Antigonish Red Cross folding bandages, 1941, Sisters of Charity, Havre Boucher. Photo Courtesy of Antigonish Heritage Museum. Restoration: Wayne Ezekiel.
Conversation with Mary Lillian MacDonald, former CSM, June 18, 2014:
This photo of the Marthas, or any photo depicting the Marthas in volunteer or recreational activity, up to Vatican II, can be placed either at Bethany, the Motherhouse or the Convent at StFX. The sisters simply did not leave the place where they lived.
Jocelyn Gillis, curator AHM, noticed that the Marthas were not on the voting list after women got the vote in 1921. They did not vote until 1965. Mary Lillian gave the same explanation – the sisters did not get to go out into the town and into the community for any secular, let alone, political activity.
This photo is included in the Events chapter of Historic Antigonish Town and County (Stanley-Blackwell & MacLean, 2004), to illustrate women’s contribution to the war effort through the Antigonish Red Cross. Art for health – and peace — is the underpinning theme:
“Once again they were knitting and sewing at top speed. The county auxiliaries responded wholeheartedly to the call for ‘warm clothing for every British bombed civilian’ (Casket, 3 July 1941). … The Red Cross rooms in town provided female volunteers with ready-cut garments to sew. They also kept on hand a supply of fine yarn and soft flannelette. … During the summer of 1941, there was stepped up production of items for layettes such as bonnets, bootees, diapers, baby shirts, and gowns. In September 1941, the Antigonish Red Cross launched a two-day aluminum drive; the window of Wong’s Café, the use of which was donated for the cause was piled high with pots and pans for several days” (p. 246).
Sister MacFarlane (CSM) corrected the original notation, indicating that this was not Bethany and not the Sisters of St. Martha, who always wear the cross on a pendant.
In January 2019, Mary Flynn, archivist for the Sisters of Charity Halifax, confirmed our speculations that these women were Sisters of Charity. She further clarified that they’re in the modified habit that they wore from 1964 until 1968. “The Sisters of Charity had a convent in Havre Boucher until 1966, when it closed and Sisters were transferred to Port Hawkesbury, but travelled back to Havre Boucher to teach. Unlike the Marthas, the Sisters of Charity were able to do work in the community, and volunteering to fold bandages seems like something they would have done.” Mary Flynn looked in the annals for both the Havre Boucher and Port Hawkesbury convents and there was no mention of volunteering for the Red Cross, but the annals entries in the 1960s were very sparse.