Women of Empire Exhibition Opens

Not all of our Anzac wartime heroes were men in khaki. The role women played in the Great War is the theme of the Museum’s latest exhibition which was recently opened by Ruapehu Mayor, Don Cameron.

Women of Empire: the Homecoming looks at how women coped with life and loss after the war and draws on the personal experiences of New Zealand, Australian and British women during the First World War from 1914-1919.

Museum Collections and Exhibitions Manager Windsor Jones said, “The First World War was a transformative experience for many women. Opportunities to take on new roles and learn new skills saw these women become ambulance drivers, doctors, farmers and fund-raisers. They traveled the world, from Cairo to the Western Front, from Samoa to Serbia; or they remained at home, ‘doing their bit’ to keep businesses, farms and households afloat while their men served King and country in far away lands.”

Many of the women put their overseas’ experiences and independence behind them and returned to a very different life after the war at home – whether it was nursing mentally broken men from the front, finding love and starting a family, or facing a life of spinsterhood when many of the young men were lying dead in foreign fields.

The exhibition is illustrated with original costumes and accessories from the Dressing Australia Museum of costume collection. It allows visitors to transport themselves to a different time in the world where women defied social barriers to achieve incredible things at the front as well as at home.