Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland women honoured for contribution to the Great War

A plaque has been unveiled in St. John's to honour a special group of Newfoundland women for their contribution to World War One.
On Thursday, a plaque was unveiled at Government House in St. John's to recognize the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Women's Patriotic Association. (CBC)

A plaque has been unveiled in St. John's to honour a special group of Newfoundland women for their contribution to World War One.

Newfoundland was a dominion of the British Empire, and entered the war with Britain in 1914. 

A group gathered at Government House on Thursday, in honour of the formation of the WPA 100 years ago. (CBC)
It's been 100 years since the formation of the Patriotic Association of the Women of Newfoundland, often referred to as the Women's Patriotic Association (WPA).

The WPA was a group of at least 15,000 women who knitted thousands of pairs of socks, scarves, helmets, waistcoats and mittens for the war effort.

Historian Margot Duley ​has written extensively about the WPA, and said the contributions from women in Newfoundland were much higher per capita than other countries that participated in the association. 

Duley said when the call went out from the British Government to Commonwealth countries encouraging local efforts, Lady Davidson, the wife of Newfoundland Governor Walter Davidson, put out the call for women to gather at Government House in St. John's.

On the evening of the first meeting, 700 women showed up, including Duley's grandmother, Tryphena Duley.

She would become one of the WPA founders.

Comfort for the troops

Between 1914 and 1916, the women produced 62,685 pairs of socks, 8,984 pairs of cuffs — mittens with a trigger finger — and 22,422 mufflers.

In May of 1915, the women of the WPA sent the first consignment of 40 cases and barrels filled with warm clothes and comforts to the troops.

Duley said the association also aided the Red Cross and nursing services by preparing medical materials for the war.

One of the women, Adelaide Browning, established a TB hospital at the Jensen camp. Another was able to have a building provided, to establish a military hospital to assist the wounded.  

The plaque to honour the Women's Patriotic Association was unveiled at a ceremony Thursday evening at Government House in St. John's.