PEARLS BEFORE POPPIES: The Story of the Red Cross Pearls


PEARLS BEFORE POPPIES: The Story of the Red Cross Pearls

RACHEL TRETHEWEY    Book Number: 88077    Product format: Hardback

Before we commemorated with poppies, we commemorated with pearls. This was the campaign the 'Red Cross Pearls', an idea by Lady Northcliffe to raise money for the British Red Cross by collecting enough pearls to make one necklace which she would then auction off to fund the war effort in 1918. Rachel Trethewey draws on archives from the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as working with Christie's and the International Fundraising Committee of the British Red Cross to explore the movement that saw nearly 4,000 pearls collected over 9 months (enough to create forty-one separate strings!) including a pearl that had survived the sinking of the Titanic. Admire the pearls that came from historical figures, whether that is a pearl formerly belonging to Empress Josephine, the gift of a pearl scarf pin belonging to champion tennis player Anthony Wilding, or the donation from 'Queen of Pearls' herself, Alexandra, Princess of Wales. The pearls also represent tragedy - one was donated in honour of Canadian nurse Katharine MacDonald who sacrificed her life while caring for the wounded, another by a grieving mother, Edith Fielden of Twickenham, who attached a note saying 'It is not a perfect pearl, but it is the only one I have' in commemoration of her 'pearl beyond all price', her deceased son. The book also explores the cultural celebrations in aid of the cause, from the fundraising performance by the musical and theatrical world for the Red Cross Appeal with an opening from Australian violinist Daisy Kennedy who played Bach's 'Prelude in E Major', to Tiffany jewellers' commissioned design of three windows in the Board of Governors Hall of American Red Cross National Headquarters in 1917 with the panels depicting 'Santa Filomena' to commemorate Florence Nightingale, an army of chivalric knights on horseback setting off to war, and Una, wife of the red cross knight in Edward Spenser's The Faerie Queen - all stories depicting things of beauty and, like the pearls, representing the continuation of humanitarian values during barbaric situations. Photographs of people involved include Constance Edwina, Duchess of Westminster looking flirtatious with pearls adorning her dress, Katherine MacDonald wearing her nursing sister uniform, and a portrait of Lady Northcliffe ready to launch her pearl campaign in 1918, as well as a shot of a few pearl necklaces which were photographed in the Red Cross Auction Catalogue. This is a history of fashion and fighting to keep up the war effort with moving stories behind every pearl. Black and white photos, dramatis personae, 290pp.
Published price: £20
Bibliophile price: £8.00


Additional product information

ISBN 9780750968294
Browse these categories as well: War Memoirs, Collectables/Antiques, Modern History/Current Affairs, Feminism

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