Volunteers and Voters

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The First World War led, temporarily at least, to shifts in the lives and expectations of women on the Home Front. Whilst there has been much attention given to women who worked during the conflict, the majority of women who remained in the domestic sphere, have received less attention, although they were far from idle.

1921 Hut opening Mrs hooper & Visctess Deerhurst

The first Hon Secretary and Hon President of Pershore WI photographed in 1921: (left to right) Mrs Edith Woodman Hooper and Viscountess Deerhurst (image courtesy of Pershore WI)

Voluntary organisations, such as the newly established Women’s Institutes, enabled women both to organise each other for the war effort, and to  be represented on local government boards, such as Food Control Committees.

A clear example of the consequence of these changes can be seen in 1916, when the committee of the newly established Pershore WI included, as Hon President, Viscountess Deerhurst, aristocratic daughter-in-law of the 9th Earl of Coventry; the Hon Secretary was Mrs Edith Woodman Hooper, the wife of Geoffrey Fielder Hooper, a wealthy middle-class market gardener, and one of its members was Gertrude Annie Chick, a working-class dressmaker.

This research website explores the new spheres available to domestic women as a result of the growth of women’s organisations in WW1 and its aftermath. In so doing it will contribute to the on-going debates over the significance of WW1 as an agent of social change for women, from which domestic women have been largely excluded.

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