I have to admit, sometimes research is a slog. It can often be lonely and frustrating and feel very fruitless. And then, suddenly, a wonderful detail appears that lifts the spirits and excites the passions to keep on digging.
Last week, I was contacted by someone I had communicated with almost a year ago. Marty Lachance is a Board Member and researcher at the Hespeler Heritage Centre in Cambridge, Ontario, and he had located some old negatives that he thought might have some information or details that would be of interest to me. The Hespeler Heritage Centre has created a marvellous ‘time travel’ website about the local Dominion Woollen Mills at https://dominionwoollens.ca/. This website is a fascinating way to revisit a community in a previous time period through the lens of a factory that anchored the people and the place. I have never seen a website like it!
Marty had scanned the negatives and had found the above image of women wearing Red Cross smocks, in what appears to be a Red Cross work room during wartime. Some women are cutting out articles to be sewn, some are working on sewing machines and a few are gathered around a quilt frame quilting by hand on a patchwork quilt. Further research has revealed the location of this work room, in the basement of the Hespeler Public Library. Even on a bright day, it looks very dark and poorly lit in the 1940’s, and that is where these busy women spent many hours volunteering to produce hand made items for British refugees during the war. These amazing photographs were taken by Frank Johnston who worked in the lab at Dominion Woollens and was the unofficial photographer of that place. Because Marty is working from the negatives rather than old photos, he is able to offer clear high resolution images that I rarely get to see.
On their Facebook Group page, the Hespeler Heritage Centre is seeking out the names of these women – I love that giving names to the hard working volunteer women is important to them too!
EDIT – Update – Some of the women have now been identified but still a few names missing. Do you recognize any of these women?