The Needlework Guild during WWI and WWII, Wayne Coffee House

The first Minute Book of the Wayne Needlework Guild, lent to your columnist by Miss Virginia D. Keeney, president for the past several years, contains brief and business-like records of the local group from its beginning in March, 1891, through to the April, 1913 meeting.

This early book shows the seriousness of effort and the earnestness of purpose of the women who sought to establish a branch of a rapidly growing national organization in the small community of Wayne.

Meetings of the executive group took place in the homes of various members of the group as well as in the old Wayne Coffee House, on Audubon avenue. Annual meetings were held in such places as the rooms of the North Wayne Protective Association, the Library, the Central Baptist Church and the Saturday Club.

At the meeting of February 1, 1900, the suggestion was made from national headquarters that each branch hold a meeting preliminary to the annual meeting, the nature of which could be either social or business. The Wayne branch decided to give a tea at the Saturday Club the following September, and so successful was the affair that the executive committee decided to make it an annual event, to take place at a specified time before the annual meeting.

The idea of having the two meetings coincide did not become effective until several years later, when the executive board realized the importance of having all members of the local Needlework Guild see the display of new garments collected for distribution. Now, the annual Ingathering, with its business meeting and its entertainment has become the highlight of the year for the Wayne Needlework Guild.

Minutes of the first annual meeting, held on October 8, 1891, show that 236 garments had been collected by the directors, a very creditable showing for the seven months’ period since the Wayne Branch had been organized.

The last entry in the old Minute Book shows that by October 24, 1912, this number had almost doubled, with a total of 1600 garments. The report given at the annual meeting in October, 1952, shows 5,343 garments, more than four and one-half times the contribution in 1891.

The original number of 27 directors has now grown to 63, with five contributing groups; The Wayne Sewing Group, the Junior Saturday Club, Girl Scouts, Knitting Group and the Junior Service Board.

The list of beneficiaries has grown from an original list of nine in 1891 to 37 in 1952. The Neighborhood League heads the list with a total of 975 gifts from the Wayne Needlework Guild. Another local beneficiary is the Royer-Greaves School, and there are nine hospitals on the list. Among others who have received help are the American Friends Service, Delaware County Children’s Aid Society, Home for Aged and Infirm Colored, Interdenominational Foreign Missionary Society, Pennsylvania Working Home for Blind Men, Presbyterian Children’s Village and the Salvation Army Day Nursery.

Miss Grace Roberts, whom your columnist interviewed recently on the part played by the Wayne Needlework Guild during World War I, recalls vividly the packing of good, used clothing that was done in the front hall of her home on Windermere Avenue. This was in 1914, before America had entered the conflict. Mrs. William A. Nicholson, of St. Davids, was then president of the Wayne Branch of the Needlework Guild and Miss Roberts was a member of her executive committee. Assisting Mrs. Nichols and Miss Roberts in the arduous job of packing barrels for shipment abroad were Mrs. Nichols’ son, Albert, and Miss Roberts’ neighbor, Mr. W.H. Badger and his daughter, Miss Dorothy Badger, now Mrs. W.H.H. White.

The annual report of the Wayne Needlework Guild for 1916-17 gives the following report on the consolidation of the relief work of the Needlework Guild with that of the Red Cross:

“The first meeting in our new year was held in January in the interest of resuming War Relief Work. As a branch of the Red Cross has been organized in Wayne it was considered advisable to work with that organization if possible. The president of the Red Cross, Mrs. William H. Brooks, very generously agreed to have the Guild meet in the Red Cross rooms one afternoon a week and retain its own identity. Seventeen meetings were held for sewing with an average attendance of ten. Forty-eight suits of pajamas were made, of which 18 were given to the Red Cross and the remaining 30 suits with 668 yards of gauze to Madame Castell in Lyons, France. Since then the Guild has met regularly to sew for the Red Cross. In June a box of second-hand clothing was sent to Miss Nina Miel in Paris, and on August 12, sheets were sent to the soldiers and Sailors Rest Home in Philadelphia.”

(Note: Miss Miel was a well-known Wayne resident doing War Relief work in France.) During World War II the Needlework Guild and Red Cross cooperated in providing needed clothing for families of service men.

Next Wednesday, October 21, the Annual Ingathering of the Wayne Needlework Guild will be held in St. Mary’s Parish House under the leadership of Miss Keeney. With well over 5000 garments received as donations at this time last year, the officers and directors are anticipating gifts of 6000 or more this Wednesday.