Thursday, 12 September 2013

Today's Female Poet of WW1 is Elsie Mewis from Birmingham

I first discovered Elsie (seen on the left in a photo from Bourneville Works Magazine in 1915 - Elsie is the lady on the right of the photo) in Elizabeth A. Marsland's beautiful book "The Nation's Cause  French, English and German Poetry of the First World War" (published by Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon in 1991).

On pages 90 - 91, Elizabeth mentions that Elsie published some of her poetry in pamphlet form during WW1 and raised a great deal of money for the War effort.   I just had to find out more and my efforts have paid off.

Elsie Mewis was born in Birmingham in 1888 and began working at the Cadbury's Factory in Bourneville in 1908.   That is a coincidence indeed because Cadbury's was one of Father's biggest clients and he once took us all to Bourneville for a few days where we had a tour of the factory.  We saw all the amazing facilities for staff, which included chiropodist, hair dresser, etc. and we also saw a Cocoa Tree growing in a huge greenhouse.

Elsie was a prolific reader, a keen gardner and rambler and a firm supporter of the YWCA and, at the end of WW1, The League of Nations.

Elsie worked hard and passed all the exams she sat at Birmingham University.  She was, according to her fellow workers at Cadbury's, where she became a Forewoman, "sociable and sympathetic with a pleasing and attractive personality".   She was elected onto the Board of Trustees of the Pension Fund.

Elsie wrote poetry all her life and often performed her own work in public.   She retired from Cadbury's in 1943 and died in 1963.

I am grateful to Mondelez International who now own and run Cadbury's for their kind assistance.  They supplied the elements enabling me to piece together Elsie's life story.

If anyone has any personal knowledge of Elsie do please get in touch.