An Army of Volunteers

XZ1MSA097_0516-LMM-Red Cross workers portrait, Leaskdale-1916.jpg

Red Cross Workers, circa 1916, Leaksdale ON. Archival and Special Collections, University of Guelph Library (XZ1 MS A097037).

“I must take up my knitting then and knit hard… Knitting is something you can do, even when your heart is going like a trip-hammer and the pit of your stomach feels all gone and your thoughts are catawampus.”

 Susan Baker to Anne Blythe. L. M. Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside. NY: Stokes, 1921.

Besides managing their households economically, women like Susan, Anne, and L.M. Montgomery contributed thousands of volunteer hours to the war effort. Much of this patriotic work was done under the organization of the Canadian Red Cross which was responsible for outfitting Canadian Red Cross Society and Canadian Army Medical Corps hospitals and related facilities at home and abroad beyond the essentials funded by the government. Canadian women eagerly spent part of their day sewing, rolling bandages, sorting and collecting newspapers to send overseas, and knitting. Socks were especially needed for soldiers, who staved off trench foot by frequently changing socks. Communal knitting events helped make the time go faster, but women (and some men) knit in any spare moment they could findduring meetings, on the bus, or at home. Canadians also fundraised for the Red Cross by hosting a variety of events, like teas, dances, and lectures, and by creating and selling patriotically themed recipe books and knitting instructions.

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