the German army invaded and occupied Belgium. When Great Britain set up a blockade of the Belgian borders to prevent supplies from reaching Germany through Belgium, seven million Belgian people were cut off from imported food and other needed supplies.  After the start of World War I the Commission for the Relief in Belgium (CRB) was established with Herbert Hoover, a wealthy industrialist living in London at the time, as chairman. Hoover, later U.S. President (1929-1933), was instrumental in negotiating with England and Germany for the delivery of much needed food shipments to Belgium. The negotiations also included the importation of thread for the Belgian lace makers and the export of the lace made from this thread. Orders for and deliveries of war laces were managed through the CRB office in London.  Numerous people in the Allied countries were generous in their willingness to buy the laces to support the Belgians.
The Belgian lace committees worked closely with the CRB, especially as the lace makers' work became even more important during the war. Several famous Belgian artists were enlisted to create new designs. Among them were Isidore de Rudder, his sister Maria de Rudder, Charles Michel, and Juliette Wytsman, who designed some of the war laces that are now part of the collection at the National Museum of American History.
World War I laces often included names of people, places, inscriptions, and dates—a characteristic not usually found in other lace work. The lace often incorporates the coats of arms or national symbols of the Allied nations, as well as the nine Belgian provinces, in recognition of the help received. It was hoped that these distinguishing elements would appeal to generous people around the world who might buy these laces in support of the Belgians. Most of the laces in the collection at the National Museum of American History were bought in Europe by American collectors and donated to the Museum.
About Lace and Lacemaking
Lace is an ornamental openwork fabric created by looping, twisting, braiding, or knotting threads either by hand or by machine. The main categories of handmade lace are needle lace, bobbin lace, and decorated nets.  Needle lace is created by making looped or knotted variations on the buttonhole stitch with a threaded needle on top of a pattern. Bobbin lace is created by twisting, crossing, or plaiting multiple threads wound on bobbins. It is also made on a pattern, sometimes called a pricking. Bobbin and needle techniques can be combined in the same piece of lace. Bobbin- and needle-made lace motifs can also be applied to handmade or machine-made nets.
During the 17th and 18th centuries the handmade lace industry played an important part in the economy of many European countries. Lacemaking was mostly a cottage industry with individual lace makers working in their homes for a lace dealer, who would supply the threads and patterns and collect the finished lace from the lace maker. Producing a handmade piece of lace is very time consuming, making the delicate fabric a very expensive and desirable fashion accessory. Members of royalty and the aristocracy were the customers for the fine laces, with both men and women competing to display the most exquisite lace on their fashionable clothes in the 17th and 18thcenturies. However, by the end of the 18th century, men had stopped wearing lace, and fashion shifted to a much simpler, unadorned dress for women, so the demand for lace was rapidly declining. Additionally, the Industrial Revolution saw the development of machines for making lace that brought an end to most of the opulent handmade lace industry.
One of the lacemaking centers of Europe that suffered from the advances in machinery wrought by the Industrial Revolution was Flanders. Belgium's Queen Elisabeth was concerned about the decrease in demand for handmade lace, so in 1910 and 1911 she helped establish lace committees specifically to improve both the quality and the designs of the lace, as well as to better the lives of the lace makers. Another committee was established for promoting the sale of Belgian lace abroad: the Queen noticed that handmade Belgian lace enjoyed a renewed interest, especially among Americans. Committee members included the Vicomtesse de Beughem, an American married to a Belgian nobleman, Madame Kefer-Mali of Brussels, and Mrs. Brand Whitlock, wife of the American Envoy (later Ambassador) to Belgium. Some of the laces in the war laces collection have connections to these three generous women.
Lacemaking in America occurred primarily among European immigrants, who practiced their craft in communities all over the country. The only documented large-scale handmade lacemaking industry in the U.S. was in Ipswich, Massachusetts, in the late 18th century. That industry also came to an end with changes in fashion and the development of lace machines in the early 19th century. Currently lacemaking traditions are being kept alive by modern lace makers who research and create lace as a hobby.
This collar has motifs of peace doves and floral vases executed in mixed Brussels bobbin and needle lace techniques with ground and fillings in point de Gaze style needle lace, ca. 1914-1918. The scalloped edge has picots. Identified by the donor as lace made by Belgian lace makers during World War I. 273245, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.
Part of a set of six, this Valenciennes bobbin lace medallion focuses on the American eagle motif, ca. 1916-1918. Two other medallions with the Belgian lion coat-of-arms, two with the municipal shield of Ruysselede (Ruiselede) in the Belgian province of West Flanders; and another with the American eagle complete the set. See a similar motif in TE*E383967. Belgian lace makers made these laces during World War I. 273245, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.
This fan leaf was designed for the Belgian Lace Committee by Belgian painter Charles Michel, ca. 1915-1916. His name is worked in needle lace into the ground (reseau) along the inner edge. The central motif of helmet, swords and weaponry is flanked on either side by the war years 1914 and 1915. The rising sun, laurel leaves and other floral motifs are also included. Brussels bobbin lace was mainly used for the motifs and connected with Point de Gaze type needle lace. Belgian lace makers made this fan leaf during World War I. It has never been mounted to fan sticks. 273245, National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center.
If you're interested in seeing more items or further information on the collections, they can be found at:
Thanks so much for reading,
     Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

World War Trips Available

I bet you didn't know we have a local resident that organizes group tours and getaways featuring World War locations.  Darlene Ford of Wallacetown, at my request, has provided the following information about Vimy Ridge - 100th Anniversary Tours and D-Day Tours. 

The Vimy RidgeTour is available from 5 day land tours up to 14 day tours, escorted by specialists on WWI history. Available from end of April -- mid Sept. 2017.  

If you are interested in WWII there are 5 day land tours or up to 14 days of WWII D-Day Landing Beaches & Battle of Normandy with well informed local guides as well as your escorted tour guides.  

Contact Darlene Ford at 519-762-2990 and follow Group Getaways By Farlene on Facebook by clicking here.  
A note from Darlene about her trip with husband Jim in 2016.  "We went on the Great Canadian War Memorial Tour last Sept. 2016.  Both of our Fathers fought in France, Holland & Belgium and I have an Uncle buried in Beny-sur-mer near Juno Beach were he was killed on D-Day.  His name is on the maple leaf shaped plaque on Canada House on Juno Beach. We are both changed and with great pride and respect for all men and women who served and the ones that gave their lives for our freedom which most people take for granted.  Like the old saying goes you had to be there to understand."  Darlene Ford  519-762-2990

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