The Role of Women


With the outbreak of war and departure of thousands of men the opportunity arose for women to make their contribution. They wanted to display what they were capable of and to show their patriotism. Women of the suffragette movement as well as those who had not been involved before began to carry out work to help men who had enlisted.

They formed ‘comforts committees’ mainly producing items for the Red Cross Society for the benefit of soldiers and sailors, such as knitting warm clothing for them. Such was their enthusiasm that by the end of February 1915 over 91 thousand articles had been sent to the Front by women in Derbyshire.

In local towns where soldiers had been billeted, local women collected and washed their clothes and delivered meals to them.

Another campaign was the collection of eggs. Many household had hens on their land and in Derbyshire thousands of eggs were collected by women to use for feeding wounded soldiers in Derbyshire Hospitals. There was a national campaign in August and September 1915 to try and collect 1 million eggs, Derbyshire women helped to exceed that target.

Women raised money for the War Effort by holding flag days and flower days.

They helped distribute information and documents.

They took part in paid employment.

Although there had been some female teachers in Derbyshire before 1914, it was a male dominated profession. As male teachers left their jobs to become soldiers there was an opportunity for women to take on the role of educating children.

There were lots of volunteers from the early days of the war for Derbyshire’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) Hospitals. There was one such hospital in Hathersage and one at Longshaw Lodge caring for injured servicemen.

Women soon began to take on other jobs such as factory work, shop work, clerical work, bus conductresses and delivering post. In Bamford, more women were employed at Bamford Mill.

After some resistance from farmers, women took on the role of farm workers. In 1916 Derbyshire Education Committee began teaching farm work for women at Dronfield Woodhouse.

Some employers exploited the situation because they could pay women less than men.