Dear Mrs Pennyman; Reflections on Grief Exhibition

A copy of an extract of a war widows letter written to Mary Pennyman

An exhibition exploring the life of Mary Pennyman and the widows and mothers who wrote to her during the First World War.

Mary Pennyman and the letters

Mary Pennyman was the secretary of the King's Own Scottish Borderers Widows and Orphans Fund, a regiment her husband Jim belonged to. She received hundreds of letters from women whose husbands, sons and brothers who had been killed in action during the First World War. The letters are heart breaking and offer insight into how these wmen were feeling.

               ‘I haven’t any children madam no I’ve nothing left, only his photograph…’

The significance of the letters was recognised by the National Trust, Teesside Archives and mainly the University of Teesside who started the Dear Mrs Pennyman project which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The aim of the project was to digitise over 100 letters which were sent to Mary Pennyman and discover more about the women who wrote them. This project has aimed to increase our understanding of life on the home front during the First World War and how the conflict affected the women both during and after the war had ended.

Reflections on Grief exhibition

Entering the exhibition room upstairs you can pick up a replica letter to read from women who wrote to Mary Pennyman and feel their grief through their words. Displayed on the walls are the stories of some of the women who wrote to Mary, with extracts of their letters and you can also discover more about the life of Mary Pennyman. If you prefer to listen then take and seat and listen to the recording of the letters being read.

Dear Mrs Pennyman is a Heritage Lottery funded project with the University of Teesside and it is their hard work which has made this Reflections on Grief exhibition possible. Through the correspondence we can gain a window into the thoughts and feelings of the women at home, showing how they were coping with their grief.


If you would like to browse the digitised letters and find out more about the project then please use this link.