Sunday, 28 June 2015

Schoolgirls and War Work

 From The Times, 26th June 1915.



What schoolgirls have done during the past 10 months of war has passed comparatively unnoticed. They have been somewhat unjustly overshadowed by their elders.

When war first broke out it occurred to Miss F. R. Gray, the headmistress of St. Paul's Girls' School, Hammersmith, that the thousands of girls in secondary schools, most of them with relatives at the front and all of them burning with desire to help, would be, if organized, a splendid asset to the service of the country.  The Association of Headmistresses took up the idea with enthusiasm, and in a short while 325 girls' schools in all parts of the country had joined in forming the Girls' Patriotic Union at Secondary Schools.  Princess Mary became patroness, and Miss Robertson, Principal of Christ's Hospital, the then president of the Association of Headmistresses, the president.

Schools were strongly advised from the first to work in connexion with local organizations and to ascertain their probable needs before undertaking any work.  Almost the first suggestion of national service was found in a suggestion in one of the early circulars that girls should learn and practise all kinds of domestic work so as to set older women free to do work that girls could not do.

The record of these schoolgirls' work since August contains many thousands of acts of self-denial.  Sugar, cakes and sweets, the prizes or part of their value, were given up to Red Cross or relief funds.  Pocket money was used for contributing to various funds; half games subscriptions were devoted to buying materials; outside matches were relinquished and railway fares paid to relief funds; half-holidays were given up to set free other people, men and women, for war work.

Many schools were connected with local service hospitals and assisted in equipping them, providing bed linen, swabs, bandages, and all necessaries.  One school supplied for the use of the wounded stamped envelopes containing a sheet of paper and a pencil with a message of good wishes from the sender. Others did mending for neighbouring hospitals and troops quartered in their neighbourhood.  A few, like the Manchester High School, supplied quantities of jam, which the men much preferred to the ordinary camp preserves.

Sometimes a distraught mayoress of a town wanted warm garments for soldiers as quickly as possible, and the girls never failed her.  Secretarial work was done for local Red Cross centres; wither pads were made for horses at the front, books were collected for the troops, flowers were sent to hospitals, motor-cars were begged from parents and friends to take convalescent soldiers for drives; and boxes were placed conspicuously for self-denial money for hospital comforts.  Elder girls who had mastered French and who formed a Girls' Guide Corps at one school, became extraordinarily useful in helping with refugees, interpreting at some of the centres.

The schools in the long list include names well known in every part of the United Kingdom, from Dr. Sophie Bryant's North London Collegiate School to Miss Mackillop's Victoria High School in Derry.  Every denomination is represented in that patriotic company.

 [Although it is not mentioned, I think that the schools involved in the Girls' Patriotic Union were all private schools.  The minimum school leaving age at this time was 12, and in working class families, children had to leave school to start earning as soon as possible. The luxury of 'self-denial' and giving up outside matches and half-holidays was reserved for girls from richer families.]

Saturday, 27 June 2015

A Halifax Firm's Part in the War

From the Halifax Courier, June 26th 1915


From Brunswick Mills, Halifax, there are 26 employés serving with the colours in different regiments.  To the dependents of these the firm are very generously making an allowance of £1 per week.  Their fellow workers also maintain an interest in them, and this week they have subscribed to send out to them a parcel each of varied useful goods, together with an address, signed on their behalf by Mr. Middleton, the manager, wishing them good luck and safe return.  The workers at the mills have in other ways been doing their bit since the war began, having subscribed £26 17s. 6d. to the Mayor's Fund, £21 2s. 6d. to the Belgian Refugees' Fund, and £20 to the "Courier" Comforts Fund.  One of the employés with the colours, Lce.-Cpl. Crossley, of the Scots Fusiliers, is at present on furlough recovering from frost bite contracted at the front; Pte. Patchett, of the Coldstream Guards, is on special duty in London, having been incapacitated by wounds in action; and Pte. Harry Walker, of the 2nd Duke's, is in hospital at Darwen suffering from gas.  The remaining 23 are either at the front or completing their training.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Bread for Prisoners of War

From the Halifax Courier, June 26th 1915

For some time now we have received some 200 loaves a week from kind ladies in Halifax, and a few just outside it.  This bread has been sent, the day after receipt to somebody’s father or son held in a Germany as a prisoner.  We know of just 100 of them, and each has been getting two loaves every 8 days.  Cannot we induce another 100 ladies to put their names on our list, promising two loaves apiece fortnightly?  We should like them to do so, and then we would ask our very splendid helpers of the past weeks not to send in oftener than fortnightly.  No lady has uttered the slightest grumble, or asked for this relief, but we feel the alternative scheme we have suggested would be desirable, only fair.

[List of bread-makers follows.]

[It seems extraordinary that the Courier should be sending bread from Halifax to camps in Germany - but presumably they had evidence that the loaves were still edible when they arrived. ]

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Breconshire War Fund

From the Brecon County Times, 24th June 1915.

[This is a short extract from a long article reviewing the organisation of Breconshire's support for local people affected by the war. I have picked out first the paragraph that shows how local support for the dependents of serving soldiers and sailors was necessary, even though the Governemet was in theory providing a Separation Allowance.  Secondly, I include the section that anticipates the help that would be required after the end of the war for the families of men killed or injured, and even for those of returning men.]  


Splendid Organisation and Splendid Work.
More Money Required to Provide for Big Future Needs.

All cases requiring relief have been considered, visited and helped.  Soldiers' wives and dependents have been assisted in claiming their separation allowances, sometimes a matter of difficulty, especially at first, and relief has been afforded until the Government allowance was received.  In this way a great amount of hardship and distress has been prevented, as in several cases months elapsed before the War Office payments began.  These many activities have involved an enormous amount of work, all done voluntarily and willingly, and the county is under a heavy debt of gratitude to those who have so readily given time and trouble to the good cause.  This debt of gratitude can and we believe will be discharged in the best possible way, by a renewed inflow of subscriptions.  This, we know, is the only kind of thanks the workers want.

Up to the time of writing some 620 cases of soldiers and sailors' wives and dependents had relieved.  Detailed particulars of every one of these are not yet to hand but they are available in 595 cases, and show no less than 1,550 persons have been helped—375 wives, 955 children and 220 dependents—truly a splendid record.

To anticipate any possible criticism of an appeal for more funds at this stage, when there is a considerable balance in hand, let it be stated—and we appeal to a warm hearted people to believe us on this point without going into many details—that the County Committee have undertaken liabilities which will exhaust their balance in a comparatively short time unless their funds are replenished.  Their beneficent operations will need to be carried on not only until the close of the war, but for an indefinite period afterwards.  There will be families left without breadwinners, and maimed soldiers will be coming home and requiring a helping hand to prove to them that their sacrifices have not been in vain.  Moreover, with the cessation of the War—and this is a big question of liability —separation allowances will stop, and there will be a very large number of families to be maintained until the returned soldiers are settled at their ordinary occupations.  To properly carry out their great task, which is nothing less than to see that not one instance of distress or hardship through the War is to be permitted to exist in Breconshire, the County Committee must be kept continuously in large funds.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Coventry Postwomen

From the Coventry Evening Telegraph, 19th June 1915. 

Postwomen Start Work in Coventry

The patriotism of our women folk, who are displaying the greatest eagerness in taking up work that will allow of men of military age going on service, has been displayed in another direction this week, when in response to the intimation that women were to be introduced into the postal delivery branch of the Post Office a great many ladies have offered their services.  The citizens are now familiar with conductresses on the tram cars, and commencing from Monday next many will have their correspondence delivered by the fair sex.  Consequent upon their special qualifications the men in the employ of the Post Office are particularly useful in the Services, and locally the enlistments from the department have reached a high figure, while many more are waiting to join, but cannot be released on account of shortness of labour.  To overcome this difficulty the authorities have fallen back on the use of female labour for the delivery of letters, and, as an experiment, have engaged five ladies for the work, four whole time, and one for early morning duty.  The postwomen have this week been under instruction, and on Monday will commence duty on their own account.  If the experiment proves successful the number of women employed will be greatly augmented.  Whatever number is required will be easily obtainable from the applications already to hand, for the response has been most spontaneous and gratifying.  Those engaged, besides their patriotic action, will benefit considerably, for good wages — at any rate for women — are offered.  The applicants are of a highly respectable class.

[It's not clear from this whether the women were being paid at the same rate as the men they wee replacing. Whether women should receive equal pay was much discussed when women were recruited into new areas of work.  The comment "good wages — at any rate for women" suggests that in this case they might have been paid a lower rate.] 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

What Should Tram Conductresses wear?

From the Falkirk Herald, 16th June, 1915.



..... I should like to turn attention for a little to the new feature [women conductors] of the tramway system, and perhaps to make a few suggestions if I might be permitted.

Now, the very first requirement on the part of a male person in regard to a feminine worker such as a car conductor is that she must look well.  While he is apt to have scant sympathy or consideration for “a rag and a bone and a hank of hair,” he will be all smiles, apologies, and so forth for the lady whose costume is attractive, whose countenance is unwrinkled, and who generally has nothing about her that can be considered dowdy or slatternly.

So far none of the ladies on the Falkirk tram-way system have come under my notice, but I have seen one or two of those who decorate the back platforms of the Glasgow cars, and it is because of a strong and rather unpleasant recollection of some of these ladies that I'm induced to make the remarks in the foregoing paragraph.  I hope no effort will be made in Falkirk, as one has in Glasgow, to array the women in habiliments which have some vague resemblance to ordinary feminine attire and some to the clothes of the everyday male conductor, but possess the grace of neither.

If any attempt is made to provide the new conductors with uniforms, can’t we have some of the military styles affected by impersonators on the stage?  In "The Gay Gordons" the amiable millionairess who won't marry a lord garbs herself, at one period of the comedy, in a uniform that would do magnificently.  It has the combined attributes of being neat, pretty, and charming.

Or if for any reason uniforms are disliked, why cannot we have up-to-date gowns.  Now that the warm weather is with us, we might have a selection of summery raiment for the "conductresses," and we might even have them provided with parasols to keep the sun off the back of their necks while they were punching our tickets on the upper deck.  And in order that the harmony of the scene might be wholly preserved, we might have the ugly black money bag of the male conductor discarded for something more elegant—say, a silver chain purse of suitable dimensions....

There are many difficulties in the way no doubt, but no excellent work was ever performed without some sort of difficulty having to be met and overcome.  It would be worth the trouble to have such visions on the rear platforms of the cars.  It would quadruple the takings, and do even more in fact if the capacity of the cars would permit.  Why, the whole of those who frequent Newmarket Street of an evening would spend their nights whirling round and round on the circular, and buying nothing more than penny tickets, so that they would all the oftener have the conductress with them.

[I think he's joking - I hope he's joking.  But this whole long piece (which I have cut down - it was considerably longer) does betray a difficulty in taking seriously women who were doing useful work.

Vesta Tilley was the best-known male impersonator of the time.  She was a music-hall star, and dressed in a version of military uniform to put on performances aimed at recruiting men for the army.]  

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Women in Uniform

From the Portsmouth Evening News, 9th June 1915.


Women in Uniform

Every day in town introduces us to women in some new uniform.  We are beginning to get accustomed to the woman who manipulates the lists in the big stores though it is still a little embarrassing to have the large swing doors at the entrance held open by a women.  The woman policeman has been a great feature of the “Women’s Work” Exhibition, and the woman ticket collector carries out her duties with imperturbable self-possession.  Everybody must have noticed that whether an amateur or professional, women seem to be driving nearly half the private cars in town at present.  Only the other day we had a woman “drum major” marching through the town wielding her long baton.  Old members at the clubs have begun to settle down quite comfortably to the presence of woman waitresses, and habitués of the Pall Mall district can see a white-capped, black-dressed maid looking out from an upper window ant the Athenaeum without turning a hair.  But perhaps the limit so far was reached at a local match last Saturday when a woman put on a white coat and umpired, wonderful to relate, to the complete satisfaction of both sides.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Lifebuoy Soap

From the Halifax Courier, 5th June 1915.

Text: SAFEGUARDS. Just as the Navy is the Nation's safeguard, so  is Lifebuoy Soap the safeguard of health.  By reason of its wonderful antiseptic properties combined with its free cleansing  lather, Lifebuoy Soap safeguards health every time it is used.


[I remember Lifebuoy soap from the 1950s. It was a pinky-red colour and smelt of carbolic acid, which gave the antiseptic properties.  It is still made by Unilever, according to the Wikipedia article.

Many ads of the time promoted goods that would be useful to troops in the field, and by extension to the people at home - this is a different approach, in which the armed forces protecting the country are a metaphor for antiseptic protecting the body.] 

Friday, 5 June 2015

Women Workers in Coventry

From the Coventry Evening Telegraph, 5th June, 1915.

The spirit which some of the young women are showing nowadays is enough to shame the able-bodied slacker, though I veritably believe some of this species of gentry are so dead to all sense of manliness that they would be perfectly prepared to remain at home and let their sisters go to the front and fight for them in the trenches.  If anyone wants to contemplate specimens of decadent twentieth century manhood he has only to go and watch the proceedings at the local tennis courts, or to take his stand in the Kenilworth Road of a Saturday afternoon and notice the young motor cyclists who are to be seen in the passing traffic.  Many of the young women of Coventry, on the other hand, would be only too ready to enlist if they were allowed to, and though it has not come to this yet, I am not at all sure that the enrolment of a female battalion—say of shorthand-typists for Army clerking work—might not be a good thing in some respects, for there is a great deal of clerical work being done by men in khaki which could just as well be done by women.  

This week the new tram conductresses of Coventry have made their appearance, and having occasion to go to Leamington yesterday I found the ticket collecting at the station there bring carried out by a couple of young women in official uniforms, while a little later in the streets of the town I met a stalwart young portress pushing a barrow with luggage on it.  All these women are going about their new duties in a perfectly serious and businesslike style, and I have no doubt that each one is inspired by the keen desire to do what she can for her country, and release one more man for the fighting line.  Their efforts should be an example to the hundreds of able-bodied young men of the well-dressed kind whom we can still see going about the streets of Coventry.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Sheffield Tram Conductresses

From the Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 4th June 1915


Women are to be engaged as conductors on the Sheffield trams.  "Fares to the fair" will now be the motto of all passengers, and very nice too.

We do not think there will be any difficulty in working the system.  Chivalrous youths will find it awkward to restrain their offers of a seat to the conductress when they see her standing on the platform, but they must do it.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Llandrindod's Ladies

From the Brecon & Radnor Express, 3rd June 1915. 

Llandrindod's Ladies.


No better work has been done, in connection with the Llandrindod Town Relief Committee, than that accomplished by the clothing sub-committee, of which Mrs G. W. Moseley is the devoted and energetic secretary.  They have sent 129 garments to the local Red Cross hospital; 62 to the British Red Cross Hospital at Rouen; 337 to local men on service; 46 belts and socks in response to the appeal of H.M. the Queen; 41 scarves in response to the appeal of Lady French; 106 garments to the Viscountess de la Panouse for French troops; 59 to Madame Maton for Belgian troops; 82 to Queen Alexandra's Field Forces; 49 to the Ladies' Emergency Committee, Navy League; 85 to the National Fund for Welsh Troops; and 24 to local soldiers' children.  Receipts for all these parcels, which consisted of 1,020 separate garments, have been received.  There are still 72 garments at the depot, and 20 are now being made.  In addition to the above, 139 Christmas gifts were sent to local men on service, the money for which was collected by the ladies of the committee.  These gifts consisted of cigarettes and wallets, and the packing and dispatch was also carried out by the committee.  The ladies are now anxious to receive the names, numbers, companies, and regiments of all local men on service, so that they can be supplied with socks from time to time as required.  The particulars should be sent to Mrs Moseley, the secretary of the committee.

[A very praiseworthy effort, though it seems a bit of a scatter-gun approach to send random numbers of 'garments'  to so many different appeals.  I wonder what the 'garments' were?]