Our new touring exhibition, Women’s War, draws upon the experiences of New Zealand Women who lived through the First World War, responding to the war as workers, supportive family members, patriots, nurses, entertainers or pioneers.
Annie Montgomerie had two sons, Oswald and Seton, who wanted to serve as pilots, which meant enlisting in Britain. She moved to London, keeping a diary of her experiences, and faced Zeppelin attacks and suffered in the influenza epidemic.
Her granddaughter Susanna Montgomerie Norris is a teacher and librarian with an interest in history, and knew Annie’s diaries were a treasure trove of information about life in the war. She spent five years with her husband, Michael, transcribing Annie’s experiences in war-torn London.
Excerpts of Annie’s dairies were published in Annie’s War (Otago University Press, edited by Anna Rogers and Susanna Montgomerie Norris) in 2014.
Briar Barry of Story Inc. (the creators of Women’s War) said, “We wanted the show to be about women, using women’s voices, so when our scriptwriter, Katie, found Annie’s War, we got in touch with Susanna about using quotes from Annie.”
One of the quotes in the show:
“Tuesday 12 June, 1917: Went off to Pall Mall. Got a table quite near one Princess Beatrice of Battenberg and her party sat at, and we had a good view of them all the time. She is no looker but a lot of her party were worse.”
Susanna enjoyed Women’s War. “I was very excited. It’s amazing what they’ve picked out. That quote about princess Beatrice was Granny all over. She could be quite brutal. She’d let fly with her opinions about the war and the generals and get everyone stirred up.”
Susanna says Annie felt for the young New Zealand soldiers so far away from home. “She gave each young soldier a kiss for their mother before they left.”
Ian Wards, Exhibitions Manager at The Great War Exhibition, says, “So much of this war story has been told through the eyes and ears of men, so it is great to acknowledge, see and hear the experiences of women in the war.”