The Girl’s Own Paper – Jan 1916 (part two)
by Victoria Madden
The middle section of the January issue has just one short story with the rest articles on hobbies, topics of interest for the 1916 woman and an exhortation for female assistance with the War.
Sketching in Hertfordshire – The Little Bits by the Way written and illustrated by Maude Angell is an account of a sketching holiday, with tips on landscape work, by the G.O.P’s writer on all things Art. What’s particularly interesting is that the olde-worlde village of Wheathampstead she describes is only 25 miles from King’s Cross, which gives you some idea of how surprisingly little London spread in 1916. As I very much doubt the buildings she drew still exist, the full article may be of interest to local historians.
Mobilising Women Workers – How the War is Demanding the Services of all and how Each One can Assist is another fascinating article that pinpoints developments in the War and its effect on ordinary people. The Government is belatedly waking up to the fact that the male workers in commerce and industry, needed in the army, are going to have to be somehow replaced if the economy is to be kept going and that women could be useful here. (But don’t get any ideas, it’s just for the duration.)
There are no commercial adverts in the magazine except for other books by the publishers. Flora Klickmann, the Editor of the G.O.P., seems to have been particularly prolific in this respect, producing numerous little books of useful advice or uplift, the most famous being ‘The Flower Patch Among the Hills’. The footer to the previous article has an advert for her manual The Mistress of the Little House ‘a book for all inexperienced housekeepers who have to know how to manage a small house and do the housework’ which costs one shilling.
The Busiest Woman in the World – How The Queen Meets the Constant Calls on her Time in these Anxious Days has all sorts of details on the daily routine of Queen Mary, consort of George V. Judging by documentaries on the routine of our own Queen, her grand-daughter, little of the broader outline has changed in the following century: two tours, minimum, of a week to 10 days through industrial centres; guests at Buckingham Palace in May and Windsor Castle in the autumn; the State Opening of Parliament; ‘a certain number of courts, balls, concerts, public and private engagements in London, a certain number of weeks at Windsor, Balmoral, Sandringham’.
There is then, as now, a huge amount of correspondence and Queen Mary deals with the ‘private and personal’ element of this before breakfast, which is at 9.30, and then meets her Private Secretary ‘Mr E. E. Wallington’ about ‘matters of public concern raised in the morning’s letters’. Most of the replying to the letters is undertaken by a Lady in Waiting ‘as the Women of the Bedchamber are now more generally known’ (interesting – I had thought the name change occurred in the mid nineteenth century); these are all daughters of Earls (names given) and ‘were known to the Queen personally before their appointment’.
One of the things it mentions, for which George V and Queen Mary are known now, as a matter of history, is the new relationship between the crown and the ‘dependencies’ engendered by their visits to the ‘overseas dominions’ – they are the first monarchs to do so – which parallel our own Queen’s interest in, and visits to, the more realistically named Commonwealth.
The rest of the article focuses on the Queen’s war work: ‘Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild’ is based at St James’s Palace, making hospital clothing as part of the ‘great movement in providing surgical supplies’ all of which is done by amateurs/volunteers nationwide and consists of ’50 or so depots’ under a Central Committee, which is supplemented by the Queen’s Guild. Supervising the sorting of the garments sent in (62,000 this year) is done at the Imperial Institute and Queen Mary also crotchets petticoats for 2 year olds herself.
Both the King and Queen visit hospitals informally whenever the wounded are brought back. The Queen makes visits even ‘as far away’ as Paignton in Devonshire where the American Red Cross is supporting a ‘finely equipped’ centre. The Indian wounded are out in the New Forest and at Brighton and ‘were also recognised’ but it doesn’t say what this entails.
One top of all this she still supervises the household and keeps up a ‘vast correspondence’ with her children (listed, with their whereabouts). The ‘stern sense of duty’ of both King and Queen mean that they’ve not been to any ‘public amusements’ unless for charity, although Queen Mary goes to art galleries regularly. (This attitude is something I’ve found in other writing of the period: that it’s ‘unpatriotic’. I would have thought that war time is exactly when people do need amusing.) The Queen reads, but it’s mostly non-fiction. (I seem to think they closed public libraries on the same basis, which I find appalling; imagine being too poor to buy books and being told the library is closed for the foreseeable future.)
The article concludes by describing Queen Mary as ‘a gracious example of ordered service to women’ and is accompanied by an immensely statuesque photograph demonstrating the power of The Hat, in full.
To Think Over contains three, fairly random, things to ponder: 1) in the ‘past two generations’ we have ‘witnessed individual sincerity bearing fruit in great national reforms’ (possibly a reference to the stout Christian, Gladstone); 2) the sense of smell is as important as seeing and hearing in appreciating nature; 3) unhealthy reading matter and ‘problem fiction’ cause mental indigestion and make you feel strained and miserable ‘look for quality and character when ordering your magazines for the coming year’. (no prizes for guessing which ones.)
In Search of Christmas – The Story of a Family (all grown-ups, of course) who were bored with Holiday-making by Anna McClure Sholl
I wasn’t sure what I felt about this short story; the characters weren’t unsympathetic but I found it difficult to care about their difficulties and their high-handed attitude to the children raised a mental eyebrow:
Three middle-aged siblings, two married, one a spinster, live in adjoining estates that line one bank of the river that runs through the wealthy town of Benhaven. There are no children: one couple is childless and the other couple’s little boy died young. Each Christmas they take it in turns to host Christmas dinner, exchanging expensive trifles with each other and their neighbours, all of them too well off to need or enjoy getting presents.
One year, a few days before Christmas, Belle goes to visit her un-married sister-in-law to suggest a change of their usual plan. She finds Anne in the midst of wrapping presents, who shows Belle a marvellous doll she had bought for a friend’s little girl, with an entire ‘trousseau’ that she had made herself by hand. Alas, the present is unwanted as the mother wants the child to stop playing with dolls – at age seven. Anne feels this a pity saying that she had dolls until she was 10 (I’m not sure what the cut-off age for this is these days but I suspect it may be a little older – 11?).
Belle unfolds her plan: they will motor to Brighton, 40 miles away, and have dinner in a hotel there, where there is bound to be ‘a musical programme’ and ‘other bored Christmassers’ for entertainment (side note: in 1916 it takes two hours to drive 40 miles).
They set off in a new French car, the driving of which has been held out as an inducement to Belle’s brother-in-law, Henry, but about halfway there it breaks down, a short distance from a lonely farmhouse. On the sound principle that, as soon as she is an inconvenient distance away the car is bound to become repaired immediately, Anne goes for a walk and, as she passes the farmhouse, sees a little girl looking out of the window who smiles at her.
There’s a wistful quality about the little girl’s smile that prompts Anne to go up the path to the house to wish the inhabitants a Happy Christmas but the door is answered only by the little girl and her five year old brother who bears a resemblance to Anne’s dead nephew. The little girl wants to know if it’s Christmas Day yet, saying that her mother is still asleep.
Concerned at the children’s undernourished appearance and their description of their mother as someone who moves and speaks slowly and has to rest a lot, Anne enters the house, to find it clean but extremely bare with a two year old ‘baby’ in a chair. Belle and Lucille have followed Anne to the house and questioning the children further discover that their father died before the baby was born.
The women are looking for food for the children and wondering what to do for the best when the men arrive to say that the car is mended. They want to continue their journey but the women don’t want to leave until they know that the children will be cared for. They are all hesitating about waking the, clearly very ill, mother when Belle’s husband, who has brought in the logs from outside, drops one on the floor with a loud crash. There is no sound in response from within the bedroom.
The children are taken outside to look at the car while Anne goes to investigate but it is as they suspect and the mother has died in her sleep. They decide not to tell the children until the following day but to give them the Christmas Day their mother would have wanted for them. Cancelling their plans they take the children back to Henry’s house and install them in the old nursery that hasn’t been changed since his son died, then set about organising a Christmas tree and Christmas dinner as well as sumptuous presents such as the rejected doll.
Anne goes to tell the nearest neighbours that the mother has died and returns with the news that the children have no other relations. The childless siblings decide to adopt them (fortunately, they ‘seem to be children of good family’) dividing them up between the three houses. (!) Lucille sends ‘roses and violets’ for the neighbours to place around the body of the ‘poor little mother’ but none of the wealthy siblings attend to the practical side of things there themselves, of course.
Given the tone of this story In Passing, a sort of moral exhortation, seems quite well placed, asking ‘is Midas the captain of your soul?’ and stressing that ‘material things are mere substitutes for true satisfaction’. I found it all a bit Thoreau, with its emphasis on the ‘unrealities of city life’, that ‘social life is at best a compromise’ but ‘don’t compromise on living simply.’
One of the comments I found quite funny was the reference to the ‘young man forming his ideals or ambitions, the older man gaining a measure of ‘success’ and the woman interested as mother, or wife or sweetheart in his progress.’ (Because, obviously, she wouldn’t have ideals, ambitions or success of her own!)
The Little Girl’s Knitting and Crochet Book is an advert for another FK production, a companion to a previous book on sewing. It contains instructions for ‘pretty articles for Dolly, Baby, Mother or auntie’ ‘easy, attractive yet useful things.’ It would be interesting to see the age range this is aimed at or to know how many children of that age knit or crochet today. Price 1 shilling, or 1s 5d by post.
The Editor’s Page
Flora Klickmann was the magazine’s editor from 1908 – 1931 and did much to move it from the rather stiffly written and stuffy tone of its beginnings in the late 1880s to a fresher, livelier mindset that encouraged its readers to broaden their horizons. To my mind the golden period was during the ‘long’ Edwardian era; by the early 1920s the tone of some of the articles showed the magazine beginning to slip out of touch with the post-war woman and from the 1930s it became aimed at a much younger (schoolgirl) readership. Though the magazine obviously had a religious basis (being published by the Religious Tract Society, later the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge or SPCK) Klickmann was never heavy handed in espousing those beliefs and showed a lightness of touch in her editorship, extending the range of interests and promoting the expanding opportunities, for women of the time.
Our Share, an extract from a poem, is inserted as a panel and suggests that we must all take some of the blame for the emergence of the current war as we had ‘relaxed our hold on higher things’.
A Notice at the footer calls attention to the price of the magazine increasing to 7d owing the rise in paper costs. I’m having problems accessing that useful historical money converter Measuring Worth but I think this is around £2.10 today, which seems very good value for money, particularly as there are photos and illustrations for all the stories and articles with small pictures of nature scenes or vernacular buildings often inserted in panels or below the text. (I’ll have to add in all the modern equivalents for 1916 prices later.)
The International Reading Club seems to be suggestions for reading to improve your mind, as two of the books reviewed by regular G. O. P. contributor Lily Watson: ‘Balustion’s Adventure’ by Browning (1871) and ‘Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington’ by Tennyson (1852) are not exactly of recent date, even in 1916. The review of ‘A Short History of the English People’ by John Richard Green (no date) was interesting to me as Watson commented that the study of history was now moving away from ‘dates and lives and deeds of individual kings’; from political history to social history. As light relief for the unfortunate reader the article ends with a lively review of ‘the new ‘Anne’ book’.
The Etiquette of Today is an advert for yet another Flora Klickmann production, described as a ‘treatise on modern manners’ and praised in a Spectator review as ‘a very sensible little book’. I have a copy of this delightful little book: a slim volume of advice for the Pooter class and great fun. I always feel that ‘etiquette books’ are a marvellous insight into the social concerns and details of a period and shouldn’t be overlooked by historians.