Female Poets of World War One Exhibition at Fleetwood Library

Go to Fleetwood library and, on a series of boards near the front door, be prepared to meet an astounding collection of people. Most were women, many now largely forgotten, but their stories will amaze you. From female poets of the First World War to the many activities of that time carried out by women who travelled the world, the exhibition ranges from poetry to spying, flying aircraft, setting up countries and more – all centrally involving women.

The famous are here: Gertrude Stein, poet and cultural lynchpin in Paris, Agatha Christie who wrote poetry and met her second husband in Bagdhad and Mata Hari, executed as a spy for Germany 96 years ago to the day as I write this. Perhaps outshining these more well known stories are the others whose memory is kept flickering by those dedicated to bringing their tales to our eyes. Lucy London, the person putting together this exhibition, from Blackpool, is one such person.

The exhibition is centred largely on poets who were once quite well known and indeed pioneers. For example you can read about Henriette Hardenberg, a writer of expressionist poetry, who fled from Germany to England. The exhibition also has a local focus with one central character being Margaret Rowntree who was the first female mayor of Fleetwood. She is commemorated by the clocktower in Fleetwood and wrote some moving and perhaps prescient verse. Included in the exhibition is her poem Any Widow in Any War, which points out the follies of both the leaders and the led who “have missed the call.”Exhibition 2 Fwood Library UK Octo 2013

Another woman, the Polish lyric poet Maria Pawlikowska, settled in Blackpool during the second world war. She had been feted in the 30’s by the Polish state for her literary achievements. Others who should be more well known include Moina Belle Michel, from the US, who was pivotal in seeing that the Flanders poppy became the icon of remembrance it now is.

Alongside these, writers from around the world including China, India, the US and throughout Europe are mentioned. As well as these writers many other women active during the Second World War are recalled. These include Mistinguett the French singer who became involved in spying and who Jean Cocteau recalled as having a voice that was “that of the Parisian street hawkers…the hussy voice of the Paris people.” There are other stories of the bravery of women doing intelligence work, the murky world of double agents and more. If you’re a creative writer it will pay you to read these stories and be inspired by the incredible true stories.

There’s still more, including the old folk ballad staple of a woman who pretended to be her brother to enlist, women who went on to command significant forces across many parts of the world and female pilots. These latter included fighter pilots and the first female bomber pilot. It is an exhibition you will need to allow an hour or so to take in fully but it is well worth a visit. It runs until November 11. Go along and make sure ‘we will remember them’.

Lucy has an excellent blog on the subject here.

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  • Show Comments (1)

  • Linda Jolliff

    I have been studying the WWI era of Fleetwood as my grandmother’s family was there. I have found several interesting tidbits to add to my family stories.

    My grandfather, Eric Gustaf Osterholme, was part of the fishing fleet force that was pushed into aiding the war effort. So, too, was my grandmother’s uncle, Thomas Martin. I have found my grandfather’s war records, but not Thomas’.

    I am looking forward to a visit to England and Fleetwood in about nine months.

    Would love any direction to more information.

    Oregon, USA

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