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In this month’s Heritage Bulletin Blog I would like to bring you all a little Christmas Spirit. To help assist me I have searched through the December issues of the WVS Bulletin
and thus have enlisted the help of Lady Reading and Eleanor Roosevelt. These two very important (though somewhat forgotten) figures of the twentieth century were great friends and supported each other in their philanthropic work in the UK and USA. The following are their messages to members of WVS in 1942
“The fourth Christmas of the war is with us, and although this is obviously no time for ordinary Christmas festivities, it is an opportunity for me to send to all W.V.S. members a message of my very real admiration for the work achieved, the way it has been done and the strength shown in carrying it through.
We all realise on looking back through these years of war how much we have learned, how often we have had to attune ourselves to difficult circumstances and how great a volume of undertaking has been accomplished.
Looking forward we know there is much more to be done with far fewer members to do it, but because we have learnt to work as a team and because of the difficulties we have overcome together, we can now regard ourselves as seasoned and tried and capable of yet greater undertakings. However hard the times ahead, we are in a better position to meet them because of what we have been through.
In our service our aim is not recognition of success-nor are we wishful of public thanks, but we are determined on achievement. No task is so slight that it falls below our notice-no effort so great that it lies beyond our attempt.
We fight for our country with unspectacular but unceasing determination, and my wish to you is that this New Year may hold for you steadfastness of endeavour, strength of resolution and undiminished courage.”
“I am so deeply impressed by the work of the Women's Voluntary Services that I want to send them this Christmas greeting, for they exemplify the true spirit of the Christmas season. This year the Christmas spirit reminds us again of the fact that there is no joy in living as great as that of giving, particularly when we give of our own strength and effort. This is the ideal of the women in this organisation, and therefore, I send you my
warmest Christmas greetings and my hopes that before long we will again, all over the world, be able to say "A Merry Christmas" with the knowledge that we are working in peace to bring it about for all peoples.”
Today the greatest gift we can give to others is still our own time. Across Britain our volunteers can still be seen working as a team in a number of undertakings from serving tea in hospital canteens to giving companionship to those who are lonely in their own homes; even now at this busiest and for some hardest time of the year. I continue to be inspired by their dedication to voluntary work. With the opportunity to curate the exhibition at Kelvingrove
I have seen first-hand how our volunteers meet the needs of today in their local areas. I look forward to seeing them again in the New Year when I go to collect our Archives.
From all of us here at the Heritage Collection we wish you our readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
During the war WVS ran/organised a number of services and activities for children. We mentioned one of these services in a previous blog Tales of under-fives nurseries were
authors had written about their experience when visiting the nurseries.
WVS always strove to make children’s lives a happy one
during the War particularly when it came to providing toys. In the 1944 December Bulletin this article appeared:
TOY MAKING IN A VILLAGE
FROM the early months of the war our W.V.S. working party had knitted every kind of comforts for the Services and Merchant Navy. We had also sewn all sorts of garments for evacuees, but making toys we had never even thought of, and when the appeal came for soft toys for the new day nurseries, we felt rather dubious as to our capabilities in this direction; however, we said we could but try. To commence, patterns, materials and a demonstrator were sent to our village from the County Office, and we were duly launched as toy makers. Dolls were our first efforts; the bodies and clothes were simple, but the painting of their blank faces was a real work of art. We all tried our skill and the results caused much amusement. We decided we could not send out dolls dressed like a six-year-old with an expression of eighty years old, so this job was given to the one person who seemed able to paint the right look. After the dolls we became more ambitious and begged all kinds of materials to make various animals. From old grey flannels we made elephants and donkeys, and from the bits little mice with hairs pulled out of an old brush for their whiskers. Bits of fur were used to make cats and dogs, white felt hats made beautiful polar bears, even an old silk hat was trimmed into a seal. Woollen materials of the appropriate shades were used for giraffes, their spots being embroidered in brown wool. Horses had fur manes and tails, dozens of little rabbits, some sitting, were made out of real scraps of material, and lambs from old Turkish towelling. Besides the recognisable animals we produced a large number of cuddly soft toys which, we hope, though unlike any known species of animals, will be loved by and give pleasure to the little ones they were made for by the novices of our W.V.S. working party.
As is evident from the above article presents and toys
were already being made and collected by WVS but the organisation also encouraged people, even those without
carpentry skills to make toys themselves in a booklet produced in 1941 and
reprinted in 1944, WVS GUIDE TO SIMPLE TOYMAKING FOR WAR-TIME DAY NURSERIES.
Like the Elves who work in Father Christmas’ work shop the WVS were busy making
toys here are just a few examples:
“Clothes pegs painted to represent funny men in variously
coloured clothes. These are fitted by the children on to the open end of a tin
which has been attractively painted e.g. as the funny men’s house.”
“Bobbin Toy, a solid base, square or oblong. Uprights on to
which bobbins will slip easily (e.g. meat skewers) should be glued firmly into
the base, and coloured to match its bobbins e.g. red stick red bobbins, green
stick green bobbins etc. The whole can be mounted on bobbin wheels and a hook
screwed in front of the drawing it along. Or using pegs of different lengths,
this can be made into a counting toy, putting one bobbin on the first peg, 2 on
the second (of the same colour) and so on –up to five or six.”
“Mosaics, these may be either loose pieces of different
shapes (squares and half squares of different colours are best), which can be
freely used for pattern making, or pieces which make a definite pattern, and
fit into a tray. Plywood should be used for pieces, but the tray may be made of
Perhaps you will be inspired to make some toys for next Christmas.
As Christmas is nearly upon us and we are fast approaching our 75th anniversary year we thought you might like this Christmas message, written by Lady Reading in our 21st anniversary year, 1959.
The Chairman’s Christmas message
"The generosity and kindness which vast numbers of people have shown to us – the members of WVS – in this our anniversary year has made us realise how extraordinarily fortunate we are, and it is for this reason as I frame my Christmas message to you that I long to be able to transmit to you that gift which can enable you to evaluate the enthusiasm which has been so thrilling to witness and to understand not only what it means, but how it can be used better to serve the communities in which we live in the country to which we are proud to belong.
Lady Reading, December 1959
The warmth of hospitality and accommodation that WVS has had this year has been earned by the tens of thousands of members who have, each one in her own way and with her own interpretation, been true to the ideal which they try to serve; and the fact that Local Authorities have been so generous to us seems, to me, to show that they appreciate the service we, their voluntary auxiliaries, aim to put at their disposal. If this be so we have achieved, in these early years of our existence, a confidence which should make us proud of the trust reposed in us and alive to the consequent responsibility.
My message to you this Christmas of our majority is one of heartfelt joy in your achievement. May opportunity continue to be yours, so that by its constant offering you may have the chance, not only of further achievement, but of realising both for yourself and others, the true meaning of the privilege of service."