Category Archives: WW1

No Petticoats Here

No Petticoats Here tells the stories of remarkable women who lived during the First World War, through song. As a folk singer, songwriter and some time teacher of history I take great interest in combining music with stories from the past. Frustrated at the relatively small amount of attention given to women’s stories during the centenary commemorations of the First World War, I decided to look closer at women’s achievements from this period.

My research took me from Flanders to the battlefields of the Somme, through the doors of many museums and research centres and brought me into contact with some incredible historians and authors as well as the relatives of some of these incredible women. Continue reading No Petticoats Here

Mary Quaile

Mary  Quaile was born in Dublin on 8 August  1886. The Quailes emigrated to England in 1889 or 1890.  Mary left school aged 12, working as a domestic servant,  which she later described as “by no means a bed of roses.”  She went abroad, working in the French port of Brest for a time where she gained a working knowledge of French,  a skill that no doubt  later proved very useful at international trade union meetings. Back in Manchester she became enthused by trade unionism after  the well-known trade union organiser Margaret Bondfield came to Manchester to  organise women workers. Continue reading Mary Quaile

Rosa Luxemburg

Rosa Luxemburg died when she was just 47 years old, and was described as a small, frail woman. But in those 47 years she managed to pack enough in for two lifetimes and leave a huge impression on the world which she left behind.

Rosa was born in Russian-ruled Poland to a Jewish family in 1871, the youngest of 5 children. She was a keen learner from a young age, learning to read and write by the time she was 5. At the same age she suffered a hip complaint which left her with a limp she would live with for the rest of her life. She was home educated until she was 9 when she was accepted to a prestigious girls’ gymnasium. Rosa performed well at school, but was denied the recognition she deserved; she wasn’t given the gold medal that other girls earned for their achievements because of what the school called ‘an oppositional attitude toward the authorities’ – an attitude which wouldn’t leave her any time soon! There was a lot of anti-Jewish and anti-Polish sentiment at the school, which was mostly full of the daughters of Russian soldiers and nobility. She wasn’t allowed to speak Polish while she was there, only Russian. Continue reading Rosa Luxemburg

Dr Elsie Inglis

“In Scotland they made her a Doctor, In Serbia we would have made her a Saint.” – Serbian saying.

Elsie Inglis was born in Naini Tal, India to Scottish parents. Her father was employed by the East India Company and the family returned to Edinburgh in 1878 when Elsie was 14. Elsie’s parents believed, unusual for this time, that both boys and girls should have equal access to education and were supportive of Elsie’s decision to study medicine. Women won the right to obtain medical degrees in 1876 and when the Edinburgh School of Medicine for Women was opened in 1886 Elsie decided to study there, graduating in 1892. Continue reading Dr Elsie Inglis

Esther Roper

What connects Winston Churchill, women’s trades unions, Irish independence, an early 20th century magazine opposing traditional gender concepts and a suffrage petition long enough to carpet a railway platform?

The answer is Esther Roper: suffragist, labour organiser and pioneering writer on gender and sexuality.
Continue reading Esther Roper

Mary Lindell Part 1

Born on 11th September 1895, Mary Ghita Lindell was on course to live an intriguing life. She was nearly 19 when the Great War broke out and her father said ‘The honour of Great Britain is saved. We are now at war with Germany. Mary you will have to go.’

So Mary Lindell, as expected, enlisted in the Red Cross’s Volunteer Aid Detachment. While with the VAD she had her first run in with hierarchy; this would lead to her being imprisoned for one night in a stable block, taking the form of two altercations with the same Matron. One day VAD Lindell had the unenviable task of  Continue reading Mary Lindell Part 1

Katherine Harley

Katherine Harley sits at the desk
Katherine Harley sits at the desk

Katherine Mary Harley nee French, sister of Sir John French, (leader of the British army at the outbreak of World War 1,) and Charlotte Despard, was born on May 3rd 1855, less than three months after the death of her father. Her childhood was blighted by her mother’s ill health and by the age of ten she was an orphan. Katherine was sent to boarding school and then travelled to India to stay with her sister Maggie. There she met and married George Ernest Harley, a soldier. A little over a year later still in India she gave birth to her first child Florence.[i]

Continue reading Katherine Harley