On the Home Front
Annie Coldwell a leader in supporting the WWI war effort
Volunteering was an integral part of wartime service for Canadian women during the First World War.
As women were traditionally excluded from combat roles, joining a voluntary service organization was important for women who wished to be seen as throwing their support behind the nation at war.
It was also a way for them to deal with their grief or as a form of relief from the agony of waiting for news on their loved ones at the front.
Women in Brandon had a number of organizations they could participate in to support the war effort.
They included the Canadian Red Cross, the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire and the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild (QMNC).
Founded by Queen Mary on August 21, 1914, the Guild’s goal was to specifically help with supplying ‘comforts’ for all serving soldiers and sailors.
After the formation of the Brandon Branch of the QMNC on January 12, 1915, the Brandon Daily Sun reported that the Guild “works particularly for the little orphan children, helpless victims of the war, whether British, French or Belgium, and for the sailors of the great British Fleet, as well as soldiers of the army.”
The Guild operated once weekly out of a room at the Bank of Montreal.
Here local members would sell membership pins and accept donations from surrounding Guilds organized in local communities such as Oak Lake, Rapid City and Souris.
Some of the donations the Guild accepted included shirts, handkerchiefs, socks, tobacco, cocoa, chewing gum, candy, and soap.
One month after forming, the Brandon Guild sent 167 garments overseas.
Four months later the Brandon Sun reported that the Guild had collected 405 garments and raised $109.00, the equivalent of $2,534.10 today.
The Guild also had collected hospital furnishings including bed sheets, pillow cases, quilts, and pillows for the Brandon cot at the Cliveden Military Hospital built by the Canadian Red Cross in England.
The Guild’s efforts were often acknowledged in letters from Queen Mary to Founder and President Mrs. G.R. (Annie) Coldwell.
Annie Coldwell, the wife of Brandon lawyer and MLA, G.R. Coldwell, and the mother of POW Lieutenant George Alfred Coldwell, was very active during the war with local voluntary organizations.
She founded the Brandon Branch of the Canadian Red Cross and participated at fundraiser teas hosted by members of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire.
However, her real passion during the war was the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild.
As president of the local Queen Mary’s Needle Guild, Annie Coldwell opened her home at 122-18th Street to the public to raise funds in support of the war effort.
It was the site of fundraising teas, musical recitals, sewing classes and meetings for the Guild. Her home is now the Daly House Museum.
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