The organizational skills of the well-run WPA would come to play in future organizations and women’s movements. The WPA operated by committee: the financial committee raised funds; buying committee purchased materials; work committee supervised the work at Government House and coordinated work in private homes, chapters and branches; the cutting committee cut materials to standard patterns and regulated sizes; the examining committee inspected all products to ensure each met regulations; the packing committee packaged all goods for shipment overseas. Other committees rounded out the aims and needs including an auxiliary committee in aid of blind veterans.
The numbers of items made by the WPA on the homefront are staggering; the aid to the Queen Mary Needlecraft Guild and Red Cross in supplies and the comfort these handmade items brought to servicemen in need is immeasurable. Between 1914 and 1916 the ladies knit 62,685 pairs of socks (one lady alone made 345 pairs); 2,422 scarves; 8,984 trigger mittens. Additionally, they carefully cut surgical dressings and bandages, and made pillows, pillowslips, flannel shirts, bed jackets and housecoats. Records in Newfoundland did not seem to survive for the remainder of the war and those in England show more than double those for the duration of the war. Given our small population, the women of Newfoundland’s handiwork and cash donations far exceeded what might have been expected in their support of their men and boys who served.
The first shipment left St. John’s aboard the S.S. Tabasco in November, 1914. Sadly, a shipment in January, 1917 was lost when the S.S. Tabasco was torpedoed on the Atlantic crossing and sank. Contributing to the war effort, the Government and several private firms (Allan Steamship Line, Bowring Brothers, Furness-Withy Steamship, Job Brothers, Newfoundland Produce Company, and Reid Newfoundland Company) defrayed the costs of postage and transportation, and shipping in England. Lady Davison’s mother, Lady Louisa Fielding, had given up one floor of her home in London to be a storeroom for the Newfoundland goods.