Monday, 4 November 2019

Jean McKishnie Blewett (1872 - 1934) - Canadian journalist, author and poet

Jean Blewett featured in the very first exhibition of Female Poets of the First World War held in November 2012 at The Wilfred Owen Story, Wirral, UK, which featured her poem “What Time the Morning Stars Arise” 

Jean Blewett was born Janet McKinshie in Scotia, Kent County, Ontario.  Her parents, John McKishnie and his wife Janet, nee MacIntyre were Scottish - from Argyllshire.   Educated in local schools and at St. Thomas Collegiate Institute, Jean began writing at an early age and published her first novel in 1890 and her first collection of poems in 1897. She also wrote under the pen-name Katherine Kent. Jean’s brother, Archie P. McKishnie, was also a well-known writer.

Jean married Bassett Blewett, who was from Cornwall. She joined the editorial staff of  “The Globe”, a Toronto newspaper and in 1898 she became editor of the newspaper’s Homemakers Department.   Jean also wrote for “Everywoman’s World” in Toronto.

In 1919, assisted by the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, she published a booklet titled Heart Stories to benefit war charities.  Jean also regularly lectured on topics such as temperance and suffragism.  She retired from journalism in 1925 and died in Chatham, Ontario on 19th August 1934.

“Canadian Poems of the Great War” Chosen and Edited by John W. Garvin (McClelland & Stewart Publishers, Toronto, 1918)

Mount Cavell
“Mount Cavell”

Look yonder where the Rose of Sunset leans
A Blessed Damosel on golden stair-
Whose lightest touch illumes, incaradines,
And kindles flames of splendour everywhere.

Mount Cavell but a little time ago
Seemed typical of majesty severe,
Aloof, far-off, with diadem of snow-
Lo, gone the grimness, and the air austere !

The Rose of Sunset in a shining mood
Has paused to touch him with her fingers warm,
To weave her crimson petals in a hood,
For his great head, with all her subtle charm.

For cloak she shakes from out her royal lap
Whole webs of vapour, soft, of silken mist,
The rarest colours ever dyed, mayhap,
Mauve pink, and Persian rose, and amethyst.

With blues of many shades, blues somber, gay,
Blending together in a dream of light,
The sun-thrilled blue of perfect summer day,
The star-kissed blue of perfect winter night.

That rarest blue, in midnight vision given
To such as vigil keep, for His dear sake,
Who see across the flowery meads of heaven
The shining pathway that the angels take.

Fair, fair, this cloak the Rose of Sunset weaves,
Ere the invading twilight dulls and blurrs,
Weaves out of golden mist and ruby leaves,
While all the glamour of the skies are hers.

Mount Cavell did we dare to call thee grim
When first we saw thee standing bald and bare,
Ere vet this glory clothed thee like a dream,
Kindled to lip a thousand beauties fair?

Nay, grandeur is thine own staunch and immoved
Thou standest forth a splendid monument
To her, the brave, the steadfast, the beloved
Who sleeps upon a foreign shore, content.

A monument the years will not efface
A speaking monument that will extoll
A woman s tenderness, and truth, and grace,
The strength and courage of a woman s soul.

The Rose of Sunset steals away to sleep,
And, following in her train of palest gold,
Are soft-veiled, fleecy clouds like flocks of sheep
That hurrying go to find some far-off fold.

Above Mount Cavell mark the shadows grey,
Shot through with one great opal tinted bar;
And just between the darkness and the day
Gleams down upon the hills one silver star.

Jean Blewett

Mount Edith Cavell is a mountain located in the Athabasca River and Astoria River valleys of Jasper National Park, and the most prominent peak entirely within Alberta, Canada. The mountain was named in 1916 in memory of British nurse Edith Cavell.

The Wilfred Owen Story and Study Centre is currently in The West Kirby Arts Centre, 29 Brookfield Gardens, West Kirby, Wirral, UK, CH48 4EL. Tel.:
07539 371925.   The WOS is the first permanent exhibition to commemorate the genius of the Peninsula’s most famous adopted son.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893 – 1978) - British writer and poet; WW1 munitions worker

Sylvia Nora Townsend Warner was born in Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex, UK on 6th December 1893. Her parents were George Townsend Warner  and his wife Eleanor Mary, née Hudleston, who was known as Nora.  George was a house-master at Harrow School and was associated with the prestigious Harrow History Prize which was renamed the Townsend Warner History Prize in his honour, after his death in 1916.

Educated at home by her father, Sylvia worked in a munitions factory during the First World War.  She died on 1st May 1978, leaving a legacy of a large volume of literary works. 

Syvlia’s WW1 poetry collection was entitled “The Espalier: poems” (Chatto & Windus, London, 1925).

If you live near London, UK, you will be able to hear some of Sylvia’s war-time poems at an event organised by Boulevard Theatre and Live Canon Ensemble: War Poets, Sunday, 10th November 16h.30 at The New Boulevard Theatre, 6 Walker's Court, Soho, W1F 0BT, UK To book tickets please follow this link…/sunday-service-poetry-10-…/

This performance by the Live Canon ensemble showcases several centuries of war poetry. The programme features well-known poems from the First World War, including work by Sylvia Townsend Warner, May Herschel Clarke, Edith Sitwell, Helen Dircks, Eva Dobell. Rupert Brooke, Edward Thomas, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen and work from other conflicts - the Crimea, Second World War, Vietnam, Iraq, Liberia and Afghanistan - and foregrounds some of the most extraordinary war poetry by women from every generation. Live Canon perform from memory – these are not readings – and this is a rare opportunity to hear this collection of poetry performed live.

To book tickets please follow this link
Sources: Catherine W. Reilly “English Poetry of the First World War: A Bibliography” (St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1978) p. 328.

Photo from

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Grace D. Vanamee (1867 – 1946) - American Suffragist, Teacher, Writer and Poet

Grace Davis was born on 15th September 1876 in North Adams, Massachusetts, United States. Her parents were George Davis and his wife Electra, nee Magoon.

Grace graduated from Drury High School, North Adams in 1894 then attended Bliss Business College in 1895 before going to Emerson College Oratory, Boston, in 1899, where she followed a post-graduate course in 1900.

Grace then became a platform reader and lecturer and taught in private schools from 1901-1907. She was a lecturer in city schools in New York, and Brooklyn Institute Arts and Sciences, 1907-1909.  In 1909, Grace married lawyer William Vanamee, a widower who died in 1914.

During the First World War, Grace was Assistant to the chairman of the American Poets’ Ambulance Committee and secretary of the Italian War Relief Committee of New York.

From 1915 Grace was connected with the American Academy Arts and Letters, becoming assistant to the president from 1921-1941 and assistant secretary and assistant treasurer of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1925-1940. She served as acting director of the Hall of Fame in 1920.

In 1920, Grace became Chairman of the Republican Women’s State Speaker’s Bureau and a member Women’s Republican State Committee.

Grace died on 10th December 1946.

Grace's poem "The Sequel - He kept his Rendezvous with Death" was first published in the magazine “The Art World” - January 1917, Volume 1, No. 4 – reproduced by kind permission of Matt Jacobsen, editor of the website

Here is a link to a report about the American Poets Ambulance Committee in WW1:

Friday, 4 October 2019

Anna Jakobsen a Danish poet who wrote a poem about her son who was killed

With grateful thanks to the wonderful Pike Grey on Twitter who not only found this poem for me but also translated it from the original Danish. Another WW1 Mother's anguish ...

From Pike Grey 1914-1918 @PikeGrey1418
"My Boy" a short Danish wartime poem written by Anna Jakobsen, a mother of a fallen soldier from the Danish minority in Schelswig who were compelled to fight in the German army.
I've translated is as close to the original as I could.

#WW1 #WWI #FWW #GreatWar #History #MilitaryHistory #Poem #Poetry

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Ella Dunnington Jefferson (1888 – 1934) - WW1 VAD and poet

Ella's Red Cross Record Card
It is always exciting to find a hitherto undiscovered poem – here is one, written by Ella Dunnington Jefferson during the First World War - with thanks to Historian Debbie Cameron for this post and to Anne Houson of Clements Hall History Group for sending me the full poem.

Before World War One, the world famous York firm, T. E. Cooke, had been making scientific instruments and equipment for the military, including rangefinders and surveying equipment. They opened a new factory in Bishophill in York in 1915 and took on women to help with production.  Ella Dunning Jefferson was one of those women.
Ella Dunnington Jefferson (1888 – 1934) was born in York, Yorkshire, UK in May 1888.  Her parents were Mervyn Dunnington Jefferson, a former Army officer and Justice of the Peace, and his wife, Louisa Dunnington Jefferson, nee Barry.  Ella had two older sisters and a younger brother.

The family lived in Middlethorpe Hall, Middlethorpe, Yorkshire until 1911, when they moved to Thicket Priory, near Thorganby, which they owned. Their home had originally been a priory but the Dunnington Jefferson family demolished this in the 1840’s and built a brand new country house. Curiously, the family sold Thicket Priory in 1955 to the Carmelite sisters of Exmouth and it became a religious house once more. 
With thanks to the Red Cross WW1 website

Ella joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and worked as a nurse and orderly at Clifford St and Nunthorpe Hall Auxiliary Hospitals, before going to work at Cooke’s.

Records for T. E. Cooke which are now held at the Borthwick Institute, include the humorous “A Munition Dirge” that Ella Jefferson wrote about her experiences at Cooke’s. It paints a picture of an assortment of displaced ‘ladies’ who are only working at the firm ‘on suffrance’. Their foreman, Harrison who terrifies them, holds them in check. The Dirge includes the following line “There was Harrison our Overseer, Who caused us all to quake with fear” but ends on a patriotic note, however and Ella seems proud to be doing her bit towards World War One.

Photographs of the women at work at Cooke’s in 1916 showed that the work was clean enough not to require overalls – it looks as though most of the girls are wearing their own clothes with some, but not all of them wearing aprons. It is highly likely that some of the girls on the photograph are the ones mentioned in Ella’s Munition Dirge.

"A Munitions Dirge"

I was a nurse, a nurse was I,
Methought at Cooke’s I’ll have a try.

The rain poured down, the wind blew shrill, 
O’er Cookes-s’ss works at Bishophill.

I knocked upon the factory door, 
I stood upon the office floor.

The manager spoke unto me:
“Munitions worker you would be?”

Quoth I, “I am a V.A.D.
But if you’re kind I’ll work for thee.”

Quoth he, - “It is a stiffish job’”
You’ll have to come for 17/- Bob.

‘”Be here quite sharp at early dawn
And unto secrecy be sworn.”

“At Bishophill you’ll stay until 
You faint before the awful drill.”

They led me from the fated room
Into a dungeon full of gloom

I sat upon a wooden stool, 
I vowed I was an awful fool.

I painted reel, I painted drum
I cut my hand, I pierced my thumb.

I drove the nail, I turned the screw
I did whate’er there was to do.

But when I saw the ladies there, 
My heart leaped up, they were so fair.

Miss Tennant took me by the hand, 
“Oh welcome to Munitions Land.”

“I’ll give you buns, I’ll give you tea, 
And Chocolate Biscuits I’ll give thee”

And dear Miss Carr, She said to me:
“We’re only here on suffrance see” – 

Miss Blaylock works whate’er may hap, 
She swallowed strip, she swallowed flap

E D Jefferson

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Capel Boake – pen-name of Doris Boake Kerr (1889-1944) – Australian writer and poet

With thanks to Yvon Davis and to Dominic Sheridan for their help.

Dominic’s Australian Great War Poetry project is on and on Facebook

Doris was born on 29th August 1889 in Summer Hill, Sydney. She was the elder daughter of  Gregory Augustine Kerr, a civil servant, and his wife, Adelaide Eva, née Boake. Doris’s maternal grandfather, Barcroft Capel Boake (1838-1921), emigrated to Australia in the late 1850s. His son was the poet Barcroft Boake (1866 – 1892). By 1915 the family had settled at Caulfield, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Although she attended a state school, Doris claimed that 'she was self-educated at the Prahran Public Library'. She left school and worked as a shop-assistant, before becoming a typist, then a librarian. Doris’s first story was published in the “Australasian” in January 1916.

Doris never married.  She was an active member of P.E.N. International and a foundating member of the Society of Australian Authors.   By the early 1940s, Doris was working as secretary to J. K. Moir, who was credit manager at Paynes Bon Marché Pty. Ltd., who was a supporter of Australian literature.

Doris died on 5th June 1944 at Caulfield and was cremated.

A collection of Doris's verse with a foreword by her friend Myra Morris was published in 1949 as “The Selected Poems of Capel Boake” and her two main novels were “Painted Clay” and “The Dark Thread”.

“Anzac Day” by Capel Boake

The Scarlet poppy burns again,
The tender grasses wave,
The bitter almond sheds her leaves
On many a nameless grave.
The earth has healed her wounds again
Where Turk and Christian met,
And stark against an alien sky
The cross of Christ is set.

From north and south and east and west,
With eager eyes aflame,
With heads erect and laughing lips
The young Crusaders came.
The waves still wash the rocky coast,
The evening shadows creep
Where through the dim, receding years
They tread the halls of sleep.

O sacred land, Gallipoli!
Home of our youthful dead;
How friendly is the springing grass
That shields each narrow bed!
The toiling peasant turns to pray,
Calling upon his God,
And little children laugh and play
Where once their footsteps trod.

Mourn not for them, nor wish them back;
Life cannot harm them now;
The kiss of death has touched each cheek
And pressed each icy brow.
Yet, on this day when first they died,
Turn back the troubled years;
Pause in the press of life awhile;
Give them again – our tears.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate all Australians and New Zealanders "who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations" and "the contribution and suffering of all those who have served". Observed annually on 25th  April, Anzac Day was originally devised to honour the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who served in the Gallipoli Campaign, their first engagement in the Great War (1914–1918).

Founded in London in 1921 by Catherine Amy Dawson Scott to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere, PEN International is a worldwide association of writers.  The first president was John Galsworthy and early members included Joseph Conrad, Elizabeth Craig, George Bernard Shaw, and H. G. Wells.

PEN originally stood for "Poets, Essayists, Novelists", but now stands for "Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists" and includes writers of any form of literature, such as journalists and historians.

Sources:  Australian Great War Poetry

Friday, 16 August 2019

Poems written in response to John McCrae's "In Flanders Fields"

Following on from Heather Johnson's response to my post yesterday about Moina Belle Michael :, (Heather said:
"A Canadian pointed out to me once that Miss Michael's poem is remarkably similar (some lines identical, in fact) to that of R. W. Lillard's poem 'America's Answer', which was in circulation nigh on three months before Miss Michael penned hers."),

this morning I set off on a voyage of discovery and found several other poems in response to John McCrae's. I am now trying to find out more about the poets - if anyone can help please get in touch.

“We Shall Keep the Faith” by Moina Belle Michael (181869 – 1944) – published In “The Miracle Flower: The Story of The Flanders Field Poppy” by Moina Belle Michael and Leonard Roan (Dorrance & Co., Philadelphia, 1941)

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders' Fields
Sleep sweet - to rise anew;
We caught the torch you threw,
And holding high we kept
The faith with those who died.

We cherish, too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led.
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
But lends a lustre to the red
On the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders' fields.

And now the torch and Poppy red
Wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught:
We've learned the lesson that ye taught
In Flanders' fields.

“America's Answer” by Robert W.illiamLillard (1859 – 1952) - first published in the New York Evening Post and included in "Prose and Poetry, Eighth Year" (The L. W. Singer Company, New York, 1929) Edited by Fannie L. Avery, Mary M. Van Arsdale, D. Emma Wilber

Rest ye in peace, ye Flanders dead
The fight that you so bravely led
We've taken up. And we will keep
True faith with you who lie asleep,
With each a cross to mark his bed,
And poppies blowing overhead,
When once his own life-blood ran red
So let your rest be sweet and deep
In Flanders Fields.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;
The torch ye threw to us we caught,
Ten million hands will hold it high,
And freedom's light shall never die!
We've learned the lesson that ye taught
In Flanders' fields.

“In Flanders Fields (An Answer)” by Charles Burleigh (C. B.) Galbreath (1858 – 1934) – American writer and poet, State Librarian of Ohio

In Flanders Field the cannon boom,
And fitful flashes light the gloom,
While up above; like eagles, fly
The fierce destroyers in the sky;
With stains, the earth wherein you lie,
Is redder than the poppy bloom,
In Flanders Field.

Sleep on, ye brave, the shrieking shell,
The quaking trench, the startled yell,
The fury of the battle hell,
Shall wake you not, for all is well.
Sleep peacefully, for all is well.
Your flaming torch aloft we bear,
With burning heart, an oath we swear
To keep the faith, to fight it through,
To crush the foe, or sleep with you,
In Flanders Field.

Galbreath’s WW1 collection was entitled “This crimson flower: In Flanders fields, an answer, and other verse” (Stoneman Press, Columbus, OH, 1919); ISBN 978-1-140-31899-6

“Reply to In Flanders Fields” by John Mitchell

Oh! sleep in peace where poppies grow;
The torch your falling hands let go
Was caught by us, again held high,
A beacon light in Flanders sky
That dims the stars to those below.
You are our dead, you held the foe,
And ere the poppies cease to blow,
We'll prove our faith in you who lie
In Flanders Fields.

Oh! rest in peace, we quickly go
To you who bravely died, and know
In other fields was heard the cry,
For freedom's cause, of you who lie,
So still asleep where poppies grow,
In Flanders Fields.

As in rumbling sound, to and fro,
The lightning flashes, sky aglow,
The mighty hosts appear, and high
Above the din of battle cry,
Scarce heard amidst the guns below,
Are fearless hearts who fight the foe,
And guard the place where poppies grow.
Oh! sleep in peace, all you who lie
In Flanders Fields.

And still the poppies gently blow,
Between the crosses, row on row.
The larks, still bravely soaring high,
Are singing now their lullaby
To you who sleep where poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

“In Canadian Fields” by Floyd Zurbrigg (? b. 1937 - )

In Flanders Fields the poppies grow
When I hear that famous poem I know
That our soldiers went to a far off shore
And gave their lives in an awful war
I’m aware of the hardships they endured
So our peace would be assured
But the poem that I cannot find
Tells the stories of those left behind
Of wives and sweethearts, kissed at the train
That never saw their men again
Of parents, brothers and sisters too
Who worried, because they never knew
If their soldier was alive or dead
Many tearful, heartfelt prayers were said
To the one’s at home, we owe a debt
They suffered too, let’s not forget
While in Flanders Fields the poppies grew
The folks at home were heroes too

In 1919, when people were still optimistic about the new future of the world, the Canadian poet Edna Jaques wrote 'In Flanders Now'.

“In Flanders Now” by Canadian poet Edna Jaques - Edna Parliament Jacques (1891–1979)

We have kept faith, ye Flanders' dead,
Sleep well beneath those poppies red,
That mark your place.
The torch your dying hands did throw,
We've held it high before the foe,
And answered bitter blow for blow,
In Flanders' fields.

And where your heroes' blood was spilled,
The guns are now forever stilled,
And silent grown.
There is no moaning of the slain,
There is no cry of tortured pain,
And blood will never flow again
In Flanders' fields.

Forever holy in our sight,
Shall be those crosses gleaming white,
That guard your sleep.
Rest you in peace, the task is done,
The fight you left us we have won.
And 'Peace on Earth' has just begun,
In Flanders now.

The poems by Galbreath and Lillard were I ncluded in “In Flanders' Field” (The Whittier School Press, Oak Park, Illinois, 1920)
OCLC Number: 1029560667

"The fugitive poems in this booklet are so expressive of courage, heroism, and unselfishness that they are here brought together for study and preservation by the pupils of the Oak Park schools."
Description - 13 pages ; 16 cm

The Appeal --
An Answer --
The Promise --
The Fulfillment --
The Soldier --
O, Little Cross in Flanders --
Afterwards --
Ye That Have Faith --
The Perfect Comrade --
But A Short Time to Live.

McCrae, John, -- 1872-1918.
Lillard, R. W.
Galbreath, C. B.
Frost, Meigs O., -- 1882-1950.
Brooke, Rupert, -- 1887-1915.
Hughes, Agnes Lockhart, -- 1866-1942.
Horne, Cyril Morton, -- 1885-1916.
Coulson, Leslie, -- 1889-1916.
Seeger, Alan, -- 1888-1916.

Sources:Heather Johnson's website and…/nationaux-nouvelles-de…