AN LJMU project to help widows and families of those lost in armed service is showcased this Remembrance Weekend in the National Army Museum in London.
The War Widows Quilt is a moving piece of collaborative art that relays the realities of war widowhood in Britain, past and present. Made by 90 war widows and their families from second-hand armed forces shirts, it tells the stories of love, loss and grief that connect women across generations.
Women who contributed to the project will join Dr Nadine Leese, Reader in Women’s and Gender Studies at the LJMU Institute for Literature and Cultural History, to share their personal stories and reflect on the collaborative process which helped them “live with their loss”.
The quilt is on display from 10 -12 November at the Chelsea-based museum with a special discussion on Friday, 10, featuring Nadine and Moira Kane, Chair of the War Widows Association of Great Britain.
The project was among around 50 presented in the recent Research Excellence Review as Impact Case Studies and has been praised for cultivating a supportive community among war widows and bereaved families.
Dr Leese says her wider research War Widow Stories records, analyses and raises awareness of the stories of war widows but that talking about traumatic loss isn’t for everyone, so that is why they made the War Widow’s Quilt, to engage with others.
Each patch of the quilt tells the story of the woman who made it. Some do so through poetry; others through the stitching of a flower, and others have put tokens of love, mementos, photos or letters of love to their lost one in pockets stitched into the quilt.
Widow Kate says one of the photos was of her late husband Mike with all the children. “We collectively remember him all the time, we talk about him, we laugh about him, he is absolutely with us.”
The final phase of the project, for which Nadine is currently seeking funding, would see the Quilt permanently installed in the Imperial War Museum North.
“Our idea is to give the quilt an augmented reality life, such that people at the exhibition will be able to scan a patch and hear the voice of its maker, see images and film, and even explore the contents (letters, photos, mementoes) that the women put into the top pockets incorporated in the quilt.”
- War widows include those who have lost their husbands in war, during training exercises, or post-conflict from cancer, suicide, or other illnesses related to their service.