Earlier this year, Professor Maggie Andrews ventured out of the Shire to join Dr Lucy Worsley, historian and TV presenter, in making a documentary about the history of those Cake Bakers and Trouble Makers, better known as the WI!
The programme is due to be broadcast on BBC2 on Monday 20th July at 9pm. Make sure that you stay up with a tea and a bun to enjoy the show!
During filming, Maggie told Lucy all about the history of Cuthbert Rabbit, a fabric toy made by members of the early Women’s Institutes. Many pre-war toys had been imported from Germany, so once hostilities began, it became very hard to buy new playthings for children. Making toys became an ideal way for WI ladies to test their needlecraft and Cuthbert Rabbit was a popular pattern.
He was based on a popular cartoon character created by Percy Fearon (known as ‘Poy’) for the Daily Mail, and oddly, was not very heroic, being depicted instead as a shirker who did not really want to go and fight. The character became so well known that, after the war, ‘Cuthbert’ entered the Oxford English Dictionary as the slang term for “a man who deliberately avoids military service; especially…by securing a post in a Government office or the Civil Service.” You can find out more about Percy ‘Poy’ Fearon and Cuthbert here.