Frank and Lucy Sunderland lived in Letchworth, in Hertfordshire, north of London. They were English pacifists and fervent supporters of Labour politics and the Garden City movement, of which Letchworth was the first to be built in the UK. In 1916 Frank was separated from Lucy and their three children when he was sentenced to hard labour for being a conscientious objector. He had given himself up for arrest after refusing to join the army when the British government made military service mandatory for his age group. He was not released from prison until April 1919.
Frank and Lucy wrote to each other for two and half years while Frank was incarcerated at Wandsworth and Bedford prisons. Lucy looked after their three children in Letchworth, and earned enough to keep the family afloat by keeping hens, collecting insurance premiums and taking in sewing.
This unique collection of letters is important as a working-class record of wartime experience. The letters show how their shared ideology of a socialist pacifism upheld the couple in separation, planning for a better future in a more equal society for all. The letters give contemporary evidence of events on the Letchworth Home Front: spotting airships, food rationing, hearing the London air-raids, the arrival of ‘Spanish flu’ in 1918, and the sufferings of the European civilian populations immediately after the war. It’s an enthralling book of social history, the British civilian experience of the First World War, British politics, the Garden City movement, feminism and women’s emancipation, adult and workers’ education, Quakerism and pacifism.