The Clifford quilters – a unique patch of Canadian social history

Members of the Carry on Club at Gramma Jo’s restaurant in Clifford. Front: From left, Esther Hallman and Jean Field. Back: Marion Derbecker, Ruth Anne Cummings, Lynne Nancekivell and Phyllis Kaufman. Photo by Bonnie Whitehead

I came across a remarkable news item recently, in the Wellington Advertiser, a community paper in southwestern Ontario.

An inspiring women’s quilting group, founded 60 years ago, has had to call it quits, due to dwindling numbers.

It’s sad news, but also a time to celebrate, as these women were true “pioneers.”

And they were part of a uniquely Canadian social history story that deserves to be better known.

“The club originated through the efforts of Isabel Cassidy in 1957. Ladies met to sew pyjamas and nightgowns to send to the Unitarian Service Committee founded by Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova to help victims during the Second World War.”

From coast to coast, similar groups answered Dr Lotta’s call, and were united in a single purpose: to help others in need far away.

This was the seed that Lotta planted, in church halls and (via radio and TV) in living rooms across Canada. A seed that over the decades developed into a social movement of caring and compassion for others around the world, which now underpins our Canadian society.

To the Clifford quilters, and to the many other individuals and groups who answered Lotta’s call – thank you!

David Rain

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