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Norfolk remembers the Women of WWII

Updated: Apr 25

These Beautiful Quilts Tell an Important Story

Beautiful Quilts honouring women of WWII
Guild members, from left to right, Brenda Bradshaw, Sarah Yetman (rear), Diane Luke (front), and Nancy Racz.

When a dedicated group of women get together, they can accomplish anything when they put their minds and talents to work. The Twilight Quilter’s Guild of Norfolk County has a membership of over 100 and they have been responsible for many beautiful works of ‘art’. I recently met with four members of the local Guild at the Waterford Heritage Agricultural Museum (WHAM) to view their latest display and admire their beautiful work.

In 2017 the Guild was approached by Heather King, Chair of the Norfolk Remembers Committee (NRC) - and Guild member as well - to do a 100 year quilt commemorating Norfolk County’s contribution to WWI. The finished quilt is truly a work of art and hangs at WHAM for visitors to the Museum to view. In 2019, King once again approached the local guild to put their skills to work, with the Committee funding the project. The Norfolk Remembers Committee requested two quilts to commemorate the Second World War, 1939-1945 and in particular, the contributions of Norfolk women here on the home front and the names and signatures of Norfolk soldiers who didn’t return home to their families. While the project was delayed for a time after COVID hit in 2020 and the world shut down, it would get back on track when things would once again open up and get back to normal.

The Art Quilt

Diane Luke is a member of the Twilight Guild that would create these works of art as part of the NRC memorial series. “The first quilt is a true testimonial to all that the women did during WWII. We had done one for WWI so we decided we would like to do one for the Second World War… It was such an emotional undertaking,” adds Luke. “Ten members worked on the Art Quilt while 14 members worked on the V” for Victory Quilt.

Fellow guild member Brenda Bradshaw explained, “The Art Quilt was a collaborative effort. First, we had to educate ourselves about the War. We were given a copy of ‘Norfolk Remembers the Second World War 1939-1945’…it’s an amazing book. It is also for sale at the Norfolk County museums and libraries for anyone interested. We also did a lot of Google searches…we wanted it to be as authentic as possible and to show what the women of Norfolk County did while the men were gone. We were able to use some original materials as well.”

The Victory Quilt

Some of the jobs held by the women here at home included farmerettes, working in the hospitals, learning to fly planes, working at the American Can, making munitions…doing whatever they could. The IODE and Women’s Institute were very instrumental during the war as well making and sending care packages from home. The “V” for Victory quilt features the individual signatures of the 159 Norfolk heroes killed in WWII.

Luke explained that “The two quilts were very different skill sets. We did a lot of brainstorming and it seems like every session something changed. Local artist Robert Judd, a Committee Member as well, was very instrumental in the process also.”

 “The whole process was very emotional for all of us. We would gather at the home of member Gertrude Nicks to work on the quilts and for an ‘old fashioned quilting bee’. We had such a great time there.” For the finishing touches their quilts were then given over to Sarah Yetman, Guild member and owner of Spooled Rotten Quilts in Brantford.

Yetman explains, “I knew the WWI quilt, so I was excited to work on this new project. Everybody was in on the planning stages… we wanted to accentuate but not take over the quilt. There were lots of layers and it was a bit daunting but the end product is amazing. The machine quilts and I’m just driving it with the handles…so to speak. All in all, it took about 20 hours to quilt.”

Many of the materials used in the making of the Art Quilt came from actual artifacts, making the story it tells even more colorful and meaningful. To get the full effect of the quilt and the story it tells, one must carefully peruse the work of art.

These quilts not only touch on the effects of the War on our community and its population…They tell an important story of those waiting at home that will live on for future generations. If you want to learn more on the Second World War and the part it played in our own local history then you should most definitely check out a copy of Norfolk Remembers The Second World War 1939-1945.

Be sure to make the Waterford Heritage Agricultural Museum a stop on your list of things to do. The Norfolk Quilter’s Guild are proud of the work they did – and rightly so – and their display is sure to show you a part of history that so many of us never knew. The heart, soul and love of every Guild member that worked on those quilts went into each one of them and for that, we thank them.

WHAM is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Curator James Christison will be happy to guide you through the many ‘pages of history’ proudly on display at WHAM.


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