The Channel Islands and the Great War
Women and the War
| 'The Daily Express' of 11th December 1916
stated that "Two and a half years ago the general
public thought women unsuited for most occupations other
than those of a strictly domestic character. Now it is quite
commonly supposed that a woman can do anything after six
weeks training." This change in attitude was apparent
in the Channel Islands as much anywhere else in Britain.
The majority of young women either stayed at home helping
their mothers, worked on the family farm or horticultural
business, or, in the case of less well off families, went
into domestic service until they married and ran their own
households. A smaller number of middle class women had begun
to train as teachers and nurses, a continuation of the traditional
caring role, and wealthier women sometimes undertook voluntary
work of a philanthropic nature.
However, except in larger industrial centres, where relatively
large numbers of women had been working in factories since
the latter part of the nineteenth century, most women's
work was still essentially "of a domestic character",
and usually ceased on marriage.
The huge loss of life early in the Great War changed
all this. It meant that women were suddenly being encouraged
to take on roles traditionally only open to men, to release
more of them for active service at the Front.
A booklet entitled 'Sarnia's Record in the Great War',
by E.V Davis, published soon after the war, notes that
"As early as February 1915
. Sir Reginald
(Hart, The Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey) suggested
female labour at a conference with the Bailiff and Jurats
gently-nurtured girls have since left Guernsey to work
in the Land Army, and in our own island girls have been
pressed into the service of grower and farmer."
|This is supported by an article in the 'Guernsey
Weekly Press' of 3 March 1917, entitled "Can Women
Dig?" This states that Mr Gilroy of Pleinheaume applied
for men workers but got no response, but when he applied
for women, he had 37 replies. It goes on to say that "Two
have been engaged, and are doing general work on the farm
and in the vineries. However, the two women, Misses
Laura Le Page and Elsie Sebire were paid substantially less
than the men, the men actually receiving a rise when the
women were taken on. They also were only allowed to take
a quarter to half a barrow load of earth in each load that
they wheeled into the greenhouses."