British Women’s Work Association, Shanghai

getting-stuck-in-for-china-coverAnnie, Lady de Sausmarez, whose husband was judge of the British Supreme Court for China, which sat in Shanghai, proposed on 25 September 1914 a scheme by which British women in Shanghai could supply garments and bandages for British troops in Europe. A British Women’s Work Association — the B.W.W.A. — was quickly established, sending its first packages to the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild in London in November, and relaying thereafter a steady supply home.

By the end of the war it had sent a million and a quarter items back to Europe, mostly bandages, socks, and christmas parcels for the men of the British contingents. Over 300 women were involved at Shanghai alone, and another 500 contributed to work at the network of groups across China co-ordinated by Lady de Sausmarez’s organisation. The B.W.W.A. was one of scores of groups across the world of the British empire and of the diaspora of Britons elsewhere overseas, which undertook such work, co-ordinated in London by Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild (now the Queen Mother’s Clothing Guild). Annie de Sausmarez, who was later decorated for her contribution, remained President of the British Women’s Work Association in Shanghai until late 1919.

The photograph below shows the Association’s workroom at Shanghai, and was published in the 1919 history of the Guild’s wartime work: Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild: Its work during the Great War. The poster on the wall advertising a ‘War Fair’ might suggest that the date is mid-autumn 1917: Shanghai’s ‘War Fair’ opened on 3 November that year, to raise funds for a Veterans’ Club’ to support servicemen and ex-servicemen in Shanghai.