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Women of Nelson in World War One

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It has been estimated that over 1000 men were recruited in Nelson by the end of September 1914 after the opening of a recruiting station on the 12th August . As time passed by voluntary enlistment could no longer provide the number of troops needed resulting in the introduction of conscription in March 1916 for all single, medically fit men aged 18-41. This was quickly amended to include married men in May 1916.

With an increasing number of men away on military duties women were needed to help run the town and make ends meet. For many recruits the army pay wasn't much more than a shilling a day!

In East Lancashire there had always been a large proportion of women working in the cotton mills. As the war progressed an increasing number of married women rejoined the workforce to fill the gaps left by those who had joined up.

Women of Lancahsire propaganda poster WW1

Source: ©IWM PST5161

Town Centre, Leeds Road, Nelson c.1910

Town Centre, Leeds Road, Nelson c.1910. Source: Red Rose Collections (Lancashire County Council)

Postcard General Views of Nelson c.1912

Postcard General Views of Nelson c.1912. Source: Red Rose Collections (Lancashire County Council)

World War One Women's Land Army Poster

World War One Land Army Poster

New Roles

Some women and girls were able to take on new roles and make the most of opportunities offered which enabled them to move into careers they would probably never have considered or been allowed into during peacetime.

Women worked as bus and tram conductors, farm workers, nurses, clerks, teachers, factory workers. Many of these new roles were physically demanding and adjustments had to be made to enable them to do the work.

Case Study - Lena Price Halstead

Lena was born in Nelson in 1896 at Marsden Hall Farm . She was the daughter of William Halstead (a farmer) and his wife Elizabeth. She was one of seven children. By the census of 1911 she was listed as doing dairy work and helping on the farm at Lower Townhouse, Barkerhouse Road, Nelson.

We then discover her working in the nursing profession in 1915. Hospital records reveal her to have been working at the Moss Side Military Hospital in Maghull, Liverpool. This hospital gained a reputation for dealing with victims of shell shock with some of the most modern treatments. Lena went on to become a hospital radiographer at the Chester Royal Infirmary (1939). Her ashes are buried in St John's Churchyard. The photo shows Lena with her brothers Robert and Willie c.1916.

Townhouse children, Lena Halstead, Willie Hallstead, Robert Halstead c.1916

Townhouse children, Lena Halstead, Willie Hallstead, Robert Halstead c.1916. Source: Red Rose Collections (Lancashire County Council)

Staff of Military Hospital, Albert Road, Colne c.1916

Staff of Military Hospital, Albert Road, Colne c.1916. Source: Red Rose Collections (Lancashire County Council)

Reedyford Hall Auxiliary Military Hospital, Scotland Road, Nelson c.1918

Reedyford Hall Auxiliary Military Hospital, Scotland Road, Nelson c.1918 Source: Red Rose Collections (Lancashire County Council)

Voluntary Aid Detachments

There were a total of 90,000 volunteers who, organised by the Red Cross in a number of different roles, worked at home and abroad during WW1. There were many 'auxiliary hospitals' located across the country where the wounded were treated and would spend time convalescing being cared for by local volunteers. One such hospital was located on Albert Road in Colne.

According to the Red Cross website (https://vad.redcross.org.uk) the local women who volunteered part time to work in these temporary hospitals were often those who were unable to leave home due to family commitments or who were older but still able to contribute some time to caring for the men doing general duties, cooking and administering first aid.

The Redcross VAD website has an excellent search facility which displays the records of many VADs from WW1. Details of two Nelson residents who were VADs are shown.

Evelyn Rawson VAD

Evelyn Rawson VAD. Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/

Lucretia Whitehall VAD

Lucretia Whitehall VAD. Source: https://vad.redcross.org.uk/

St John's Churchyard

St John with St Philip Church
Barkerhouse Road
Nelson, Lancashire
BB9 9EY

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