Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Women's History Month 2017: What Was She Reading?

US National Archives. Flickr the Commons https://flic.kr/p/9vTZdX
We've discussed women on the home front taking part in activities like gardening and knitting. I am a big believer in learning about a time period by reading period materials. It's when you take the time to do this that you learn more about what your ancestor was experiencing.

For many of our female ancestors, their faith was an important part of their lives. Faith helped them carry on with their day-to-day lives in an uncertain time. And their faith documented their lives in the form of various records, depending on the denomination or religion. Their faith community may have also been the place where they gathered with others for benevolent works or to prepare to meet the challenges of the day.

So I was curious about some of my female ancestors and went to Internet Archive to see what my Mormon grandmother and great-grandmothers may have been reading about during WWI in the Relief Society Magazine. I was surprised by all the information they would have learned including war news updates, information about charity work with groups like the Red Cross and of course plenty of recipes and instruction regarding food, cooking and preserving.

Some examples of what they may have read include this idea for a knitting bee and a cake recipe that is eggless, milkless, and butterless but does have at least one cup of sugar.

Relief Society Magazine. February 1918, page 85.

This February 1918 issue goes on to provide information about "War Economy in Dress" and where to find Red Cross knitting patterns. In the next month's magazine a pattern for a sleeveless sweater is provided. I could go on and on but suffice it to say that the magazine changed with the needs of the home front. Yes, there were still religious articles but there were was also the addition of special columns devoted to the war and what women could do to help.

  • Have you identified the religious periodicals your ancestor would have read?
  • Have you researched religious records to learn more about her life?
  • What benevolent groups did women from her denomination participate in? Any archival records from 1917-1918 available?  

Additional Resources:
Internet Archive
Google Books
Hathi Trust

1 comment:

Jo Henn said...

What a fascinating idea, and post. I hadn't thought of that, but you can bet I will in the future! Thanks for the idea!