Women’s Social and Political Union

The Women’s Labour League meeting took place in 1915 in the William Morris Club Newcastle. Not expecting anything I Googled it and came up with the North East War Memorials Project which showed a picture of a certificate issued to members of the William Morris Club, Newcastle, who had fought in the war.

The club’s address was given as 18 Clayton Street. A look at the street directories revealed that 18 Clayton Street was a public house the Duke of Northumberland Inn run by an R. Embleton . And there so far the research has stuck. Perhaps somewhere there is a real certificate issued by the club but I haven’t yet found one.

Mrs Drummond-the GeneralBack then to women and the war. There were of course women who believed in and were, in fact, enthusiastic supporters of the war. The WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union), once militant about women’s suffrage, became sturdy defendants of the war. In 1917 Mrs Drummond a staunch WSPU member is sent to Newcastle to speak to munitions workers. A clue to Mrs Drummond’s future stance on the war might perhaps be found in the military style of dress she adopted in the WSPU, where she was known as “The General”.

A newspaper article describes the WSPU as “conducting a campaign in all the large munition areas so as to awaken the workers, both men and women, to the dangers and evils of German influence, which is now at work in this country to spread discontent and dissension, and so bring about a premature and inconclusive peace.” (Daily Journal July 7th 1917). Mrs Drummond spoke in many places including Swan Hunters, in Scotswood, Benwell and on the Town Moor. Interestingly separate meetings were held in factories for men and girls. That same year Mrs Drummond became a member of The Women’s Party. Its twelve-point programme included: (1) A fight to the finish with Germany. (2) More vigorous war measures to include drastic food rationing, more communal kitchens to reduce waste, and the closing down of nonessential industries to release labour for work on the land and in the factories. (3) A clean sweep of all officials of enemy blood or connections from Government departments. Stringent peace terms to include the dismemberment of the Hapsburg Empire. Just about as far as you can get from the beliefs of the Women’s Labour League. I haven’t found any record of how Mrs Drummond was received in Newcastle.

There has been a lot written about the women working in munitions during WW1 but little about the education of women. The number of men enlisting as soon as they were able must necessarily have cut down the male applicants to university. I wondered what evidence there was about women progressing on to further education.

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