Friday, March 03, 2017

Women's History Month: Knitting for the Boys

Library of Congress.

When I was thinking of a theme for this year's Women's History Month posts I knew that many people would say "But my female ancestor didn't do anything during World War I!"

My guess is her life was impacted in some way during the war. While those activities may have left few or no records, her life was still important and should be documented. That's where social history comes in. It helps us to better understand the role of women during WWI.

What did women on the home front do? Quite a bit actually and one of those activities was to knit.

The American Red Cross led the effort to encourage volunteers to knit items needed by soldiers such as socks (especially important in trench warfare) and sweaters. Knitting was everywhere and it was so prevalent that even songs of the time mentioned knitting (see image above). Booklets provided volunteers with instructions for patterns as well as tutorials for those new to knitting.  For an example, page through the booklet below archived on Internet Archive.

Let's face it, everyone could help in the war effort by picking up a pair of knitting needles. Women knitted but so did children and men.

Did your female ancestor knit for the WWI effort? It's quite possible. Look for proof in newspapers of local women's groups knitting for the cause. Also search records of any groups or organizations she belonged to including the Red Cross.

Do you or a family member own  home sources like photographs, knitting patterns/knitting needles, or sweaters that suggest she knitted? Document those. Ask family members if your ancestress knitted.

Additional Resources:

GenealogyBank Blog - Women during World War II: Knitting & Sewing on the Home Front
Scribd - British Red Cross Needlework and Knitting Instructions
American Red Cross - World War I and the American Red Cross - Knitting for Victory World War I

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