Change some plates
On the road to Ypres,
We’ve passed poor remnants of humanity alongside little wooden crosses.
Still, I am pleased that a woman should get such a chance.
Creating the Centena
I wasn’t sure where to start when it came to preparing my First World War centena, as part of the 26 Armistice project. Initially I wanted to choose a woman that was working in London, in their early thirties (like me) during the time of the war – and preferably someone who was working as part of a creative industry. I was fortunate enough to attend the fantastic Womens Work 100 Research Workshops, held at the Imperial War Museum on a bitterly cold and snowy day in March. During the workshop, I was able to spend time with fellow 26 members and staff from the museum archives, who gave us a whistle-stop tour through women’s roles in the First World War. I then settled on Olive Edis, a female photographer who was appointed official war artist and photographed British Women’s Services for the museum between 1918 and 1919.
My research led me to the Norfolk Museum’s Service, and a very fruitful phone call with curator Alistair Murphy from the Cromer Museum, home to around 2,000 images from Edis’ studios in Sheringham, Cromer, Farnham and London. The museum ran a major exhibition between 2016 and 2017, celebrating the life of Britain’s first female war photographer, and a fascinating blog created by Liz Elmore. It was thanks to a fruitful phone call with Alistair and the use of the blog, that Olive truly came to life for me. Partly as I was able to read and engage with extracts of her diary, kept during the trip on the road to Ypres. This fascinating account was truly the inspiration for my piece.
I found Olive to be an inspirational, at times cheeky, and incredibly brave woman. She would have been slightly older than me while on the front line, but I didn’t feel that was an issue in the grand scheme of things. Rather, her works have paved the way for creatives in London, Norfolk and beyond. I have enjoyed bringing Olive back to life.
Lives of the First World War
You can find out more about Mary Olive Edis-Galsworthy here at Lives of the First World War.
26 is a group of writers whose purpose is to inspire a greater love of words in business and in life.