Tag Archives: First World War

The Arsenal Worker Walks: 1918

how to dress for munition making


Utterly worn out, she slept. At the latter end of a fortnight’s night shift at a munition factory she slept.

** * * *

When she got up at four-o’clock that afternoon — after her six hours’ so-called “night’s rest,” she felt ill; but she had her bath, dressed, found she could not eat her five-o’clock dinner, yet she must catch the quarter-to-six train for Woolwich, as they were shorthanded, many overseers and forewomen being away owing to “flu.” Gallantly struggling to do her duty to her country, after two years’ arsenal work, this soldier- woman was back in her “shop “as usual by 7 p.m. It was a freezing night, the journey was dark in the cold third-class railway carriage filled with sixteen weary people, whose day’s work was over just as hers was about to begin. The rain drizzled through the fog, and the whole world looked drear.

Worn out with the dark, the chilliness, yet stuffiness of the atmosphere of her “shop,” the lack of food — by eleven o’clock our little munition worker was so utterly done up that she went to her head man and asked to be let off at the “half-night.”

She was a steady and constant worker, always at her post like a sentinel at his box.

Certainly,” he said; “and if you run you can catch the 11:15 train.”

She was quick. She caught the 11.15 train back to town, and sank into a corner of a thinly filled compartment.

Later, rousing herself, chilled to the bone, she realized she was in total darkness — deep, dark, foggy darkness — alone in a third-class railway carriage.

Where was she? Fearing to get out, knowing the danger of slipping on to the roadway and of passing engines, she opened the window, to find nothing but a blank wall before her. Opening the other window, she saw the glint of railway lines, and in the distance a little dim red light.

She called out. No one answered.

She called again.

The little red lamp paused, and shook.

She called a third time. And a voice replied.

Gradually the little lamp came nearer. At last it stood below the carriage door.

“Where am I? “she asked.

“Cannon Street,” replied a gruff voice.

“How did I get here?”

“Don’t know.”’

“Can I get a taxi? “

“Lor’, no.”

“Can I get a tube?”

“Lor’, no.”

“Can I get a bus? “

“Lor”, no.”

“Where am I?”

“On a siding at Cannon Street Station.”

“How did I get here?”

“Don’t know.”

So out she came to the accompaniment of grunts from the kindly man, who condescended to light her along the rail track.

It was 12.30 a.m.

The station was all shut up. The last train had gone.

“Is there a waiting-room?” she asked.

“Shut up.”

“Is there any hotel where I can go? “

“Shut up.”

“What am I to do?”


“What do you mean?”

“Walk,” he replied.

“But I live miles from here; I don’t know the City, I live beyond Baker Street Station.”

“I can’t help that,” he replied. “If you want to get there you must walk.”

Finally, he escorted her to the door of the great station, and when she inquired the road, remarked, “Just walk west.”

Thoroughly chilled, having been eighteen hours without food, feeling absolutely ill, she started on that terrible night of fog and drizzle to walk west.

The tears rolled down her cheeks, and a great lump in her throat nearly choked her, but she struggled on. The darkness seemed oppressive, the distance interminable.

At last she met two postmen. She explained her woes.

“Can I get a taxi?”

“Lor’, no.”

“Can I get a tube?”

“Lor’, no.”

“Can I get a bus?”

“Lor’, no.”

“Where am I? “she exclaimed.

“Bank of England, miss.”

“What am I to do? “she reiterated.

“There is nothing to do at this hour of the night, miss, but walk,” they smilingly replied.

They were polite but hopeless. On she trudged.

Joy of joys. Before her she saw a hansom cab —actually an old-fashioned, war-time resuscitated hansom  cab. Up to the driver she went, and said sweetly, “I haven’t very much money with me, only 3s. 6d.;  but I can get more when I get home.”

He refused to drive her. No persuasion availed. He flatly refused. So she trudged on again.

At last, in the dim light, she realized that the building opposite must be the Post Office. It was then 1.30 a.m.

The street was utterly deserted, as the City alone can be. That City — the greatest city in the world —which throbbed with bustling life during the working hours of day, was empty and lonely.

A policeman was standing at his beat.

Feeling ready to drop, with tears rolling down her face, she related her story of woe.

“You look ill, miss; I am sorry for you,” he said. “You had better stand along o’ me. Woolwich, did ye say?”

“Yes.” She nodded.

She really found human consolation in the kindly words of the policeman, and supported herself against a large red letter-box. She felt content and less lonesome.

She does not know how long she stood there: but suddenly the gentleman-in-blue dived across the street, put out both his arms, and called “Halt!”

A motor-car had sprung from nowhere. He had barred its progress.

“Could you give this lady a lift?” he said. “She works at Woolwich, and is dead done.”

“Certainly,” replied the driver of the car — and the midnight driver happened to be a lady.

The car was full of Tommies, who made room for the weary munition worker, and the car proved to be one belonging to the Y.M.C.A. on its way to headquarters at Tottenham Court Road.

The comfort of the seat, the warmth of the welcome of the Tommies cheered her, and when she got to head-quarters she stepped out, thanked them all, and prepared to walk two further miles to her flat.

“Oh!” said the chauffeuse, “I will gladly run you along there,” and she did.

As they parted on the doorstep of the cosy flat that its owner had never seen even on Sundays except to sleep in, the war-worker thanked her warmly, and said— “I always go to the factory every day with 5s. in my purse; that pays my fares and canteen, and although  I am a forewoman I only earn 30d. a week, so I should be in a sorry plight but for my own income. Some of the girls under me, who do piecework, of course earn far more than I do. I have only 3s. 6d. left in my purse to-day from my railway fares. Would you take it and drop it in the Y.M.C.A. box for me? If it was fifty times that sum, it would hardly express my thanks for your kindly help to-night.”

And the two women workers, the one a chauffeuse, the other a factory forewoman, shook hands beneath a green painted, almost obliterated, street light at 2.30 a.m. on a bitter, sleety March morning, both high-born women — representative of others — who have left their comfortable homes to do their bit for the country’s good.

The little munition worker crawled upstairs, unlocked her door. All was cold and still. She was not expected till 8.30, nearly six hours later, so no fire or breakfast awaited her.

The lick of a warm tongue and a gentle rub of a little black nose was the gleeful “How do you do?” of her dog. Comforted by his greeting, our little war-worker sank into bed. But she was up again that afternoon in time to catch that 5.45 train back to the factory for another twelve hours’ night shift, with three hours’ daily travelling.

And that gently reared woman did this for two years and a half to help send munitions to our men at the front.

Was she not a woman-soldier? And didn’t that gentle-born lady deserve a D.S.O.?

But she didn’t even get an O.B.E.

Women and Soldiers, Mrs. Alec-Tweedie, F.R.G.S., 1918

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One feels sorry for anyone in the grip of la grippe, but if the lady war-worker had her own income, why on earth did she not carry enough money for an emergency cab? We have heard from Mrs Alec-Tweedie before in the poignant story of A Parlour-maid Goes to War. Mrs Alec-Tweedie was Ethel Brilliana Harley Tweedie, a travel writer and passionate advocate for women’s rights. She shows herself a bit blinkered by the British class system in her comments about “high-born” and “gently reared,” as if the inhabitants of the posher parts of town were to be specially commended for doing work  considered the exclusive provenance of the “lower classes.” Her book might be classed as propaganda, as it seems designed to inspire women to leave their comfortable homes and join the war effort. However, she makes an important point that the wages paid to female war workers were absurdly low, especially considering the long hours, the dangers from explosion and exposure to toxic chemicals.  And she rightfully considers the workers women-soldiers, doing important work and deserving of recognition, as we remember all of the Fallen on this Remembrance Sunday.


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

Christmas in Belgium during the Great War: 1915

British Red Cross Nurse, First World War, 1915

British Red Cross Nurse, First World War, 1915

25 December. My Christmas Day began at midnight, when I walked homehrough the moonlit empty streets of Furnes. At 2 a.m. the guns began to roar, and roared all night. They say the Allies are making an attack.

I got up early and went to church in the untidy school-room at the hospital, which is called the nurses’ sitting-room. Mr. Streatfield had arranged a little altar, which was quite nice, and had set some chairs in an orderly row. As much as in him lay—from the altar linen to the white artificial flowers in the vases—all was as decent as could be and there were candles and a cross. We were quite a small congregation, but another service had been held earlier, and the wounded heard Mass in their ward at 6 a.m. The priests put up an altar there, and I believe the singing was excellent. Inside we prayed for peace, and outside the guns went on firing. Prince Alexander of Teck came to our service—a big soldierly figure in the bare room.

After breakfast I went to the soup-kitchen at the station, as usual, then home—i.e. to the hospital to lunch. At 3.15 came a sort of evensong with hymns, and then we went to the civil hospital, where there was a Christmas-tree for all the Belgian refugee children. Anything more touching I never saw, and to be with them made one blind with tears. One tiny mite, with her head in bandages, and a little black shawl on, was introduced to me as “une blessée, madame.” Another little boy in the hospital is always spoken of gravely as “the civilian.”

Every man, woman, and child got a treat or a present or a good dinner. The wounded had turkey, and all they could eat, and the children got toys and sweets off the tree. I suppose these children are not much accustomed to presents, for their delight was almost too much for them. I have never seen such excitement! Poor mites! without homes or money, and with their relations often lost–yet little boys were gibbering over their toys, and little girls clung to big parcels, and squeaked dolls or blew trumpets. The bigger children had rather good voices, and all sang our National Anthem in English. “God save our nobbler King”—the accent was quaint, but the children sang lustily.

We had finished, and were waiting for our own Christmas dinner when shells began to fly. One came whizzing past Mr. Streatfield’s store-room as I stood there with him. The next minute a little child in floods of tears came in, grasping her mother’s bag, to say “Maman” had had her arm blown off. The child herself was covered with dust and dirt, and in the streets people were sheltering in doorways, and taking little runs for safety as soon as a shell had finished bursting. The bombardment lasted about an hour, and we all waited in the kitchen and listened to it. At such times, when everyone is rather strung up, someone always and continually lets things fall. A nun clattered down a pail, and Maurice the cook seemed to fling saucepan-lids on the floor.

About 8.15 the bombardment ceased, and we went in to a cheery dinner—soup, turkey, and plum-pudding, with crackers and speeches. I believe no one would have guessed we had been a bit “on the stretch.”

At 9.30 I went to the station. It was very melancholy. No one was there but myself. The fires were out, or smoking badly. Everyone had been scared to death by the shells, and talked of nothing else, whereas shells should be forgotten directly. I got things in order as soon as I could and the wounded in the train got their hot soup and coffee as usual, which was a satisfaction. Then I came home alone at midnight—keeping as near the houses as I could because of possible shells—and so to bed, very cold, and rather too inclined to think about home.

My War Experiences in Two Continents, Sarah Macnaughtan, 1919

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Prince Alexander of Teck, brother to Queen Mary,  renounced his German title in 1917, just as the British Royal family ceased to be the Saxe-Coburg and Gothas and became the Windsors.  He was seeing active duty with his regiment, the 2nd Life Guards in France and Flanders, and was head of the British Mission to the Belgian Army.

Miss Macnaughtan was a first-aid worker and journalist. She volunteered to go to Belgium to help nurse the wounded and stayed when given a chance to go back to England. You can read more about her bravery in the face of battle here.  As a Red Cross worker and writer, she spent most of her adult life abroad. She became very ill on an expedition to Persia and returned to England in May of 1916, dying in July of that year.

Here are some stereo-opticon images of the field hospital at Furnes and information about its history and staffing.

Mrs Daffodil would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


War Toys for Christmas: 1914-1917

Get Rid of Huns maze puzzle, Victoria & Albert Collection

Get Rid of Huns maze puzzle, Victoria & Albert Collection


Toy Makers Take Cue from War Now Raging, and Miniature Armies and Ordnance is in Style

Santa Claus will fill the stockings of Emporia boys and girls this year with guns, cannon, soldiers and warlike toys such as they never before have seen. It will be a military Christmas and the Emporia youngsters will fight the battles of the Argonne and Ypres like the real soldiers across the Atlantic, only the soldiers will be tin and the guns small and harmless.

The Emporia stores have their toys on display this week and in their big stock are many war implements. Miniature Krupp guns will slaughter tin soldiers in front of the fireplace Christmas Day, and the boys will imitate the Belgians and Germans with an assortment of air rifles, pop-guns, cannons and other forms of ordnance. There will be games of war where the boys will be generals, and like the kings in Europe, will recklessly feed their soldiers to the cannons of their opponents.

The children who have a preference for naval engagements will find many interesting toys in the Emporia stores. Superdreadnaughts, destroyers and other sea craft are waiting their launching in the family bathtub or rain barrel. The toy shelves are well stocked with boats this year and a heavy sale is expected.

The newest phase of war, the aviation conflicts, will find popularity in Emporia homes Christmas. Biplanes and monoplanes are for sale in a few stores. Kansas City stores are advertising Zeppelins which drop paper bombs but the Emporia merchants have not plunged so deeply in the toy business.

The supply of Christmas playthings is not short this year because of the war. The Emporia dealers bought their imported toys in the summer and received their goods before Germany—the Toyland of the world—was plunged into the war. Emporia [KS] Gazette 30 November 1914: p. 1

In 1914 the War was in the headlines of American newspapers, but, as is remarked, the primary concern at Christmas was a supply of toys and decorations, most of which were manufactured in Germany. By 1917, the date of this next article, German goods were anathema in the United States and U.S. factories were manufacturing their own toys.

war toys



Forts, Artillery and Airplanes Which Actually Fly Are Among the Military Playthings This Year.

The war has had a pronounced effect on the Christmas toys offered this year. Before the United States entered the conflict toys were made to discourage children from playing soldier. Playthings shown this year will cause the child to think in terms of war.

There will be little danger of rearing a generation of pacifists if many “young hopefuls” receive toy motor tanks Christmas. These are clever imitations of the effective British fighting machines. They consist of continuous metal shields constructed about toy motor cars, with even the wire wheels protected by “armor.” There are small openings for the drive to look out and frowning guns project from the front, sides and rear. The exterior is painted battle ship gray.

Then there are toy motor cars simulating destroyers. Graceful hulls are built about the vehicles, with equipment of rapid fire guns.


There is a wide assortment of toy cannon, some with pivots and cranks for aiming. This ordnance projects wooden darts mostly. There also are little forts with barbed wire entanglements, and fearsome field pieces.

One of the most interest war toys is an airplane which lifts itself from the ground. The frame is of thin wire and the planes are silk. A long rubber band operates the propeller. By adjusting the rudder the plane may be made to travel in a circle.


The words “Made in Germany,” heretofore seen on many toys, are absent. The trade marks on most of the articles indicate they were made in the United States. Much native inventive genius apparently has been devoted to toy designing in the last year. A number of new mechanical toys of American manufacture are to be had. Many of the cheaper toys were made in Japan. There is said to be a scarcity of toys this year. Buying is brisk.

Kansas City [MO] Star 2 December 1917: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: It is difficult to know how deeply ingrained in the youthful psyche is the impulse to shoot. Mrs Daffodil has heard of parents banning all weaponry from the nursery, only to have the child point a finger in the age-old “bang-bang” gesture or of using a triangle of thin bread-and-butter as a gun. She does not even want to think about the so-called “video-games,” which allow children to feel as if they are in a war-zone, killing the enemy.  This Father Christmas  had a kindly idea. This was, of course, before the United States entered the European conflict, but the War news was unavoidable.


Everything Else For the Children Being Made in Great Kensington Plants.

Philadelphia. Santa Claus sat in his workshop. ‘Twas nearing the middle of December—the children’s own month—and Santa was wondering what they’d like in their stockings.

“Haven’t you been reading the papers?” queried his first assistant. “War—nothing but war! Give ‘em soldiers this year. Tin soldiers with medals on their breasts, and muskets and cannon and block fortresses and real submarine ships that will sink and war aeros that will fly! Give the babies the war to play with!”

But Santa gazed with sad eyes. “Peace on earth,” he said softly. “Men slay each other, but the children of men mustn’t cherish thoughts of murder. We’ll give them their dolls and their toy animals to teach them love, and pray through them it may rule all men.” That’s what Santa Claus said. He gave orders that never a cannon nor a soldier was to be made in his workshop. And he sent out word to all his assistant workshops up and down the world that he didn’t care to drive his reindeer along housetops this year for the purpose of dropping war toys down chimneys.

At the big toy factories in Kensington [Philadelphia] the word that Santa Claus sent down from the North Pole was received joyfully. The factories never did make many war toys. This year they’ll make almost none. Broad Ax [Chicago, IL] 23 December 1916: p. 7

That bellicose person over at Haunted Ohio has posted on the grewsome war toys indocrinating the youth of Germany.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


“Be home for Christmas!”: 1914


A postcard sent by King George and Queen Mary to British servicemen overseas in 1914.

A postcard sent by King George and Queen Mary to British servicemen overseas in 1914.

I have watched, here and there, the leave-takings. When a regiment goes to the Front there are no relatives to see them off; secrecy, dense and unfathomable, shrouds the whole military game as played now in Great Britain; the leavetaking is done at home. But there are exceptions now and then. I sailed from Folkestone, en route to Brussels, in the early days of the war. I found aboard a Red Cross detachment, a group of British officers, and an army chaplain or so; their women, fine, tall Barbarians of charm and breeding, had managed by favour to go down to the boat with them. I should not describe the good-bye embraces of these women as cold, there was a suggestion of fire underneath; but at least they seemed casual. You knew that, once alone, they would cry their eyes out, but not there, where the situation called for a stiff upper lip. The officers, the Red Cross Corps and the chaplains waved at their women until we rounded the Folkestone pier head. Then, just for a second, one of the chaplains opened his mind to me.

“It’s taking your life into your hands, isn’t it ?” he said. “And I suppose they know it!”

I sat in a cafe in Havre, when that city was an English base, beside an English officer and his mother. I confess that I eavesdropped shamefully. She had some “pull,” I suspect; someone, for sake of her mother heart, had rent the fog of war long enough to let her know that her boy would be a few days at Havre. They were to part there, at the cafe; he must go back at six o’clock to quarters, and in the morning to the Front. They chatted of the dog and the automobile and the neighbours; he got out a war map and tried to explain the situation. I doubt if she took in a word of that; her eyes were devouring his face as he looked down at the map. I was not shameless enough to watch them as they parted; but I heard him say, in almost his ordinary tone:

“Good-bye, Mumsey—it will soon be over!”

And she said:

“Be home for Christmas!” No more but that.

Men, Women, and War, Will Irwin, 1915

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Many thought in those early, optimistic days of the War, that it would all be over quickly and that the combatants would be home by Christmas, 1914. One wonders if this young officer ever came back to Mumsey, the dog, and the automobile, for Christmas—or ever.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.




War Valentines: 1915-1919

A 1919 war valentine. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

A 1919 war valentine. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

The Great War wreaked havoc on Valentine’s Day.  Most eligible men were overseas and German valentines, known for their lovely lithographs, were barred from lovers’ letter-boxes by the same impulse that drove many Americans of German ancestry to change their names from Schmidt to Smith and to rename sauerkraut “liberty cabbage.”  Manufactories in the United States were quick to seize their opportunity.


While St. Valentine has not been put out of business, and the gilded, be-laced and be-ruffled paper and celluloid confections which bear his name are to be found in abundance in the shops, the observant purchaser will note that the up-to-date valentine of the vintage of 1915 is quite different from those of previous years. The explanation of this change is that the heathen god Mars has seriously interfered with the German shops devoted to the service of the patron saint of lovers. “Made in Germany” is a trade slogan which appears on but few of the tender missives on sale this year, whereas in the past a large proportion of valentines sold on this side of the Atlantic were of Teuton origin.

The 1915 valentine is a “Made in America” product, and, while prices may range a little higher than for the German article, good judges of valentines declare that the domestic article is superior to the imported.

Nuremberg’s principal rival for valentine honors is Brooklyn, and now that the German competition is no longer to be met the Brooklyn factories have enjoyed a great boom. Of course there are dozens of concerns in many cities of the United States and Canada which manufacture valentines, but with most of these the trade is but a side-line. The Brooklyn workshops make valentines the year round, and more than a thousand people are engaged in the industry. Perhaps two-thirds of these workers are women and girls. The experts who do the hand-work on the more elaborate varieties receive large salaries. Brooklyn has one factory which alone turns out millions of valentines annually, the product retailing at from five cents each to as many dollars. Trenton [NJ] Evening Times 13 February 1915: p. 6

The United States entered the War in 1917 and by 1918, the militarisation of war valentines was well-entrenched.

The February fourteenth love messages this year emphasize the military note, and Cupid is to be found garbed in khaki and armor, riding in tanks and aeroplanes, peering thru gas masks and “over the top” of the trenches, and firing hand grenades and machine guns in lieu of his proverbially fatal arrows. Denver stationers say purchases of this sort of valentines on the part of the fair ones have been particularly heavy and that the explanation can be found in the post offices of the army camps and cantonments tomorrow. Denver [CO] Rocky Mountain News 14 February 1918: p. 8

 The World War Gives a New Note to the Valentines for This year

Verses and Sentiments Inspired by the Great Struggle Characterize Cupid’s 1919 Messages.

by Marian Ferrell

War may be a commonplace subject nowadays, but at least it has found one new field of converse. Johnny no longer selected the “roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet…” and so on valentine, done garishly in colors and flowers and lace paper, but instead sends to the lady of his choice an attractive little missive beginning, “Let’s buy our Liberty bonds together.”

And sweet little Mary, of the shy, fairy type, will answer back “I’m Hooverized and gotta live on love.” Maybe, however, she’ll be frank enough to say:

It’ll be the end of a perfect day

When you take me home with you to stay.”

Look at the valentines this year? Honestly, now, did you ever see them more attractive?

I wonder, friend of mine, if you read one which attracted my eye, the one that the “votes for women” maid may send to her “friend.” On it was the figure of a pudgy little girl, garbed in blue overalls. Her remark was “Neither will be boss, we’ll both wear ‘em.”

And I had to wonder who’d be the lucky girl to receive a little card bearing one short line—“You look as good as a Liberty bond to me.” “Wars may come and wars may go, But we’ll march on together.”

Yes, that was the verselet one valentine bore.

War Verses the Best

But the war valentines are best. They’re new. Don’t you like this one? (If you do I’ve got another): “Speaking privately, I’d like to make you my superior officer.”

And this: “I’m out a-hunting valentines. I like ‘em sweet and tender; I’ve got you covered, so you see, you may as well surrender.”

“Is there room for me ‘over there?’” queries one blue-eyed maid, while another turns to more soulful thoughts in a verse like this:

“A safe return and the best o’ luck

To my soldier valentine,

And a heart that’s true is beating for you,

And the heart that’s true is mine.”

Evansville [IN] Courier and Press 9 February 1919: p. 13

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil well remembers how high emotions run in times of war, so the impetus to send valentines “emphasising the military note,” was a natural one.  Suggestions were made for alternative “thrift-stamp” valentines, unimpeachable in their patriotism. However, they were found lacking in actual practice, despite attempts at witty verses compiled by committee.


Plan of Chamber of Commerce Approved by Committee

May Be National in Scope

Valentine day, February 14, will be a big day for the sale of war savings stamps in Washington if a plan of the Chamber of Commerce is carried out.

The next edition of the Booster, official publication of the chamber, which comes out this week, will appeal to every Washingtonian to send war savings stamps as valentines this year. The plan was worked out by Tom Grant, secretary of the chamber, and Frank A. Woodfield, chairman of the Booster committee.

The chamber’s suggestion is that a plain card be used instead of the elaborate lace-trimmed valentines and that a slit be made in the card for the insertion of the war savings stamp. Several verses to accompany this “war valentine” will be suggested in the Booster. Some of them are:

No pictures, paints or laces fine

Adorn this Thrift Stamp Valentine;

My love to you by it I send.

Because it is our one best friend.


The rose is red,

The violet is blue;

Licking the thrift Stamp

Licks the Kaiser, too.

Or this rather naughty one:

This Thrift Stamp symbolizes love

For you and all the nation.

Each one we buy (they don’t come high)

Makes Wilhelm say “D__nation!”

The national war savings committee has approved the plan and it is proposed to make it national in scope. Evening Star [Washington DC] 8 February 1918: p. 9

Knowing what her reaction would have been to such drab initiatives, Mrs Daffodil suggests that these well-intentioned valentines may have exacerbated the “surplus woman problem.”


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


The War Masquerade: 1915

A 1915 fancy-dress party in which there are several Red-cross nurses. http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/items/769842/negative-beechworth-district-victoria-circa-1915

A 1915 fancy-dress party at which there are several Red-cross nurses. http://museumvictoria.com.au/collections/items/769842/negative-beechworth-district-victoria-circa-1915

A War Masquerade

We all had the greatest fun last night at the fancy dress dance, given by Mrs. Landis at her country home. Amy saw to it that we all started off in the motors in lots of time.

When we arrived there quite a crowd of people had gathered from far and near. Some of the costumes were very elaborate and looked dreadfully expensive, but we heard afterward that the great majority of them were home-made!

Some of the men looked splendid. We had the Kaiser, the Czar of Russia, the President of France and George Washington with us!

One pretty girl looked very attractive garbed as a Belgian nun. She was supposed to be acting as a Red Cross nurse, too, and wore a costume of black nun’s veiling, with a long, floating veil of the same material. Her face and head were draped in white linen, and, as her features were rather classical, she looked stunning.

The tall, fair-haired girl who was dressed as a Russian peasant was a great success. Her skirt was of turkey red, trimmed with blue velvet bands and gold embroidery. The loose white silk blouse she wore was relieved with rows of various-colored beads, and the little white apron was embroidered with red and gold. She wore her long, fair hair in two plaits, one over each shoulder and by the number of men who crowded around her one could see that she was very greatly admired.

Amy went as an Arabian Nights lady, and looked lovely.

I flatter myself that my costume was rather unique, and, thanks to the clever fingers of Amy’s maid, it turned out quite satisfactorily. I called myself “L’ Entente Cordiale,” and wore a red, white and blue skirt, with a white crepe de chine blouse, half-hidden by flags.

The dance really was a very great success and everybody enjoyed the affair immensely.

Evening Public Ledger [Philadelphia, PA] 12 January 1915: p. 10

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: On 19 January 1915 the first Zeppelin raids began on England. One suspects that the idea of a “war masquerade” might have become less diverting in consequence. There was a fixed idea that the war would last only a few months. Until the grim reality set in, one finds oblivious ladies complaining that their privations were becoming unbearable: that they cannot get kid gloves or champagne. “This cruel war must stop!”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



Old-Fashioned Jet Brooch Replaces Crepe: 1918

An 1840s mourning brooch in "French Jet" or black glass. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O120605/brooch-unknown/

An 1840s mourning brooch in “French Jet” or black glass. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O120605/brooch-unknown/

Old-Fashioned Jet Brooch Replaces Crepe.

American Women Join in Move to Discard Mourning Garments.

Now that almost all American women are joining it the movement to help win the war by banishing from the streets the depressing sight of crepe and deep mourning garments, the need is felt for some expressive symbol that shall be the privilege of those bereft by death, whether through the war or through other causes.

It has been universally acknowledged that courage is as important these days as money or other material means of help; and high courage and deep mourning do not go together, either in the hearts of the bereaved, or in the hearts of those facing the imminent possibility of bereavement. All colors—or almost all—worn this season are soft and neutral in tone, and all styles are exceedingly simple, so the brave and truehearted woman who sacrifices personal prejudices for the good of the greater number, and gives up mourning even though it be a comfort to her own spirit, need not feel herself unduly conspicuous in dress. But every woman who feels it a sacrifice to give up her mourning apparel would appreciate some distinguishing symbol the wearing of which would satisfy her own heart.

When the question was being discussed the other day in a room full of women, knitting for the Red Cross, one sweet-faced little woman pointed to a beautiful old-fashioned jet brooch at her throat. “This,” said she, “is my mourning. It is a treasured family heirloom full of dear associations. The members of our family do not believe in mourning apparel, but this brooch represents to me, mourning. It is never worn except at such periods, and is then worn constantly—with all costumes. When I wear this brooch, I am in mourning as truly as though clothed in deepest black.” The idea seems a very beautiful one which may well be passed on. In every family there is some piece of jewelry of this sort beloved because of association with those who have gone before and worthy of being the special symbol of remembrance and a time set apart from worldly pursuits.

Oregonian [Portland, OR] 23 June 1918: p. 73

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: There was a good deal of controversy about the wearing of mourning during the Great War. Some felt that it hampered the wearer from fully participating in the War Effort. Others decried the expense and waste in wartime. And still others felt that it had a bad effect on the spirits and health, both of the wives and mothers who wore it and the soldiers home on leave who would be surrounded by a crepuscular sea of crape, just at a time when they were trying to cope with the Horrors. The Great War saw a decline in the formal mourning traditions of the Victorian era.

An abridged version of this article will appear in The Victorian Book of the Dead.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.


A Parlour-maid Goes to War: 1918

A female munitions worker. The women were also known as "munitionettes."

A female munitions worker. The women were also known as “munitionettes.”


She had felt the strain; she was not well. To a woman unaccustomed to standing on her feet for twelve hours on end, the work had been terrific.  

She had been a parlour-maid in a good situation, with plenty of room and fresh air, where she had cleaned silver, answered the door-bell, waited at table, carried trays, turned out her pantry, gone to the door, had her regular outings, and was perfectly certain to get an hour or two for sewing or reading every afternoon; where she had never got out of her bed before half-past six and was generally back in it before ten; where she had been well fed and well paid, warmly housed and generously considered.  

Tom had joined the colours at the first roll of the drum. She would not have “walked out” with him had he not done so, and truth to tell, he was mighty keen and patriotic.  Quickly trained, hard trained, strenuously trained, he was ready amongst the first batch of the New Army who went to the front, ten or eleven months after the outbreak of war. During these ten months she had kept her situation, had knitted him socks and mufflers, had seen him when on leave, and had encouraged him to do well at the guns.  Then came the final parting. He was to sail from Southampton for “somewhere in France.” Before the momentous day, he received a final few days’ leave.  

“Tom,” she said, “you are off to do your bit, God bless you, and you will be constantly in my thoughts and my prayers;  but I do not suppose we shall meet again for many months — perhaps longer — and I am going to spring a mine upon you, not a German mine, old chap, but a truly British one.  While you are at the front firing shells, I am going into a munition factory to make shells. The job will not be as well paid as domestic service, it will not be as comfortable as domestic service; it will be much harder work, but it will be my bit, and every time you fire your gun you can remember I am helping to make the shells.” 

“Well done, my girl, it is splendid of you, but can you stand it?“ 

“I will stand it,” she replied with that determination which one knows to be the British characteristic, even when it means getting up at five o’clock every winter morning and not returning home for fourteen hours at a spell. 

« « « « «  

It was an awful night. The wind howled. Sleet blew in great blasts. Tom’s letters had been frequent from “somewhere in France,” interspersed with those quaint postcards every soldier and every home knows so well.  He had been through those awful days at Loos, when his battery had pulled out into the open and the only shelter was under the limbers. His leading horse’s driver had been killed before him, and without even waiting for the word of command he had scrambled along to that horse’s back and taken the dead man’s place. He had done his bit with a vengeance. The work of the 15th Division at Loos will never be forgotten; but very little news had travelled home, so the encouragement and inspiration that the girl might have had on that score had been sadly lacking.  

That night Tom was constantly in her thoughts. It was her week of night duty. She had made a railway Journey, to arrive at the factory wet, cold and dejected, and before her lay a twelve-hours shift. Warm food in the Y.W.C.A. Canteen at midnight cheered her. She washed her hands in warm water (which means a great deal to workers, many, thousands of whom had to wash in cold and exist all the first cruel winters without a canteen at all), and through the factory mud and slush she waded back to her workshop, picturing the mud of Flanders and Tom.   

What a scene!  

A veritable beehive of workers. Eight thousand women answered the call of the drum in that district alone. Neat khaki caps and neat khaki overalls made them both trim and smart and a veritable little soldier-women’s army.  

The glass domes of the Birmingham “shop” had been blackened overhead so that Zeppelins should no longer find their whereabouts. The great furnaces below were roaring flames. The machinery was drumming and banging and screeching. The noises were deafening; it was impossible to hear a neighbour speak. Everything was carried on by signs.  

We have all seen men at the forge of a country village putting their black horseshoes into the fire with iron tongs and pulling them out red hot. That was what this woman was doing, but her horseshoe was a part of a shell, and it must be remembered that it takes 150 operators to finish the parts of one fuse, and 21 operators to machine a 4.7 shell. In addition there are other workers who gauge, who assemble, paint and varnish them, and yet others who fill them with explosives. Yes! one hundred and fifty operators to prepare the parts of one fuse and twenty-one people to machine a single shell.

Pause and think then: the brains, the skill, the machinery, the efforts put in motion to make; that little shell before it leaves the hands of the workers and reaches those of the gunner at the front, where hundreds of shells, now that the women have made them, may be fired in a single day from one single gun to which a dozen or so were handed out before and at Loos. And this is war, a half-century planned war, undertaken by the enemy for might against right, a deadly cruel war.

 The chorus of machinery in that shed never ceases, it is incessant, it appears eternal and the amount of human effort is prodigious. Such is the exigency of war. A woman — one of hundreds — presses a lever with her foot, and instantly a big hammer falls with a heavy thud. At a single blow it fashions the-red hot metal on the anvil, and with a shriek it is snatched up again in the twinkling of an eye. The operator picks the still hot metal off the anvil with a tongs and drops it into an iron box with many others, while her mate— a young girl— pulls another piece from the furnace and places it in the die. The machine does the heavy work and yet the strain of that pressure of the foot is bad for the delicate mechanism of woman-kind. There is every class in that shed. There are well-educated ladies— enthusiasts; there are parlour-maids, like this girl— who are patriots; there are the usual factory hands, who have come from soda-water-manufactories, jam, biscuit, cocoa, toy or cheap jewellery factories, who are all doing their bit.  

As the morning draws on in that thundering noise, that roar of machines almost as deafening as the roar of the guns, the drumming lathes work on; but the want of sleep, the fatigue of work, the need of food begin to tell, and our little parlour-maid is feeling weary, well-nigh prone to drop; so she makes herself a cup of tea, that everlasting and ever- joyful cup of tea, which the men enjoy even more than the women — and she thinks of Tom.  

Renewed strength comes with the thought, and she works on.  She looks at the lathe-belts as they go round and round, and feels that every turn furthers her job, and every day brings more succour to the front and the war nearer to its end. But, still she grows weary again. The hours are long. The night shift seems unceasing, the only possible rest from her factory is on Sunday, when she is almost too worn out to leave her bed. As for an evening out, or a cinema show, such a recreation has long left her horizon, such a thing as an hour’s sewing or an hour’s reading in a cosy parlour has ceased to be.  

Two things keep her going, the thought of Tom, with a certain feeling that she is helping him, and the canteen at last provided by the Y.W.O.A. with its chairs and comforts. Had it not been for that canteen her health would have given out long before, for with all the will in the world the women Munition Workers’ hours in 1916 were too incessant for them to stand the strain.  


Through the din no one heard.  

“What did you say? “ 


Every one knew they would be thrust into darkness. Every one knew they must stop work. Every one knew they were prisoners amidst the worst of dangers — explosives on every side of them, inventive devils of cruelty above them — prisoners in a great arsenal. The chorus of machinery ceases. Belts are released and those palpitating iron and steel machines that grind the daily soul of the workers, slowly and dreamingly cease to toil. In a few minutes all is still.  

Oh, the tension of it. The anxiety, the expectancy, yet not a woman falters. The hours wear on. It grows colder. The action of the right leg on the lever has ceased. Both arms are at rest. The cold seems to penetrate their very soul; but the women say nothing. They know their men face the guns day and night. Big guns, little guns, every kind of hell fire. They know a shell or a rifle-bullet may end a man’s life any minute. They know these men at the front never shirk, why should they? The only people who shirk are the slackers at home, the “down tools,” the wasters, the scum. No soldier shirks his duty, no woman worker turns chicken-hearted. Both are out to do their bit to consolidate and hold a great nation together and build up a great people under the greatest Democracy in the world, known as the British Empire and King George. Numbed, chilled, but not nervous, she sits on a backless stool and thinks of the first months of toil without any seat, without warm water to wash those dirty, swollen, sore hands, without a food canteen, and with only paper-bag lunches of sandwiches and buns; and she remembers the new canteens outside, where a fourpenny or sixpenny dinner can be “bought out of her pay of 3d. per hour, and there is a warm fire and a cheery welcome.  

The clock strikes midnight, one, two, three. The Zepps have gone home again; but she can’t go home, she must still pull in and pull out of the re-kindled furnace her bits of red-hot metal. All she minds is the three hours’ loss in making shells for Tom.  

Was it telepathy?  Was it second sight? What was it that made her pause, as a cold shudder ran down her spine a couple of hours later and seemed to numb her senses? The night was still dull and cold and drear. Her face was deadly pale; the red glow from the furnace fire but accentuated the fact. She was just tired and nervy perhaps. And Tom’s cheery face pictured itself before her in the flames, as she worked on.  

* * * *  

An official envelope “On His Majesty’s Service” told the tale — “Killed in Action,” was all it said.  

Tom was dead.  

And she?  She turned sick and faint when the news came. She almost gave in; but no. There were others, there were other mothers, other sweethearts, and other wives, and for them she would work harder even than before. Work till the war ended.

God Bless her, the Heroine of Furnaceland. These are the women who will never falter until real victory by the Allies puts an end to war for ever.  

Surely if such a soldier-woman’s labour ends in death, she deserves as honourable a military funeral as any fighting-man in the field.  

Women and Soldiers, Mrs. Alec-Tweedie, F.R.G.S., 1918

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil would not dare trivialise the work of such a woman by calling her a “Munitionette,” and wishes that the women workers had received better from Britain than the post-war governmental admonishment to go home, be good wives and mothers, and let the men have their jobs back. The author of the piece, Mrs. Alec-Tweedie was Ethel Brilliana Harley Tweedie, a travel writer and advocate for women’s rights. One of her sons was killed in the First World War; her second son was also in the military and died in a military aircraft accident while serving with the RAF.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


A Gift for Every Soldier and Sailor: 1918


Christmas in the little American sector of the trenches, Christmas on the battle-ships, on the rolling, tossing Yankee destroyers in the North Sea, Christmas in many a snow-sprinkled village of France where American soldiers are billeted, in our training-camps behind the lines in Europe, and in the great cantonments here in the United States, will be a brighter, merrier Christmas because of the American Red Cross.

It is the ambition of the American Red Cross and of its thriving new junior Red Cross to give a Red Cross Christmas present to every American soldier and sailor, a gift all round. To each soldier and sailor the gift is to be an earnest of the loving protection which the Red Cross expects to throw around him for the duration of the war, a token of the affection of the American people.

What an interesting thing it would be to see the American soldiers in France receive their Christmas presents this year! Many of them are billeted with French village families. We can imagine these peasant children, whose ideas of Christmas gifts are sketchy compared with those of an average American child, crowding around “their American” while he opens the parcels that the mail has brought to him. One of those gifts will be the Red Cross present, perhaps one prepared by an American boy or an American girl. We can picture the admiration that such a gift would receive under such circumstances.

But while this is one scene in the military Christmas this year, a more familiar one—and one that may be witnessed by many American boys and girls—will be the Christmas at the cantonments. Here the Red Cross will not only contribute to the happiness with presents, but it will take charge of the cantonment celebration.

The American Red Cross has undertaken to erect in every cantonment, at every aviation field, and at every place, in fact, where American soldiers are quartered on American soil, a community Christmas-tree. Most of these cantonments now have at least thirty thousand inhabitants, so that a great, sparkling, and splendidly decorated tree will be needed to do justice to its responsibilities. All through the holiday week the Christmas trees will stand in front of the Red Cross warehouses in each cantonment, symbols of the nation’s greetings, reminding the soldiers that everywhere in the nation the Red Cross is behind them. It is the largest contribution ever made to the municipal Christmas-tree movement. The Tree of Light in Madison Square, New York, is an old and happy story to most of the men at Yaphank cantonment, who saw it sparkle last year in the square beneath the clock-tower and heard the carolers raise their voices in Arthur Farwell’s hymn “joy, Brothers, joy.” And, no doubt, when these young men of the nation go home after peace comes, they will remember the Red Cross Christmas-trees at the army camps, and thus become leaders in the community Christmases in their own cities and towns.

For numerous reasons the Red Cross has standardized the Christmas present for soldiers just as it has standardized other supplies. The gifts that the Red Cross is asking its members to prepare should be uniform in size for convenient packing and uniform in price, so that what any one soldier receives from the Red Cross will be about equal in value to what any other receives.

It is not proposed to single out the men not likely to receive many gifts from home -to be the recipients of the Red Cross presents. No matter how generous the supply of gifts from families and friends some of the men may receive, it is believed that the Red Cross gift will be welcomed by all. So, because hundreds of thousands of these Christmas parcels will be needed, if every soldier and sailor is to receive one of them, the Red Cross is asking all to contribute.

Each standard Christmas package is to be wrapped in a khaki-colored handkerchief, twenty seven inches square, as a container. The handkerchief, of course, will be one of the presents. As a hard bottom for the bag now to be improvised, use a pad of writing-paper, about seven by ten inches in diameter. This is for the letters that will warm the hearts back home as nothing else can; so a package of envelopes should by all means be included in the parcel. The standard khaki handkerchief and the writing-paper pad are supplied by the Red Cross, and are on sale at most Red Cross chapters.

Then select various articles either from the Red Cross list of suggestions or according to individual taste, but have a number of them, all of such a modest character that the total value of them will not exceed $1.50.

These articles should be arranged on the pad so that the entire package is the width of the pad and five or six inches high. The parcel should then be wrapped and tied with one-inch red ribbon, with a Christmas card under the bow. Again wrap the parcel in heavy, light-brown manila paper, tie securely with red, green or gilt cord, and seal with Christmas labels or American flags.

For gifts to be placed in the Christmas packets, the Red Cross suggests the following: pencil, postals, paper-covered book, home-made scrapbook (containing short stories, jokes, etc.), boy scout knife, steel mirror, khaki handkerchiefs, neck-ties, mouth-organ, electric torch, compass, playing cards, mechanical puzzles (a dozen of which can be bought for fifty cents), other games, tobacco, pipe and pipe-cleaners, cigarette papers, water-tight match-box, chewing-gum, cracker confections in original packages, fruit-cake, preserved ginger, salted nuts, prunes, figs, dates, raisins, hard candy, chocolate in tin-foil, and licorice.

The Red Cross itself sells for five cents the Red Cross checker-board, a combination set of checker-board, checkers, chessmen, and dominoes made of heavy cardboard. St Nicholas, Vol. 45, Part 1, Mary Mapes Dodge, 1918.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  This piece was obviously written well before the Armistice in November, 1918. However, many soldiers were still abroad at Christmas, 1918, as it took time to arrange for their return and demobilisation. Mrs Daffodil is made vaguely uneasy by the apparent puffery for the products sold by the American Red Cross despite its laudable aim of cheering the soldiers. Tobacco, chewing-gum, and candy were certainly welcomed by their war-weary recipients, but a cardboard checker-board for the notoriously muddy trenches of France? One thinks not.

The British Red Cross was less involved with Christmas parcels, which were largely sent by private British citizens. To receive parcels, soldiers could advertise themselves as a “Lonely Soldier” in the newspapers. As one soldier defined this: “A soldier who advertises himself as “lonely” through the medium of some English newspaper. If he is clever and diplomatic by this method he generally receives two or three parcels a week, but he must be careful not to write to two girls living on the same block or his parcel post mail will diminish.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.