I know a fair bit about my grandfathers’ lives during Word War One. It’s always easy to find out about men’s lives in wartime. In the case of servicemen, every posting is recorded in their service records. For those back home, employed in essential services or too old to fight, there are always work records or census details. But what about the women? What about my grandmothers?
I never met my paternal grandmother – Mary Hendry – but as both she and my maternal grandmother – Harriet Davenport – were young mothers during the 1914/18 conflict, I can only assume they remained at home raising their children while faced with diminishing resources and increasing food shortages. In my paternal grandmother’s case, she raised her family as a single parent under the constant worry that her husband may not return from the front.
But for many single women who found employment it was an exciting time. For the first time in their lives they were earning decent money which allowed them to live independent lives. I’ve just watched Katie Adie’s Women of World War One which is a fascinating look at how The Great War changed women’s lives and led – eventually – to women finally receiving the vote. (Women over 30 got the vote in 1918, all women over 21 in 1928. All men over 21 got the vote in 1918.)
Here’s a clip from Youtube, but please try to catch the whole programme. It’s available on BBC iPlayer until midnight on Tuesday August 19th.