WWI evening benefits museum
It’s certainly no overstatement to say that the first World War had a profound effect on global history. It redrew European borders and changed warfare forever, but it was also the catalyst in a number of more subtle changes.
Take, for example, women’s fashion.
“Before the War, it was the Romantic age,” explains Lynn Lafave, a historian at Upper Canada Village. “King Edward was a bit of a womanizer and he liked curvy women with curvy bodies.”
As such, women did their best to conform to this trend, even to go so far as to use corsets to shrink their waists to unnatural sizes.
But then along came the Great War. The men went off to fight and women stayed behind and worked.
“Clothes became more practical and comfortable,” said Ms. Lafave, who gave a talk at the Lancaster Legion on Saturday night as part of the Nor’Westers and Loyalist Museum’s War is Over fundraising dinner.
Ms. Lafave was one of seven speakers who offered insight into how the Great War changed the world. While her talk focused on fashion, she added that the post-war period ushered in a new era of
“After the war, women had tasted freedom and they no longer needed escorts to maintain their reputations,” she said. “World War I emancipated women and opened the way to the roaring ‘20s.”
But although the early part of the 20th Century saw more relaxed dressing standards for women, they were still a long time away from the mini skirts and halter tops you see in the summer. Their skirts were shorter ( they could go above the ankle) but trousers would have still been considered gauche. Even nurses wore aprons, skirts, and blouses with removeable sleeves so they could be washed more easily.
Lorna McKendry spoke about wartime food, positing a theory that World War I may have shaped our eating habits today. It was a time when people were encouraged to minimize their food consumption because “meat, wheat, and fats” were for the soldiers.
It was also an era that saw “meatless Fridays” and the making of sauces for leftovers.
Local history buff Robin Flockton, who is also a past president of the Glengarry Historical Society, spoke about the incredible expenses the allied countries incurred getting supplies to their troops. Each soldier needed about 4.5 pounds of food each day and this necessitated a lot of work back home. Mr. Flockton says that bakeries produced 26,000 loaves of bread each day and that butchers killed and dressed about 22,500 animals on a daily basis. In order to slake the soldiers’ thirst, it was necessary to send out 40 40,000- litre water trucks each day.
“Food, water, and feed had to be delivered,” Mr. Flockton said. “So did the mail. That was very important for morale.” Incredibly, the allies shipped 5.45 million tonnes of oats and hay across the channel just to feed the animals.
“All this material was shipped by brute force,” he said. “Today, you’d need 300,000 semi-trailers to ship it all but back then, it was all moved by people.”
8 million horses died
Speaking of animals, Mackie Robertson spoke about the vital role they played in the Great War.
Indeed, he reported that the first contact in that war was a calvary charge. Since that first battle, eight million horses lost their lives in World War I.
“A thousand horses were shipped every week from North America,” he said, adding that in England, the government could seize a farmer’s horse for the war effort unless the farmer could prove the horse was needed at the farm.
Other speakers included Roy Lefebvre, who spoke about the Christie brothers, Wendy Wert, on the Spanish Flu, and Mary Regan, who spoke about the birth of the income tax.
LIFE IN A BYGONE ERA: As this year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI, the Nor’Westers and Loyalist Museum held a commemorative fundraising dinner at the Lancaster Legion on Saturday night. At left, Norma MacDonald and Keleigh...