During the course of the First World War, attitudes towards women changed. They had to – jobs that had previously been performed only by men were, now that so much of the male population was under arms, being undertaken by women. Many volunteered to do so with the same patriotism as their fathers, brothers and sons.
The employment of women on the land was seen as a patriotic necessity and the Letters page often made reference to the subject. In this photograph of 1916, Mrs Butterfield of Gonalston, Nottinghamshire, is shown as a ‘gamekeeperess’, replacing her husband while he was at war. A ‘written agreement’ guaranteed her post until he returned.
Women solder on the wings of bombs – from an article on the Frenchwar effort in June 1916.
The Frontispieces of the magazine remained relatively unchanged throughout the war, although they included a number of portraits of the Royal Family and allied heads of states and their consorts. There were images, too, of soldiers and some striking pictures of society women: The Duchess of Westminster stands out in startling contrast to her predecessors. Rather than appearing in fashionable dress, she is shown in a nurse’s uniform and – implicitly – as an active participant in the war.
Country Life published an article on the management of Sandringham by the Royal Family in November 1916 (see articles available to download above). This photograph shows Majory Maxfield and Hilda and Phyllis Hobson, who took over responsibility for the livestock there early in 1916. They are shown with the King’s Dexter Angus Bulls.
‘A Worcestershire lady farmer’ pictured in the motoring pages of 1917 with her Royal Enfield motorcycle.
Two nursing heroines model in a full-page photo advertisement with their Wolseley ambulance. Their extraordinary adventures were otherwise reported in the magazine. Attention has always tended to focus on women like these, who broke the social stereotypes of the day, yet the unglamorous task of nursing soldiers broken in mind and body by the fighting fell largely to women. Their important contribution and numbers are impossible to quantify.