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Bags of snow in Africa

Posted in This months highlight on 05 Jan 2024

At the end of November 2023, we launched our latest exhibition Our Favourites to celebrate 75 years of service and our recent name change. This highlight takes a closer look at an article by Dorothy Wise which is currently on display in the exhibition.

Amongst the records of the Wise family, farmers of Wokefield and Oxfordshire (collection ref: D/EX2811), is a copy of the December 1951 issue of Farmer and Stock-Breeder, an agricultural journal which began in 1889 and later became one of the leading national farming publications. The December issue includes an article titled 'WHAT'S in a NAME?' written by Dorothy Wise. In the article, Dorothy tells readers about a game her youngest child Sarah, likes to play called 'Alice' which can't help but make you smile.

In the game, Sarah walks around the house, before returning and knocking on the kitchen door, as the character ‘Alice’. Alice is an extremely polite individual who has two mothers, who are a constant source of worry, and three children of her own called Peter, Ann, and Charity, who are always ill. She has no time for the Women’s Institute as she is too busy ‘helping the king with his haymaking’. She has also visited Africa and when asked what it was like she replied with ‘there were bags of snow and lots of meat sandwich in the shops’.

Typed English text from newspaper

Dorothy’s article can be found in the ‘Farmer’s Home’ section of the magazine aimed at working farmers’ wives and families. Editors of Farmer and Stock-Breeder realised there was a gap in women’s magazines for rural women and made ‘Farmer’s Home’ an early feature of the publication that gained more of a noticeable identity over time.

Dorothy Wise (née Marsh) was born in Holyhead, Anglesey in 1918, and married farmer Hector Frederick (more commonly known as Jim) Wise, the youngest son of Henry George and (Mary) Elizabeth Wise, on 5 June 1940 at St Mary’s Church, Witney, Oxfordshire. The couple had three children Patrick, Mark and Sarah. Born on 6th November 1945, Sarah would have been 6 years old at the time of publication. However, a diary belonging to Dorothy which is also contained within the collection, revealed the earliest reference to Sarah playing the game ‘Alice’ and inspiration for the article took place in April 1949 when Sarah was just 3 years old.

Group photograph taken on Henry George Wise and (Mary) Elizabeth Wise's Diamond Wedding anniversary in 1946 at Lower Farm. Henry and (Mary) Elizabeth are seated in the center and the baby pulling Henry's hair is Sarah from the article! Dorothy is standing to the left of (Mary) Elizabeth holding her second child Mark. 

The article provides a window into the imagination of a three-year-old and the life of a long-standing farming family in the early 1950s. ‘WHAT'S in a NAME?’ is just one example of Dorothy’s work in the collection. Dorothy went from being a young woman who knew very little about farming, to helping her husband care for his elderly parents and taking over the running of the farm. She later became an author and the resident Home-Made Wine Expert of Farmers Weekly, another leading farming publication, for over 16 years.

Records of the Wise family, farmers of Wokefield and Oxfordshire are currently being catalogued, with the latest accession having been received in December 2023, so are not currently available to view. To view the copy of Dorothy’s article please visit Our Favourites exhibition which runs until 23rd February 2024.