Deborah Pitts Taylor was ahead of her time. A woman who believed in female empowerment, she drove First World War ambulances in Brockenhurst, England, transporting convoys of wounded ANZAC soldiers to the hospital.
Her granddaughter Dr. Janet Frater and great-granddaughter Deborah Rose, (named after Deborah Pitts Taylor) recently visited The Great War Exhibition to see Women’s War, which highlights Deborah’s contribution to the war.
Janet lived with Deborah as a child, and says that Deborah’s determination to help in the war and do a “man’s job” has empowered her female ancestors. Janet grew up knowing women could do anything, and went on to study medicine at a time when she was one of only 12 women in her class of 60.
The New Zealand Herald interviewed Janet about her Deborah’s contribution to the First Word War, her influence on their family, and the ties they still nurture with the village of Brockenhurst. Please read their article here.
For more information about Women’s War, which closes in mid May, click here.
This week’s New Zealand Women’s Weekly features a story about Susanna Montgomerie who is one of the co-editor’s of Annie’s War, which features extracts from the diary of Annie Montgomerie, Susanna’s grandmother who traveled to London to be near her sons when they served in the First World War.
The full New Zealand Women’s Weekly article is now available online: click here.
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.”
Women’s War runs until 19 May 2018. More information about Women’s War is here. For information about Annie’s War, click here.
“Women’s War gives voice to their experiences, utilising cutting-edge audio-visual technology and recreations of outfits that were worn by six types of women-patriotic, supportive family, nurses, entertainers, independent workers and pioneers.
“Fiona Baverstock, an Australian private collector of textiles and vintage clothing, who created the costumes, said women brought “a can-do” practicality to the war effort and fashion.”
“Kiwi women rallied to face the challenges left by the absence of men but they were also alongside the troops, driving ambulances and tending to the wounded – experiencing the ghastly reality of war in a different way.”