New Roles for Women
The following information has been kindly donated by Athelstan Museum, and the images are with permission of the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, and Godolphin School:
New Roles for Women
As the war progressed more men joined the armed services creating difficulty on the home front as businesses and other organisations struggled with fewer workers. Nearly 1 Million women took jobs as nurses, in new areas like the munitions industry and a greater role in agriculture whilst others moved into places which had been male preserves such as government departments and clerical posts.
Godolphin School’s Summer 1916 magazine provided information about the employment of old mistresses and girls. Most were nursing or teaching but others had found clerical work in a number of different organisations – examples of their comments are shown.
The Post Office employed many ex-servicemen who were recalled which created labour shortages whilst the workload increased. Women filled the gap. The Wilts and Gloucester Standard reported the situation in Malmesbury:
LADY “POSTMEN.”- Miss Nellie Paginton, of Bristol-street, and Miss Jennie Adye, of High-street, have been initiated into the duties of letter carrying and delivery, and as auxiliary “postmen” are filling their new positions very creditably. Each wears an armlet and carries her own bag of letters, and on these dark mornings and evenings the familiar bulls-eye lantern is an essential that has not been omitted. For the public spirit and enterprise these young girls are exhibiting we wish them good luck.
A shortage of men in Swindon led to the town getting its first lady tram conductors in March 1917.
The situation was different in the county’s police. Women’s Patrols were first discussed in May 1917 when the idea was dismissed. It was reconsidered in January 1918 when despite support from the Chairman it was again rejected. Wiltshire Police did not appoint Woman Constables until 1942. However the City of Salisbury with its separate Police force (until 1943) took a different stance – see the story of Florence Mildred White.