have you visited the auckland museum recently? this museum is an all-round gem and if you haven’t been for a while, step out and check it out as it’s the perfect thing to do in the month of may.
when i first found out we were visiting an exhibition about war brides, i’ll admit i thought it was going to be about the new zealand women who married during WWII – i was sentimentally curious because my own mother was married in 1942.
however, i soon learnt that this exhibition was actually about the war brides of new zealand servicemen who travelled to new zealand from all the corners of the world. who can imagine the culture shock of travelling from egypt to, for example, te kuiti in the 1940s? (to say nothing of the assimilation issues.) imagining this made me wonder in awe at the fortitude of these women, and their ability to do the best for themselves and their families in their new country. you could even say that these women were the unsung heroines of WWII.
apparently, 3700 war brides and 1000 children made the journey to these distant shores. at the exhibition, you can see film footage of these women arriving in new zealand ports. even after enduring around three months at sea, and very little privacy, these women managed to step out upon arrival in fabulous 1940s fashion, chins-up, with beautifully dressed children in little hand-knitted outfits. clearly these were staunch women.
kimberley and i wanted these womens’ coats, hats and gloves as we watched the videos, but we were secretly relieved we weren’t facing the massive changes they did. yes, we do face big changes now, but nothing like a new country with no instant communication like facebook or skype, and not much possibility of ever returning to your home country. we certainly realised how lucky we are to have such ease of connectivity with our loved ones in today’s world.
as you know, the jumping tangents little brown house is the home of love letters, wonderful stationery and writing instruments so it’s understandable that kimberley and I connected so much with this aspect of the exhibition. we don’t just promote and sell love letters; we believe passionately in the power of letter writing. it is indeed an art form, and not a lost one. we know letter writing is enjoying a revival, and all the reasons for this are evident in the old love letters at the war brides exhibition.
- the handwriting is exquisite. even, linked, slanted and written in fountain pen.
- these letters were treasured and they have endured. they were read and re-read and were the main link between lovers for months and years during the terrible separation that was WWII.
- they are beautiful and deeply personal. they carry the stories of special people and tell these stories more simply and honestly than any newspapers or other war chronicles could have managed. these are the people’s own stories, the true stories, from their private perspective.
- they talk about the little things of daily life that we sometimes think are ho-hum. how many baby teeth? baby’s first words? the flowers that were out at the time. one person’s love for another. the things that mattered and that carried people, especially servicemen, through the terrible war time.
we can help you send a love letter anytime to someone you care about. we have beautiful handwriting, we have the pens and the scented ink, and we can write something beautiful for you if you wish.
(we are still running our love letter fundraiser for the christchurch earthquake – so far, we’ve been donating $5 from every letter directly to nz red cross christchurch earthquake appeal. we’ve now decided that we’ll donate ALL PROCEEDS from your $7 love letter to the christchurch red cross – we think now, when the rest of the world has begun to move on, is the time that christchurch really needs our support. you can send a love letter to anyone, anywhere, and we will still donate all the money to the appeal.)
the war bride exhibition is sub-titled ‘i am remembered’ – a poignant choice for women who were not immediately welcomed where they settled. as a group, these women were referred to as ‘mr jones’ wives’.
politically, they combined with their australian sisters and formed a protest march in sydney to highlight delays in their transport to their husbands after the war. they made it happen and next thing here they were, and our little country is all the richer because we have their influences, stories, recipes, and culture woven into the layers of the new zealand nationality.
three cheers for auckland museum and the organisers of this wonderful exhibition! if you are able to go and enjoy a visit yourself, do let us know what you thought. please do also let us know what you think about the power of love letters too, because we love communicating with you. (hey, you could even write us a love letter in the comments section below if you felt like it. we’re just saying.)