September 17, 1914
The ladies of St. John’s were very excited about gathering at Government House on Military Road, (September 17, 1914) to be part of the elaborate sewing sessions that were being organized by Margaret Lady Davidson, wife of the governor.
Following the declaration of war in August, Lady Davidson called upon “the women of Newfoundland to assist in aiding the British Empire in the present crisis by providing the necessities needed by our soldiers at the front. ”
Seven hundred women attended the first meeting. Those in attendance passed a resolution to form a “Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland” with the object of helping the men of Newfoundland in the defense of the British Empire.
The gathering at the home of the Governor of Newfoundland at 2:30 p.m. on September 17, 1914 was the first for the working parties of the Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA) who were to begin their sewing sessions.
Lady Davidson was very pleased with the response to her call, in fact there was so much enthusiasm, so many had signed up, that the members had to be divided into four classes, according to the initial letter of their surnames. Those whose surnames began with the first three letters of the alphabet were the first to meet.
Lady Davidson placed few demands on her first sewing circle all she asked of the ladies was that “all of those who attending are requested to bring thimbles with them.”
No doubt, for many of the women of the town, the excitement was not only generated by their enthusiasm to support their soldier boys but also an opportunity to see inside the grand house of the Governor and Lady Davidson, a home that was not typically available to the general public.
It is estimated that between 1914 and 1916, the ladies at Government House and from throughout the towns of the colony produced 62,685 pairs of socks, 8,984 pairs of cuffs (mittens with a trigger finger), and 22,422 mufflers.
Recommended Reading: “A Pair of Grey Socks. Facts and Fancies. Lovingly dedicated to the boys of the Newfoundland Regiment. And to every woman who has knitted a pair of grey socks. By Tryphena Duley. Verses by Margaret Duley.”
Recommended Archival Collection: “Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War”, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the NFLD soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. This on line exhibit focuses on the World War I service records of the Regiment, available at the ARCHIVES on microfilm. Some of the service records are on line at: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp
Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.