The WPA not only provided assistance to the men of the Newfoundland Regiment serving overseas and the Red Cross, but also turned their attention to their families at home:
- Assisted with the creation of Jensen Camp, where servicemen suffering from tuberculosis were treated.
- Helped establish and sat on the Board of Control of the Naval and Military Convalescent Hospital, known as Waterford Hall, in the City’s west end.
- Members of the Visiting Committee stopped in on relatives of soldiers and sailors, especially those who had a family member on the published casualty lists. They also visited with the volunteers recovering in local hospitals, and where many WPA members volunteered themselves. In four years, just in the Capital area, over 11,000 visits were made by the Committee members.
- Established a Child Welfare Committee that distributed clothes to needy families and set up milk stations for infants. Most of the WPA executive became the leaders in the later Child Welfare Association.
- Opened the Soldiers and Sailors Club in 1916 in downtown St. John’s, where they welcomed and entertained Allied troops.
- Published The Distaff in 1917 and 1918. This magazine helped raise funds for the Red Cross and showcased the work the women were doing for the war effort.
- Sold calendars, flags, flowers, Christmas stamps and put collection boxes around St. John’s to receive public donations. The funds were used to continue the aims of the WPA or donated to the Red Cross.
- Launched the Outport Nursing Scheme (ONS) in 1920, and recruited five professional midwives from England to serve the outports of Newfoundland and Labrador. This in turn became the Newfoundland Outport Nursing and Industrial Association (NONIA) in 1924. The women sold their handmade knitted and woven crafts to raise funds to pay the nurses. About 175 knitters and weavers continue in 2016 to produce handmade garments that meet the NONIA standards of quality.
- Organized social and sporting events.
- Opened the Caribou Hut in December, 1940 and assisted with its operation until it closed in June, 1945. Housed in the King George V Seaman’s Institute building on Water Street, St. John’s, the Caribou Hut provided accommodation and entertainment for visiting members of the military members from British, Canadian, American forces, and serving Newfoundlanders. Over 122,000 persons attended the Caribou Hut in the war years.
WPA members were honoured for their service and contributions to the war by King George V in 1918 by appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire: Lady Davidson received the highest – Dame Commander (DBE); while others were named Officers of the Order (OBE) or Members of the Order (MBE).
Dissolutions and the Red Cross
The WPA was dissolved in 1921. When World War Two broke out in 1939, it was re-established under the leadership of Lady Eileen Walwyn (wife of the Governor of Newfoundland, Sir Humphrey Walwyn). The WPA was permanently dissolved in 1948 and all assets were turned over to the Red Cross Society.
As the 100th anniversary commemorations of the battle at Beaumont-Hamel approaches, the City of St. John’s encourages knitters to knit socks and scarves to donate to individuals and organizations in need. Knitters and knitting groups wishing to participate, or charities wishing to receive knitted goods, can email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In partnership with the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland & Labrador, the City is offering a Family & Friends Learn to Knit class throughout the winter and spring, and is facilitating the knitting of goods, using traditional patterns, which can be given to local charities for distribution and to new Canadians. The Grey Sock Project indeed has been knitting our heritage together as participants learn about the original grey socks and the knitters of WW1.