Aim to recognise women’s wartime efforts

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Over a year in the making, “The Women’s War” exhibition has opened at Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.

The exhibition examines World War 1 through the eyes of southern women and the ways they participated in the historic events of 1914-18.

Women’s wartime roles ranged from patriotic activity to military service as nurses and volunteers, as well as a small minority who stood against war.

One special group of women is at the heart of the exhibition.

A medal named after Queen Elisabeth of Belgium was awarded to 25 Dunedin women at the end of war for their efforts during wartime.

Katherine Neville-Lamb helped develop the exhibition as part of a University of Otago internship programme.

Miss Neville-Lamb said she conceived the idea when she was reading some minutes in Toitu’s archives from the Otago and Southland Women’s Patriotic Association from 1914-18.

These documented what the association was doing to help support men at war, such as fundraising and making items to send to loved ones.

“The Women’s War” focuses on three main ideas – patriotism, service and dissent.

Miss Neville-Lamb said men’s war efforts were well-recognised, but it was important to recognise those of women, too.

She was proud of the exhibition as it “really speaks to the strength of women”, Miss Neville-Lamb said.

The exhibition runs until June next year.