Saturday, 16 March 2019

The Contribution made by Women during the First World War

In June 1918, on the occasion of the Royal Couple’s Silver Wedding Anniversary, King George V made the following public declaration:

“When the history of our Country’s share in the war is written, no chapter will be more remarkable than that relating to the range and extent of women’s participation … Some even have fallen under the fire of the enemy.  Of all these we think today with reverent pride. “

Agnes Conway, “Women’s War Work” in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 23, pp 1054 – 1064, 1922 in “A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War” (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2018) p. 271.

The Congress of Allied Women on War Service was held in the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris on 18th August 1918. The following message from the British Prime Minister (by then David Lloyd George) was read out:-

"I extremely regret that it is impossible for me to fulfil my undertaking to address the great gathering of women war workers in Paris. I regret it all the more because I was very anxious to bear testimony to the tremendous part which women have played in this vital epoch in human history. They have not only borne their burden of sorrow and separation with unflinching fortitude and patience; they have assumed an enormous share of the burdens necessary to the practical conduct of the war.

If it had not been for the splendid manner in which the women came forward to work in hospitals, in munition factories, on the land, in administrative offices of all kinds, and in war work behind the lines, often in daily danger of their lives, Great Britain and, as I believe, all the Allies would have been unable to withstand the enemy attacks during the past few months. For this service to our common cause humanity owes them unbounded gratitude.

In the past I have heard it said that women were not fit for the vote because they would be weak when it came to understanding the issues and bearing the strains of a great war. My recent experience in South Wales confirmed me in the conviction that the women there understand perfectly what is at stake in this war.

I believe that they recognise as clearly as any that there can be no peace, no progress, no happiness in the world so long as the monster of militarism is able to stalk unbridled and unashamed among the weaker peoples. To them this war is a crusade for righteousness and gentleness, and they do not mean to make peace until the Allies have made it impossible for another carnival of violence to befall mankind. I am certain that this resolution of the women of South Wales is but typical of the spirit of the women in the rest of Great Britain.

This war was begun in order that force and brutality might crush out freedom among men. Its authors cannot have foreseen that one of its main effects would be to give to women a commanding position and influence in the public affairs of the world. To their ennobling influence we look not only for strength to win the war but for inspiration during the great work of reconstruction which we shall have to undertake after victory is won.

The women who have flocked to France to work for the Allies are among the foremost leaders of this great movement of regeneration. My message to their representatives gathered together in Paris is this: "Well done; carry on. You are helping to create a new earth for yourselves and for your children."


Monday, 11 March 2019

Margaret Mayne, ARRC, NSI (1880 – 1917) – British nurse

With thanks to Heather Johnson for sharing this information about Margaret Mayne, who is not included on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War.

Margaret, known as Madge, was born on 21st September 1880 in  Ballinamallard, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. Her parents were George Wesley Mayne (born c1840) and his third wife Anna, nee Shepherd. The family were Methodists.

Margaret trained as a nurse at North Staffordshire Infirmary, Hartshill, Stoke Upon Trent. Immediately World War One broke out, she came down to the Harwich Garrison Hospital in Essex (Great Eastern Hotel) with two other trained nurses from Stoke Infirmary. Margaret took charge of the Surgical Ward.

On 29th April 1917, Margaret died of Cerebral-spinal meningitis, three days after admission to the local Infections Hospital.   She was buried on 3rd May 1917 in Colchester Cemetery – the local newspaper reported “Over 200 bunches of primroses were received from the patients at the Harwich Hospital.” The primroses were placed in the form of a cross over the grave. The following month the R.R.C. medal that Margaret had been awarded was sent to her mother in Ballinamalla.

A Memoral Plaque, designed by British sculptor Ellen Mary Rope (1855–1934), was commissioned in honour of Margaret (it gives 20th as date of death). It used to hang in the old North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary’s chapel but, when the new hospital premises were built, it was felt that the plaque and a First World War Memorial Board would not be appropriate in the new building and the plaque remained in situ! However, thanks mainly to the efforts of one significant local historian John Mason Sneddon, the plaque now hangs in the public Atrium of the new Royal Stoke University Hospital – for all to see.

Interestingly, the plot (which is in the area of our military graves) is not owned and it must have been felt appropriate to bury Margaret there and give permission for the Celtic Cross headstone to be erected.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Winifred Helen Butenshaw (1883 - 1919) – VAD

Winifred Helen Butenshaw was born on 5th April 1883.  Her parents were Agnes Harard Burtenshaw, nee Stone, and Ephraim Burtenshaw, who were married 5th June 1880 in Kent. Ephraim was a plumber and painter.  Winifred’s siblings were, Edith A., b. 1882, Mabel T., b. 1882, Charles J.G.H., b. 1888, Allan E., b. 1890 and Arthur, b. 1897.  By 1891 the family were living in Tilehurst, Berkshire.  They moved to Yew Cottage in Sulham, Berkshire.

During the First World War, Winifred joined the local Voluntary Aid Detachment and became a trained nurse.

Winifred’s Great-Niece Ann Langley says: “Growing up I heard various references to my Great Aunt Winifred which I was able to verify in later years. Speaking to various folk in the small village where she lived - Sulham, Berkshire - who still knew the story as it had been handed down and where she is buried with unusually a red cross on her headstone.

At some time she was kicked in the stomach by a soldier and during the operation for her injuries she died. Her death certificate says that she had cervical cancer.  This is where the story gets strange.
There are no Red Cross Records except the number of hours she worked. The R C journal for that month gives small obituaries for 2 other nurses but only that Winifred had died. 2 days after her death she was buried with full military honours by high ranking army officials. There is no record or death notice in a Reading paper, only an In Memoriam a year later.

The Imperial War Museum has a few photos.   Research was done by a member of Reading library where very little more was found.   On her gravestone it reads - Winifred Butenshaw who gave her life for her country on October 21 1919 aged 36. 'Ever strong and steadfast always kind and true . In all change and trouble helping others through'.”

With grateful thanks to Ann Langley for telling me Winifred's story.  Winifred is not listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission List of Female Casualties of the First World War.

The photograph of Helen is from the collection made for the nation by Agnes Conway of the Imperial War Museum's Women's Committee.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Inez Milholland (1886 - 1916) - American Feminist Activist and Journalist

Inez Milholland (1886 - 1916) was an American feminist activist and journalist. She was born on 6th August 1886 in Brooklyn, New York.

In 1913, Inez organised the March for Women's Suffrage held in Washington, D.C., U.S.A.  She led the parade on a white horse.

During the First World War, Inez was an official war correspondent for a Canadian newspaper on the Italian Front, where she had acces to the front lines. 

Inez died on 22nd October 1916 during a speaking tour of the United States.

Inez featured in one of the very first commemorative exhibitions we held and is in the book of that exhibition "No Wman's Land: A Centenary Tribute to Inspirational Women of World War One", which is available via Amazon.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Mary Ann Eliza Young (1884 - 1919) - British Nurse

Nurse MARY ANN ELIZA YOUNG. Mary was born in Cardiff in 1884 - baptized on 12th April 1884.  Her parents were John Roger and Mercy Young of Machen Place, Riverside, Cardiff, Wales.  Mary was an Assistant Mistress at Lansdowne Road Council School, Cardiff before the war.

Mary is the only female student to feature on the First World War Roll of Honour of Cheltenham Training College, where she trained as a teacher from 1903 – 1905. Mary joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment on 19th October 1915 and worked initially at the Western General Hospital in Cardiff.

Posted to the 57th General Hospital in France on 15th July 1917, Mary worked in hospitals in Boulogne and Marseilles.  Mary died of pneumonia on 13th February 1919 at the age of 35 and was buried in Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseilles, Bouches-du-Rhone, France - Grave Reference: III. A. 57.

Sources: British Red Cross WW1 Records and

Marguerite Maude McArthur (1892 - 1919) - British

Civilian MARGUERITE MAUDE McARTHUR, a volunteer with the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). Marguerite was born on 25th March 1892 in Kensington, London, UK.  Her parents were Allen Gordon McArthur, a barrister and J.P., who was born in Australia, and Emma Maude Finley McArthur, nee Finlay, who was born in Canada. 

Marguerite had a brother, Alexander and a sister, Kathleen. Marguerite was educated at Norland Place School in Notting Hill Gate, London, Newnham College, Cambridge and then in Dresden in Germany.

When war broke out, Marguerite was visiting family in Canada.  She returned to Britain in October 1914 and immediately volunteered. She worked in the War Office Translation Bureau fro two years due to her language skills. From March 1918 Marguerite worked for the Army Education Service of the YMCA, teaching in Etaples, France.

Marguerite died of pneumonia on 13th February 1919, at the age of 26 and was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France - Grave Reference: XLV. B. 7. After her death, Marguerite’s friend Josephione Kellett put together a book about her which is available here:   I urge you to read it!

Doris Mary Luker

Worker DORIS MARY LUKER, No. 6947 of the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps.

Doris died of pneumonia on 13th February 1919 at the age of 21. Doris’s parents were James George and Mary Maria Luker, nee Ryder, of Woking, Surrey, and she had a sister called Effie, b. 1893 and a brother called James Ryder Luker b. 1896, who became a Private in the London Regiment in WW1 and died on 15th September 1916. 

Doris joined the QMAAC in January 1917, and had been in France 12 months when she died. She was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais France - Grave Reference: LXXII. B.15.