Thanet’s women doing their bit

In September 1915 Mothercraft clubs to promote the health and welfare of babies were being started all over the country. Two opened up in Margate and Ramsgate opened theirs in September 1915 followed by Broadstairs and St Peter’s in November 1915. The welfare of infants was a question of great national importance and every encouragement was given to organisations which sought to help and educate the mother to bring up healthy children.

During the First World War the women of Thanet pulled together, worked together, and supported each other through some very dark times. They began to play a greater part in public life, and to do good work on various committees advising in matters relating to education, childcare and caring for the aged. They also began slowly to play their part on town and parish councils, and on Boards of Guardians, despite male prejudice.

Local groups of women in Thanet who were already used to working together began to organise themselves to collect funds and goods for distribution to the needy, either at home or on the “front line”. The Red Cross Society and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association began to collect clothing and bedding. Some ladies helped with equipping and preparing local schools and large houses as emergency hospitals.

As the war progressed, more and more items were also needed to clothe and comfort all the wounded soldiers and refugees who passed through Thanet during the course of the war. Many men had lost all their personal belongings in the trenches and had only the clothes they arrived in, caked in mud and torn to shreds.

In February 1916 gifts for the wounded soldiers continued to pour in to the local collection centres. Apart from the usual items such as dressing gowns, slippers, shaving brushes, pyjamas and underpants, many bundles of books and magazines were also donated. Amongst the more unusual items offered that month were pickled eggs, spats and a straw hat!

Other women collected food and other useful items for the parcels sent to the Front, or to British PoWs in Germany. Most parcels also contained cigarettes or tobacco, writing paper, magazines, and sometimes letters. Many soldiers wrote asking for local newspapers and bars of chocolate to be sent from home.

Not only did they have to keep ‘the home fires burning’ but many women took on all kinds of voluntary employment such as planting victory gardens or serving at the local branch of the Red Cross. Medical supplies were a top priority and women were the main volunteers in distribution centres for donations of clothes, bandages, medicines and other comforts. Some volunteers sewed thousands of small bags to hold the valuables of wounded soldiers while they were in hospital.

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