As most of you will know, the second issue of Lila Jean Vintage which was released this month is a limited edition commemorative war issue that looks at the significant role which women played in WWI and WWII both abroad but particularity at home. I was so fortunate to speak with some truly remarkable women in preparation for this issue and I am very grateful to all the amazing readers who submitted their families stories.
One thing I was very clear about was that I didn’t want a soldier or a nurse to be on the cover. While I completely respect and appreciate those men and women who served, I felt with the centenary of ANZAC Day this year, a lot of focus will already be placed upon them. I wanted to tell the other stories. The untold stories of the women who stayed in Australia and did what they could, what they were allowed to do, to contribute in some way to the war that had taken away their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. And then I met Betty.
Betty is my Godmother’s Aunt and through several conversations I discovered that she had been a seamstress during WWII and made clothes for the soldiers. Her sister Ella (my Godmother’s mother who sadly passed away last year) was working in Mark Foy’s in Sydney when she received ‘the call’ instructing her to leave her job and work in a munitions factory in St Mary’s. This was exactly what I wanted. A woman who had done what hundreds of other women had done during WWII – contributing to the war effort the best way she knew how to. For me she became a symbol for so many women who worked to fill in time while they waited for the war to end and, God willing, for their loved ones to return.
I met with Betty in her little flat so that she could show me some of her old photographs. We had tea (from an actual tea pot) and these cute little crackers she’d made. She regaled me with stories from the war, of her family and her late husband who served in WWII. She even showed me some dresses she had made back when she was a seamstress. Can I tell you, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself so much. It was at this tea that I came across what would become the cover shot for issue two. Not wanting to set it in stone quite yet, I asked Betty is she would mind if an image of her ended up on the cover. She laughed and said ‘No, of course not!’ Although I sensed she thought I was joking.
Well, just this week Betty turned 89 and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to show her the magazine. Using the return of her photographs as an excuse, I dropped by her place for tea. Her reaction upon seeing the magazine was priceless. She wouldn’t stop thanking me, insisting it was like she’d won lotto. She couldn’t wait to get on the phone and call all her children and tell them she was on a magazine cover. As she stared at the image of her younger self she asked me if we’d touched up the photo – ‘I don’t remember looking that good!’ – I insisted that aside from some colour correction the photo was as is. She was so excited. It was the perfect reaction.