Tag Archives: World War One

Unsung Heroines:Betty, Flora, Jessie and more

‘There’s the girl who clips your ticket for the train,
And the girl who speeds the lift from floor to floor,
There’s the girl who does a milk-round in the rain,
And the girl who calls for orders at your door.
Strong, sensible, and fit,
They’re out to show their grit,
And tackle jobs with energy and knack.
No longer caged and penned up,
They’re going to keep their end up
‘Til the khaki soldier boys come marching back.

There’s the motor girl who drives a heavy van,
There’s the butcher girl who brings your joint of meat,
There’s the girl who calls ‘All fares please!’ like a man,
And the girl who whistles taxi’s up the street.
Beneath each uniform
Beats a heart that’s soft and warm,
Though of canny mother-wit they show no lack;
But a solemn statement this is,
They’ve no time for love and kisses
Till the khaki soldier boys come marching back.

Jessie Pope wrote this poem in 1916/7 to let people know about all the jobs that women were doing then that seemed to be hidden from open view. All the jobs that they were capable of, and that men had not thought that they could do.

I thought that I would write about a couple of the type of women mentioned in the poem, that I have found out about. there are a great many resourceso n this topic available now but I could not cover every such woman, so I just picked a few interesting ones – to me at any rate!

The first is Betty Stevenson. She was a YMCA volunteer who went to France to help in the rest huts provided for front line troops. Around 40,000 women served as volunteers for the YMCA during the First World War, providing their own expenses as well as being unpaid.

Betty drove lorries from the stores to the huts providing food, and transporting relatives to injured soldiers. She also drove food out to refugees which was how she finally died during an air raid. The French Govt awarded her the Croix De Guerre.

The only woman soldier enlisted in the British Army managed the feat by passing herself off as a man.  Dorothy Lawrence, a 20-year-old ambitious journalist, joined in 1915 the B.E.F. Tunnelling Company using the alias Denis Smith, aided by some sympathetic men. [http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/womenww1_one.htm]

During the First World War, Kathleen Scott transported cars and ambulances to France, helped in a French Army hospital in a chateau in France – which she located – recruited her friends to war work, worked in the Vickers Factory in Erith making electrical coils and worked with plastic surgeons on the re-creation of badly disfigured faces.

Mary Borden set up a mobile hospital unit on the Western Front that nursed soldiers wounded in Ypres and Somme with her own money. She served as a nurse until the end of war.

Dame Helen Charlotte Isabella Gwynne-Vaughan became the Controller of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in France. She also became the first woman to receive a military Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1918. Dame Gwynne-Vaughan served as Commandant of the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) from September 1918 until December 1919.

There was Evelina Haverfield  who founded the Women’s Emergency Corps. In 1915, she volunteered to join the Scottish Women’s Hospitals in Serbia as a nurse. in contrast Dr. Elsie Inglis fought against the prejudice against female doctors and started the Scottish Women’s Hospital Unit, one of the few female medical units on the front.

Helen Fairchild staffed a medical unit at the Western front at Passchendaele in Belgium whilst Julia Hunt Catlin Taufflieb converted the Chateau d’Annel into a 300-bed hospital on the front line.

Lucy London has created a great list on her blog of the Inspirational Women who worked during World War One. which I am copying here. http://inspirationalwomenofww1.blogspot.co.uk/2013_09_01_archive.html

Anna Airy (1882 – 1964) British Artist.  One of the first women to be commissioned as a war artist
Mildred Aldrich (1853 – 1928) America writer.  Lived in Paris for 16 years prior to WW1, retired to the Marne in July 1914 and wrote about her “Little House on The Marne” in the early days of the war.
Clare Atwood (1866 – 1962) British Artist
Gertrude Bell – British spy (and a lot more – do read her biography , it is fascinating. Lots of stuff about deserts and sheiks!
Lady Blomfield (1859 – 1939) born Ireland
Maria Bochkareva – Russian woman soldier – recruited over 2,000 women into the Russian Army
Mary Booth (1869 – 1956) – Australian Pyhsician and Welfare Worker
Maude Bruce – forewoman at Munitions Factory in Gretna, awarded medal for extreme bravery
Lady Elizabeth Butler (b. 1846) – military artist/illustrator – sister of Alice Meynell the poet
The Dick Kerr’s Ladies Football Team – Dick Kerr’s Factory, Preston – raised large sums of money for the war effort by playing football, organising matches after their factory shifts were over
Dora Carrington – artist
Edith Cavell – British nurse shot as a spy for helping British soldiers to escape after the early battles of the War
Dorothy J. Coke – artist
Maria Corelli (1855 – 1924)  – British novelist who sold more books than Conan Doyle, Wells and Kipling combined;  9 films were made of her novels
Dorothy Crewdson (b. 1886) – British nurse
Marie Curie – created mobile radiography units for use in WW1
Margaret Damar Dawson – woman police officer in munitions factory
Janet Daniels – Munitions factory worker – awarded medal for extreme bravery
Joyce Dennys (1893 – 1991) – served as a VAD in Cornwall – War Artist for the “Daily Sketch”
Jessica Dismorr (1885 – 1939) – British painter/illustrator (Vorticist Movement) served as a VAD, nursing in France
Olive Edis (1876 – 1955) – Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society 1914 – Official War artist
Helen Fairchild (died 7th July 1917) – American – assigned to duty as a nurse in France 7th July 1917, died 18th January 1918
Elsie Mabel Gladstone – British nurse, killed in WW1 (buried Belgrade Cemetery, Namur, Belgium)
Norah Neilso Gray (1882 – 1931) – war artist
Margaret Haig Thomas (1883 – 1958) – Welsh – saved with her Father from the Lusitania
Mary Riter Hamilton – Canadian artist who went to paint the Aftermath in Flanders
Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960) – American writer
Dr. Elsie Inglis (1864 – 1917) – Scottish doctor and suffragist; founded Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Service in WW1 (France, Serbia and Russia) and went to Serbia to run a hospital
Elsie Janis – American entertainer who went to entertain the troops in France/Belgium
Gwen John – War Artist
M. Jones – nurse – described air raids in Salonika
Lucy Elizabeth Kemp-Welch (1869 – 1958) – military artist
Bahiyyih Khanum (1846 – 1932) daughter of the founder of the Baha’i Faith – imprisoned in 1867 at the age of 21 and freed in 1980.
Olive May Kelson King (1885 – 1958) – Australian.  Funded and drove ambulances in France and Serbia.
Dame Laura Knight (nee Johnson) – (1877 – 1970) – British war artist
Ellen La Motte – American nurse who wrote about her experiences in WW1
Dorothy Lawrence – British Journalist – enlisted in BEF Tunnelling Company as Denis Smith in 1915
Flora Lion (1878 – 1958) – British artist commissioned by Ministry of Information to paint factory scenes
Elizabeth Lucas (wife of poet E.V. Lucas) – founded a children’s home behind the lines in France WW1
Misstanguett – (1875 – 1956) French entertainer and spy WW1
Olive Mudie-Cooke – British artist – drove ambulances in France and Italy WW1
Rose O’Neil (1874 – 1944) – American sculptor, suffragist, inventor, novelist, poet, musician, creator of Kewpie dolls
Gabrielle Petit (1893 – 1916) – Belgian spy – executed
Ellie Annie Rout (1877 – 1936) – New Zealand – pioneer in sexual transmitted diseases in WW1
Helen Saunders – artist
Kathleen Scott ((1878 – 1947) – sculptor. Wife of the explorer Captain Scott of the Antarctic (later Baroness Kennet).  Among other things, she worked on innovative plastic surgery treatments WW1
Nellie Spindler – British nurse killed i WW1 on the Western Front (buried Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium)
Mabel Annie St Clair Stobart (1862 – 1954) Founder of The Women’s Sick and Wounded Convoy Corps who organised hospitals in France and Belgium for St. John’s Ambulance  in WW1
Elizabeth Ann Slater Weaver (1878 – 1956) – housewife/weaver who lived in Burnley, Lancashire
Bertha (Betty) Stevenson (1896 – 1918) – British – YMCA volunteer killed in the line of duty May 1918 and buried with full military honours in Etaples Military Cemetery
Mrs Mary Humphrey Ward (1851 – 1920) – first woman journalist to visit the Western Front trenches
Maria Yurlova – Armenian Cossack Soldier
Clara Zetkin – Founder of International Women’s Movement

What did World War One really do for Women: a feminist perspective

How did WW1 most change life for women?

The last hundred years has seen a transformation in women’s lives. How much of this change dates back to the four years of World War One – and what was the biggest change in women’s lives as a result of the conflict?

WW1 historian, Prof. Margaret MacMillan

The war changed women’s lives, and in some ways for the better. They showed society that they were able to do men’s jobs and were intellectually more than capable of taking part in society. However, those gains could not be completely consolidated after the war was over; many women were forced from their jobs once the men returned and expected to go back into domestic life. Many women had earned the right to vote, but such things as going to university or standing as MPs were still overwhelmingly the preserve of men.

War historian, Dr. Jonathan Boff

One of the biggest improvements in the lives of women during the First World War was in the area of health. Women lived longer and healthier lives after the war and lost fewer children in infancy. During and after the war infant mortality was reduced by two thirds. The explanations are complex, but better living standards and nutrition are a large part of the answer. Smaller households and earnings rising faster than food prices meant there was more food to go around. Housewives shopped more carefully. And government policy, such as rationing and restrictions on pubs, may also have helped.

Suffragette expert, Elizabeth Crawford

At the end of World War One, women’s lives were revolutionised by the 1918 Representation of the People Act. While men were granted the vote at 21, the suffragists pragmatically settled for a lesser measure for women, knowing that, as voters, they could exercise direct influence on parliament.

WW1 historian, Dr. Krisztina Robert

At first glance progress [after the war] seems limited. Nevertheless, women’s extensive war participation helped convince politicians and the public about their suitability for citizenship, leading to full enfranchisement in 1928. Furthermore, many women developed new skills, self-confidence and contacts in their war jobs and were able to capitalise on these gains after the war in terms of greater freedoms both at work and in personal relationships.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z9bf9j6#zyhmyrd

So what do you think? Do you agree with these experts?

I am finding the history of the Feminist movement quite fascinating at the moment and so I have decided what topics I shall be writing about in the next months – see my list  below – as well as my occasional other blogs about all the other stuff I have been up to.. I shall be very busy now that I have a second blog operating on WordPress too – all about our Pop-Up university – see link.

List of Feminist things to cover:

  • French Feminism
  • Emily Pankhurst (and WW1)
  • Enfranchisement
  • Education for Women
  • The feminist impact on: Prison Reform; Social Reform
  • Gertrude Jekyll and Housing

This list will be added to as each item is covered.. so keep a look out for what is coming next.