Tuesday, December 02, 2008

and she knits

Recently I was checking out Cast-on's new web revamp. (a fabulous make-over of an already fantastic knitting podcast and webpage by Brenda Dayne) I followed Brenda's knitting link to the amazing photo archive made available by Life Magazine. Of course, I went through the whole archive looking for knitters. Each knitting image is accompanied by several additional photos. I found my favorite, and then I wondered, who was this person? Wippety Wham ..I did some research and --here comes some context.

Lady Stella Reading married into the British Aristocracy. In short order, I found out that she founded the Royal Women's Voluntary Service at the start of WWII. Lady Reading mobilized over a million women (mostly housewives) to serve as drivers, air raid wardens, and other essential wartime tasks. As this bio reads, she enabled these women to perform countless other tasks making life more bearable. Lady Reading became Baroness Swanborough after WWII, the first woman to be seated to the House of Lords.

Here are the photos I fell for...and then ended up researching enough to learn about this remarkable person. This first one is titled "Lady Reading (C) standing with two small neighbors and her dog Tiger at her country bungalow." It's dated 1943, and was taken in the United Kingdom. Note the size of her dog--I'd argue that she was a strong woman who didn't mess around!

What struck me was that her efforts to organize British women helped begin the modern mobilization of women in industrialized nations into the workforce. Women who'd never had professions before became canteen managers, drivers, air raid wardens--people with important jobs that commanded respect.

The photos--obviously part of war publicity campaign--show Lady Reading as a real person who contributed to the war effort by working hard. Here she is gardening, organizing and meeting with volunteers, participating in her community's life--and looking like a well-bred lady while doing it. She also apparently had a dry sense of humor...a quote I found?

"Look alive. Here comes a buzzard."

And? I found out about this amazing person, capable, smart, and intelligent all because...she was a knitter.

Cool, huh? If you found this interesting,drop me a line below. Maybe I can do a little more sleuthing and find some more social knitting bios and history from time to time if you'd like.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find this very interesting, please continue your sleuthing!!! Steph

December 2, 2008 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Geek Knitter said...

Here comes a buzzard HAH!

Just look at that great hulking lapdog!

Social history, my passion and abiding love. Go for it, the more the merrier!

December 2, 2008 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

I love how her dog is helping with her knitting ... mine's with me here at my computer. Very interesting post, I look forward to more!

December 2, 2008 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Definitely more history sleuthing!

December 2, 2008 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger weebug said...

that was wonderful! i love the picture of the dog...reminds me of my angus!

December 2, 2008 at 11:48 PM  
Blogger cyndy said...

Terrific post...please continue to research and share what you learn...

December 3, 2008 at 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


If you read "No Idle Hands," it talks about women mobilizing to bring supplies to Washington's troops at Valley Forge, and nearly getting shot at approach one time because a red petticoat showed as they came in on their horses.

On a personal history note, my grandmother got hired as a music professor at the University of Utah before women had the right to vote.

December 3, 2008 at 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(To clarify, it seemed a "the redcoats are coming!" moment to the troops for a moment there.)

December 3, 2008 at 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, most fun!

December 3, 2008 at 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this! Yes, more please.

December 6, 2008 at 9:26 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home