- The Fabric of Their Lives


Fabric of Their LivesCreated and performed by Lesley Walker-Fitzpatrick for the Stratford-Perth Museum on the occasion of the opening of the exhibit; The Perth Regiment: A Century of Service.This is an original performance piece, about fifty minutes long, based on words of women who lived in this era.

The lives of women were torn apart by WW1, by the suffering of their men, as husbands, fathers, brothers, cousins, uncles, friends, sweethearts and fiancées lived the nightmare horror of life and death in the trenches.

The tapestry of women’s lives were bloodied by the horrors of what happened to their men:

By the ending of young lives swiftly and suddenly or by deaths painful and lingering.
By the empty seat at the table.
By the dreaded telegram which began ‘Regret to inform..’
By the returned men broken in body and spirit
By the casualty lists unfurled in the newspaper and telegraph offices.

The fabric of women’s lives were permanently torn by grieving and loss:

Loss of young sons whom they had birthed and nursed and cared for
  of brothers with whom they had grown and shared their lives with
  of fathers to whom they had looked for care and comfort
  of husbands who had shared their lives and homes
  of sweethearts…love forever frozen in lost dreams
  of the men of their towns; farmers gone from nourishing fields to death fields,
    the workers from the factories, the doctors, lawyers, merchants many never
    to be seen again – lost the familiar threads of their daily lives.

The societal changes brought on for women by WW1 were vast. Women proved themselves in the factories and fields. Skirts were shortened, hair bobbed, rigid codes of behavior loosened. Dance, art, writing, painting, the psyche of artists were all changed forever.

WW1 lead to the vote for women, income tax, Freud, the roaring 20’s, World War Two and was the foundation for all the social changes of the 20th century still affecting us today.

The old wars were gone forever. Warfare no longer took place in distant fields, carried out by professional soldiers, dashing men on horseback, governed by rules of honor and military decorum. The days of military deaths from sword slash or simple bullet wound, of waring troops living away from cities were replaced by a malignant inhumane form of violent conflict.

World War One sat, a brooding shadow over all their lives.

The chill from that time lingers still in the acceptance of the morally unacceptable. Innocent civilian deaths now far out weigh soldier deaths.

Meet the women of WW1; the young debutant of 1914, the brave nurses, the broken hearted bride of 1919:

“It’s awful. What will a war of this kind and in this day mean? The north wind blew wildly all night. War was on it, blowing all over the world.”
- Ethel Chadwick, August 2, 1914

“It is nearly three months since I sat in a chair, except at meals, and that is only a flap down seat, or a saw fire, except the pails of coke the Tommies have on the lines. I expect we shall be off again tonight somewhere.”
- Sister K. Luard, nurse

“One man asked me to write to his mother and say ‘Alex is too weak to write’ that was his only message. It struck me as being just about enough to break her heart.”
- Cathy Mellor

“There was a kind of esprit de corps…there was everybody, every single class from squire’s lady… to, well some were a few shades lower…they were just the same as we were, just hadn’t had the chances that we had for education, we began to realize that we were all sisters under the skin.”
- Elaien Nelson

“The doctor said ’He has been killed in action just as if a German bullet had pierced his heart’”
- Grace Morris

“In this tragic world there must be a purpose. Perhaps for me my purpose is that I must live to see that the names of the men who gave their lives…should not be forgotten.”
- Grace Morris