Journalist Lucinda Gosling interviews Kate Macdonald at the launch of The Conscientious Objector’s Wife at the Quaker Centre Bookshop, Friends’ House, London
Kate Macdonald, a new Friend at Bath Meeting, published her new book The Conscientious Objector’s Wife through her publishing company Handheld Press, on 25 June.
Frank and Lucy Sunderland were Christians, pacifists and international socialists, who attended Howgills and other Meetings around Letchworth with their three children during the First World War. In October 1916 Frank presented himself for arrest at Hitchin police station, as he was now willingly breaking the Military Services Act by refusing to join the armed services as an absolutist conscientious objector. He was court-martialled and sent to prison, and remained incarcerated for two and half years. Lucy was prepared for his arrest, but not for such a long cumulative sentence, and their letters – nearly 200,000 words – reveal her struggles to make a living, raise their three young children, and support Frank in his ordeal. She was the rock that their family rested on, a feminist, a devout Christian and Attender, and as passionate about self-improvement and reading for her education as Frank was.
Kate was shown the letters by Frank and Lucy’s grandchildren, and has edited them into a narrative with detailed evidence of domestic life in wartime, the Quaker network that supported COs in Hertfordshire and beyond, and a love story in separation.
The book was launched with a gathering at the Quaker Centre Bookshop at Friends’ House in London on 27 June. It will also be celebrated with an evening event in November, on the anniversary of Frank’s court-martial, at Letchworth.
You can buy Kate’s book (and its Kindle and ePub versions) via the Handheld Press website, or order it from one of our lovely local independent bookshops.