Posted by: helenrobertsbradford | September 16, 2009

Weaving a story

This faded green bag is a clue to the story of Barbara Bruce’s life in India.  It’s a reasonable assumption that she wove it herself.   During early 1942 she spent time at Khadi Bhangar rural spinning centre in Narsinghpur in the Central Provinces.

Handwoven bag

Handwoven bag

The charka (spinning wheel) and khadi (handspun, handwoven cloth) were symbolic of the Gandhian idea of village development and self reliance upon which the goal of Indian independence was based.

Barbara’s friend and fellow nurse Margaret Jones wore khadi, as did Barbara.   She reports the reaction from her English colleagues at a hospital in Bombay in a letter from April 1941: ‘See! She wears khadi – she is anti-British!’.  Bombay was in the midst of strikes and rioting and under curfew from early evening.

Another thread.  In a letter written from the Friends Rural Settlement in Rasulia in October 1948, Donald Groom orders from Barbara ‘6 yards of the grey material, 6 yards of the blue material and the carpet or two’.  Barbara was living at Sevagram, Gandhi’s ashram and village settlement, where she was nursing superintendent at Kasturba Hospital.  Why was she selling cloth?  Who produced the cloth?

With the bag were found two wooden combs and a smooth wooden implement which I’ve so far failed to identify.  Is it anything to do with spinning and weaving?

Wooden combs

Wooden combs and the mysterious piece of wood

Do you know what this is?

Do you know what this is?


  1. I´ve received the reference from A Cullingford through ARCHIVES-NRA@JISCMAIL.AC.UK and I´ve got a proposal. See this link and think about it

    • Thanks for sending this link. Yes, this is a definite possibility. I’ll have another look at the item.

  2. It looks like a cigarette holder. If it is, then it may have teeth marks at the flattened end and a small hole at that end too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: