Valerie Welland is the education resource specialist for Perkins eLearning.
For a moment, imagine you are at school. You are sitting in your history class, learning about World War I. You can feel the warmth of the sun on your face from the windows. The class is interesting because it parallels to current events, just as the teacher starts to talk about the first Zeppelins in England. You hear a loud whine. It is a siren, wailing throughout the campus. You don’t know if this is a drill, or the real thing. The year is 1942; America has entered into World War II. You are being escorted into an air-raid shelter, and you only have time to grab knitting needles.
While browsing through the many photographs from Perkins Archives (available online) I came across an interesting photo showing a couple of Perkins students knitting while sitting in the air raid shelter. A great use of time, certainly, while one waits for the emergency drill to commence. But what were they knitting?
The description of the photo indicates the young women were knitting socks and hats for the soldiers in World War II. Perkins students were brought into this effort by the Cambridge and Watertown Red Cross. The Red Cross would provide the assignments to “The manual training department” at Perkins, and the students would complete these assignments. This was one of the ways the girls contributed to the war effort.
The “Knitting for Victory” effort was a popular activity on the home front. Not only did this keep the soldier’s warm, it allowed people to contribute to the war effort. In fact, even Eleanor Roosevelt was known to pick up her knitting needles for the cause. (Becker, 2004)
Are you wondering what the end result was? How much was knitted? The annual report (1942) states, the girls completed 361 knitted articles, 264 of these were sweaters.
It was not just the girls who aided the effort. The boys of the school made 76 collapsible first aid stretchers.
In addition to these handmade items, Perkins students also assisted in collecting scrap metal (3 tons) and paper (11 tons). These were then sold and the money earned was used to purchase Defense Bonds.
The war effort was prominent throughout the early – mid 1940’s. Every American was asked to contribute. It appears that Perkins not only answered the call, they gave back with gusto.
Becker, Paula (2004), Knitting for Victory — World War II, Historylink.org, retrieved on February 22, 2019 from https://www.historylink.org/File/5722
Perkins School for the Blind. Annual Report Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind, vol. 111, 1942. p.19 Internet Archive. Web.