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WW1 Page 3 - left at home

Women left at Home



According to the 1921 Census there were over one and three-quarter million 'Surplus Women' living in Britain, most born between 1895 and 1905. Three quarters of a million soldiers were slaughtered on the Western Front and elsewhere. They were known as the Lost Generation and the Flowers of the Forest , many of them left behind widows and orphans.
It was therefore not unusual to see a young widowed mother with her children having to be taken in by family. Therefore Harry Bird's story of Gertrude being the wife of his dead brother would not have raised any suspicions.
Many remained Spinsters throughout their lives, becoming teachers, nurses and nannies, looking after other peoples babies to fulfill their maternal instincts. 'Universal Aunts' was set up and many of these women stayed with their families for the rest of their lives. " We adored her; she was in every sense a member of the family" one of these children remembered in later life.
Many travelled and became active in politics and the Unions

A vaudeville song summed up the options

I think we would all prefer
marriage with strife
Than to be on the shelf
As nobody's wife....
Kitchen at the YMCA Aldwych Hostel in London.

The Aldwych was one of the night hostels which the YMCA opened for troops to stay in London. The hostels were near London Bridge and near the Euston, Waterloo, Kings Cross, Paddington and other stations.


When men went to the trenches their wives often went to the pub.. There were concerns over excessive drinking in the autumn of 1914. Council inspectors seemed most concerned about the impact of boozing by women. In London areas such as Southwark Waterloo and Paddington police were often called after complaints about intoxicated women "making scenes". The trend prompted moral outrage among many observers, with calls for the Government to take action to keep women out of bars, for publicans to stop serving them, and even for changes to the design of pubs, to discourage female drinkers .Closing times were changed from 12.30 am to 10pm. In December 1914 women were banned from drinking in the morning and beer consumption fell by 20%.

In 1916 the matter was debated by magistrates in Bootle, on Merseyside, and the Liverpool Echo – under the headline “Light on the ways of women drinkers” – reported that “the great increase in the number of women visiting public houses during the past year has demanded drastic treatment”.


Neither Gertrude or Dorothy had to work or were called up....

Neither Gertrude or Dorothy had to work or were called up....

Sailmaking 1918

Sailmaking 1918



WW1 Savings

WW1 Savings

Women played an important role in persuading men to join the army. In August 1914, Admiral Charles Fitzgerald founded the Order of the White Feather. This organisation encouraged women to give out white feathers to young men who had not joined the army.
The government became concerned when women began presenting state employees with white feathers. It was suggested to Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary, that these women should be arrested for "conduct likely to disrupt the police". McKenna refused but he did arrange for state employees to be issued with badges testifying that they were serving 'King and Country'.

Women's Land Army was set up in 1917 to provide a female workforce to run farms, it quickly boasted 113,000 recruits.


The Women's Army Auixiliary Corps ( WAAC ) was formed to free experienced soldiers from the rear areas for front line service. The WAAC arrived on the western front on 31st March 1917.

Children in a dugout during raids

Children in a dugout during raids

How will you fare, sonny, how will you fare
In the far-off winter night
When you sit by the fire in the old man's chair
And your neighbours talk of the fight?

Will you slink away, as it were from a blow,
Your old head shamed and bent?
Or say, 'I was not with the first to go,
But I went, thank God, I went'?
Harold Begbie 1914



Delivering milk

Delivering milk
A bus conductress between 20 and 35 yrs, 5' to 5'10 with a week's training could straight away get £2 a week. Before the war the average woman's wage was 11s 7d a week.
In 1915 a policy of temporary 'women substitutes' was introduced. In June 1915, Maida Vale station opened with an all female staff. Tram and bus companies were slower to implement this policy, but eventually followed suit. On 1 November 1915, the first woman conductor began work on a Thomas Tilling No 37 bus, and the LGOC followed in March 1916. A total of 3500 women were hired by LGOC during the war. Women were dismissed when the war was over and issued service certificates from their employers.