Montage of images of Ruth Isabel Holdsworth and her Armband

An armband from the Quaker Tapestry artefact collection has returned to us after being on display at the Castle Museum, York.

The armband which was worn by Ruth Isabel Holdsworth, later Midgley, when she was serving with the Friends War Victims Relief Committee in France in 1917-18, was part of a display about Conscientious Objection in World War One, arranged by York Quakers.

Ruth’s daughter Patricia Gillett (1921-2015) donated the armband to Quaker Tapestry in 2004. We had no further information so in preparation for the York display QT member, trustee and family history researcher, Ros Batchelor, found out more about Ruth’s life and made contact with some of her grandchildren.

Born in 1893, Ruth was the daughter of Quakers, James Alfred Holdsworth, a Bolton cotton spinner and Mary Martin Willis, from a farming family in Aysgarth. Ruth attended both Quaker Schools Ackworth and the Mount. Marrying Patrick Midgley in August 1920.

The armband is one of the many artefacts in the collection at Kendal which QT volunteers regularly inspect, clean and repair. Donations from members and other supporters help to fund this essential work.

An extract from Ruth’s memoirs, written in 1985, describes her experience in the FWVRC:

“But now life was serious. Oliver was in khaki in Friends Ambulance Uniform; I in Quaker grey, joined Friends’ War Victims Relief and was sent to Sermaize Equipe to do the house-keeping. In the pitch dark 3 of us arrived at “La Source”, a derelict spa, in a village shattered to bits, which Friends, English and American were trying to rebuild with wooden houses. The “agries” were distributing seeds, for field and garden.

Happily I was moved on 3 miles to Bettancourt – a “chateau” lent by a French Dame to E.V. Lucas and wife. They, financed by the author James Barrie, ran it as a home for refugee children, and finally handed it over to F.W.V.R.C. Gertrude Pim (v. blue-blooded Irish and a dear) was our directrice. I assisted Henrietta Elliott with housekeeping, helped nurse the pathetic frightened children, and taught older children English, games etc.

Once, in the absence of my elders, I had to organise a funeral of a girl of 10 yrs. The first time I had looked on death – SO STILL – We were well within sound of Verdun guns. I remember ducking down as shrapnel fell around us.

An “affair” with an American orderly, and Hay Asthma drove me home, with German measles fully out – But I returned again, and rode on the back of someone’s motorbike to dance and rejoice when Peace was declared in 1918″

Thanks to Ros for her time spent researching. We find it fascinating to think about the lives of our artifacts and the people who owed them.

“We were entranced not only by the Tapestry panels and the social history on display but also by the ambience of the Meeting House, the interpretation and information made available to us. It is a very good memory for us.”

Sutton Coldfield Ladies’ Gardening Club