Sunday, 4 February 2018

Three Women, One Fictional, Two Real.

As you know, I have been meaning to photograph my #waywardtransparency quilt in the wild, so to speak. There is a particular sculpture in Belfast, The Unknown Woman Worker by Louise Walsh.

 This may have caused a little controversy, and heaven knows, we love controversy here. Seemingly the sculptor intended the women to include all "working" women. Not quite what Belfast City Council originally intended. The sculpture has now found its way into the hearts and souls of the people of Belfast. It has even been yarn bombed.  Anyhow, I digress. I was going to photograph my quilt draped around the shoulders of these two women. I may still yet, but I have changed tack.

I love this quilt.

                                                  quilts in the wild, Killyleagh harbour

                            well, if it fell in, guess whether I or my husband was going after it?
As I said before, I am naming it after Private Godfrey's sister Dolly in Dad's Army. Dad's Army was/is an institution in the UK. It was based around a battalion of the Home Guard, the army reserve during World War 2. This reserve army was made up, mostly, of older men, hence the name, Dad's Army. My own maternal grandfather was in the Home Guard.

                                         my English Grandpa, centre front in Home Guard
The opening credits showed arrows, both British and German converging to and fro on each other on a map of Europe. The movement in this was what sprung to mind when I finished my quilt.

Looking for a quilt name, I thought of Private Godfrey's sister Dolly who made an upside down cake and lovely cucumber finger sandwiches. Hence my name of "My Sister Dolly's Upside Down Cake". I had talked in my last related post, about today's strong women in the recent news. In the series Dolly was a ditsy, elderly, fussy old lady. But was she? Was she really?

I know Dolly is merely a character, probably even a caricature. Think about it. Dolly and her ilk were elderly in 1940, probably born around 1880 or 1890. Middle class women like Dolly didn't work, their place was in the home. until  marriage, then they switched one home for another, and a father for a husband. Simples. But, my learned friend, I would propose differently. The likes of Dolly lost their menfolk in the Boer War of the late 1890s. My Irish great grandfather was in the Boer War as a stretcher bearer (more about him later). They dealt with the fallout of life as these menfolk returned home. They ran homes before electricity, no modern conveniences and generally no indoor plumbing. They rarely received more than a basic education but these women were often astute, clever. Dolly didn't marry, so swapped keeping house for her father to her brother. She lived through WW1 when a whole generation of  marriageable men were slaughtered or damaged, physically and emotionally. Dolly would have seen the suffragettes campaigning, though I think Dolly would be suffragist rather than suffragette. These women were the legal property of their father/husband/brother. And then in WW2 Dolly was keeping the home fires burning again. Dolly was not old, fussy and ditsy. Dolly was dealing with what life dealt her. So, my #waywardtransparency is proud to be called "My Sister Dolly's Upside Down Cake". Pink with attitude.

Now onto the real women. Two of them. My honorary Nana  (my greatuncle's mother) was a Dolly.
She and her husband lived in Kent and he headed off to war in 1914. Nana found that unsurprisingly, she needed to make up the income lost whilst her husband was away. Kent is not known as the Garden of England for nothing. She raised chickens in her garden  and sold the eggs in the nearby town. She used the surplus eggs to make and so sell her bread and cakes. This really took off.  My  honorary Grandpa returned from war, and was astounded to find his wife running a prosperous bakery and tea shop in the town. He didn't return to his original employment, but joined his wife in her business. A strong women indeed.

                                               my "honorary" Nana and Grandpa in late life
Next up is my great grandmother who was born and brought up in Killyleagh, N Ireland,  where these photos are taken.
                                                                 Killyleagh Castle

 By chance we were there today on a Hidden Ulster History tour.

my great granny Andrews, Ellen Jane

My great Granny Andrews was from a  humble background. Her father was a farm labourer and when great Granny was around 10 years old, she went  to work in the local spinning mill. The children who worked there where known as "half timers". Half the day, and it was a very long day, was spent in work and the other half in school getting a rudimentary education. They worked 5 1/2 days a week, Saturday afternoon was off work. The work was hard, bare foot in a long noisy room, the floor was kept wet to prevent the linen from drying out. Family rumour has it that my great great grandmother waited at the mill gates to collect her daughters' wages, and then spent it in the pub (?), Certainly by the 1890s her parents were living in two different houses. My great Granny was with her father and brother. Her sister lived with the troublesome mother. Granny Andrews met my great Grandpa Andrews, just returned from the Boer War,  at a masonic dance on Boxing Day 1900 and married him on Christmas Eve a year later.
                                                      1st Presbyterian Church, Killyleagh

                                                                      the pulpit

                                                 quilts in the wild, I love Church windows

 At this point her life changed, she went to Belfast,  married to a an engineer. They had three children in quick succession. She kept the home, no more mill work. Unfortunately my great grandfather became ill and died at the age of 34. During his illness Granny Andrews went to work cleaning houses, eventually becoming a Housekeeper. During that time she supported her young family and managed to keep the family home, even after the death of her youngest child. No short measure in a time of no social security or government support. During that time great Granny Andrews lived through  WW1, civil unrest in Ireland  and ensured that her own daughter, my grandmother, did not enter the mill, as she had. She ensured her children got an education. My grandmother would have liked to become a teacher had circumstances been different, and was very well read. They saw the introduction of the motor car, votes for women, the value of education and said goodbye to those who left for a better life in America. Those were strong women.

And so, my #waywardtransparency quilt is now known as "My Sister Dolly's Upside Down Cake." As good old Queen Elizabeth is credited as saying - I know I  have the body but of a weak and feeble  woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king". No weak women these, these women wore pink with attitude!

I tried my quilt today on my decking, my reading and writing corner this afternoon. It was a bit grey and bleak, but will nice when the good weather comes and my Narnia wardrobe/aricula theatre is full of bloom.

My sister has just asked me, "Am I not strong?" are we not strong? Well, of course we are and so are our daughters, This was the last post sister!! But we are strong because of those who paved our way. With that I will leave you with a photo of Emmeline Pankhurst's grave in Brompton Cemetery London. I pop in to say hello when I am passing. Tomorrow is 100 years since the vote was given to  women in Great Britain and Ireland.

Helen x
And lastly, thank you again Yvonne for such a fun quiltalong.


  1. Wow, Helen, I really enjoyed reading about the strong women in your family and life. We are all fortunate to stand on the shoulders of the giants before us.

  2. So interesting to read about your family, thanks so much for sharing.

    Jenny from New Zealand

  3. I am humbled by your stories of strong women, especially the ones related to you! Like Yvonne says, we stand on the shoulders of giants. Could we have endured and thrived under those harsh circumstances? I know we could have, but am so glad we don't need to.

    Your pink quilt reminds me of the sea of pink hats that women wear here in the US as we march to protest. No baby pink here, but a vibrant, cannot be ignored pink. We are strong. We are multitude.


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