Friday, 22 August 2014

Lady Volunteers and Unemployed Women



Queen Mary's Needlework Guild has received representations to the effect, that the provision of garments by voluntary labour may have the consequence of depriving of their employment workpeople who would have been engaged for wages in the making of the same garments for contractors to the Government.  A very large part of the garments collected by the Guild consists, however, of articles which would not in the ordinary course have been purchased by the Government.  They include additional comforts for the soldiers and sailors actually serving, and for the sick and wounded in hospital, clothing for members of their families who may fall into distress, and clothing ... for the prevention and relieving of distress among families who may be suffering from unemployment owing to the war.  If these garments were not made by the voluntary labour of women .... they would not in the great majority of cases be made at all. ... 

The Guild is informed that flannel shirts, socks, and cardigan jackets are a Government issue for soldiers; flannel vests, socks, and jerseys for sailors; pyjama suits, serge gowns for military hospitals; underclothing, flannel gowns, and flannel waistcoats for naval hospitals.  Her Majesty the Queen ... desires that the workers of the Guild should devote themselves to the making of garments other than those which would, in the ordinary course, be bought by the War Office and Admiralty.  All kinds of garments will be needed for distribution in the winter if there is exceptional distress.

The Queen would remind those who are assisting the Guild that garments which are bought from the shops and are sent to the Guild are equally acceptable, and their purchases would have the additional advantage of helping to secure the continuance of employment of women engaged in their manufacture.

(The Times, 22nd August, 1914.)

[There seems to have been a lot of confusion at the start of the war about what volunteers should be contributing, and what could be left to the War Office - presumably in part because the War Office was struggling to equip the huge numbers of new volunteers.  For instance, the above implies that volunteers should not be knitting socks, because they were already provided, but in fact there was an official appeal for socks in September 1914, and demand for extra socks continued throughout the war.]  

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