W.I. Newsletter March 2021

Once again, we logged on from the comfort of our homes to get together virtually and hear from our guest speaker this month, Dr. Frances Hurd.

Whilst we had all heard of The Quakers, very few of us knew much about their activities and history and neither did Frances, despite being the daughter of two active Quakers. Out of blue she and her brother were invited to attend the unveiling ceremony of a memorial to their work, specifically during the first and second world wars.  Located in The National Arboretum in Staffordshire it takes the form of a circle, with gaps, to reflect the form of their meetings and ability to come and go as they please. It also replicates the citation on the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to them in 1947.

Following this ceremony, Frances was commissioned to write about their activities, and she was surprised to discover that their involvement went as far back as the English Civil War.  Quakers, also known as the Society of Friends, believe that all are equal, are pacifists and non-partisan and, as a rule, do not take sides in conflicts. 

Their involvement includes assisting with casualties, from all sides, feeding starving refugees and driving ambulances.  They have been present during many conflicts including the Napoleonic and Crimea Wars (where they disagreed with Florence Nightingale who was only treating British casualties), the American Civil War as well as the Franco Prussian & Boer Wars.  Over the years they have got into trouble with their exploits and been the subject of unpopular public opinion, being thought unpatriotic when conscription was introduced and refusing to enlist.  Although, there are also records that show some members have joined the Armed Forces and indeed Frances told us about one family who lost three sons in first World War.

Frances admitted she was not a Quaker herself, but as mentioned earlier, her parents were, and they were working in different parts of China during the Chinese Civil War.

Once Frances left, there was time to chat and many of us expressed surprise at what they had heard, and they were full of admiration for this group’s compassion and humanitarianism.

Earlier in the week one of our members joined in virtually to attend the Hampshire Federation Spring Council Meeting.  The outgoing chairman spoke of a challenging year as did the Treasurer.  As you would expect, our income has suffered enormously with the cancellation of so many events and the Federation has reported a large deficit for the last financial year.   There was also a presentation on climate change, but the guest speaker, Amanda Owens, also known as The Yorkshire Shepherdess, was a breath of fresh air.   She talked so vividly of living up high in the Yorkshire Dales, running the farm alongside her husband and being the mother of nine children!

Our meeting next month, again via Zoom, is “Handbags, an historical journey” with Sarah Delves.  Who doesn’t have a favourite handbag, whether it is because of their usefulness or the impractical one that is just so admired!  Once again look out for the invitation from Lynne and join us on 29th April for a 7.30 p.m. start.