Thursday, 29 May 2014

Sisterhood, Family and World War One: The Children's Society

As an anthropologist one question particularly steadfast question about humanity is family. What does family mean? Why do we have them? Often, why do we put up with them? In my past two weeks at The Children's Society I have been particularly struck by family and siblings relationships, particularly in relation to the First World War. Family is a delicate topic in relation to adoption, fostering and charities such as The Society. Often notable for it's absence in case files, families can be estranged or in some cases pull together at times of grief or war. 

Maud's father died serving in the British Navy during World War One, on HMS Research in 1918. He left behind eight children and a wife in an 'asylum'. Far from being one of the heart-wrenching case files, Maud's is cheerier as her siblings rallied round to help each other after their father's death. In a touching and rare hand-written correspondence Maud's sister Clara writes to her when she is convalescing following influenza: "you can come and live with me until you get strong". She says: "I can look after you and be a mother to you". 

Another wartime child, Violet, lost her father as a soldier in the War. Estranged from her family, she emigrated to Canada when she turned eighteen. This was an eventful time as she was hit by a car and fractured several bones. Becoming pregnant whilst in Canada relatives sent for her to come back to England, where she was pronounced "immoral", before subsequently giving birth, the child dying 5 hours after birth. Reflecting thoughtfully in a letter, Violet said she had learnt a lesson!

About the Unexplored Riches in Medical History project:

The Unexplored Riches blog: 

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