Women’s Lives in Britain during the First World War: Part Two

Few lives were left unchanged by the First World War. We remember those who served but, as my last blog suggested, history has neglected those whose wartime roles were rather less defined than those of the soldiers and key workers whose labour so obviously helped the nation in its hour of need. This piece looks at the situation facing a mother of seven young children left to cope with the family business when her husband signed up for the Army in September 1914. In this family’s life, there was undoubtedly great change but the study shines light on the continuous work of a wife and mother – in this case, my great grandmother, Amy, who had little choice but to try to keep all the plates spinning, even when tragedy struck at the heart of her family’s life.

Amy’s story

In 1914, Amy and John were the tenants of a fish shop in an area to the west of Putney High Street and a few minutes’ walk away from the Thames.  Putney, in the London borough of Wandsworth, was an attractive district for the expanding middle classes, able to reach their businesses in the city with ease, due to good railway links. Yet, as Charles Booth had confirmed a few years earlier, it was also an area in which both the very rich and the very poor lived in close proximity. The street in which Amy and John lived – Quill Lane – was one of several comprising working class housing which was surrounded by larger, more affluent households. The small workmen’s cottages that made up their street were largely flats or subdivided houses where families depended upon the wages of, for example,  labourers, painters and decorators, coach drivers, horse dealers, billposters, charwomen, domestic servants and sick nurses. The fishmongers’ was not the only shop or commercial business on their street; its neighbours included a grocer, greengrocer, an umbrella maker, a boot maker, a confectioner and a rag merchant.

sheet10Amy and John’s shop was in Quill Lane, north of the railway line  and Chelverton Road and west of Putney High Street. Charles Booth Online Archive @London School of Economics and Political Science. https://booth.lse.ac.uk/learn-more/download-maps/sheet10

A year after John’s return in 1901 from a 14 year stint in the British Army, he married Amy and, by 1914, they had seven children, aged between 11 and two. Amy was born in Brighton but had, as a very young woman, come to London to work as a servant. John was born in Putney and it was here that they settled. Both John’s father and older brother were – variously – local fishmongers, general dealers and greengrocers and, possibly, it was to them that John turned for business advice when he resumed civilian life.

The earliest record of the shop appears in 1909 trade directories where it is listed as a fishmonger’s. At some point – perhaps from the outset – as well as selling wet fish, the shop provided home smoked fish as well as fish and chips. John Walton’s excellent study, Fish and Chips and the British Working Class, shows that by the early 20th century there were perhaps as many as 1200 fish and chip shops in London and the trade became increasingly more important as the fishing industry developed and expanded.[1] Panikos Panayi, in the equally impressive Fish and Chips: A History, reckons that on the eve of the War, perhaps up to 20 per cent of all fish caught by British trawlers and ten per cent of British potatoes went to the fish and chip trade.[2]

One of the advantages of running a wet and cooked fish shop was that anything that remained unsold during the day could be fried in the evening, thus reducing waste but also allowing the fishmonger to spend less at the market by buying some cheaper fish for fried suppers. John and Amy’s shop came with stabling for the horse needed to collect fish daily from Billingsgate Market and, as well as the cart, they had a barrow used to hawk fish around the streets of Putney. In this way, all bases were covered; fish and chips provided nutritious and affordable suppers for the working class families living nearby and the barrow facilitated the selling of fresh fish to the better off.

Billingsgate_Fish_Market._ILN_1876Billingsgate Fish Market, Illustrated London News, 1876. Public domain image http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/file:Billingsgate_Fish_Market.ILN_1876.jpg

Although it was generally a man’s name over the door of the shop, there is no doubt that women were heavily relied upon to ensure the success of local retail businesses. As Elizabeth Roberts notes, the work (paid or otherwise) of millions of married women went largely unrecorded by census enumerators. Sure enough, no occupation is listed for Amy, then a mother of six, in the 1911 census, yet that small shop in Putney could not have survived without her labour, or that of the general servant who is also listed as sharing the family’s accommodation above the shop (the story of the servant, Georgina, whose life appears to have been spent in and out of London workhouses is one that I will endeavour to tell at a later date). John travelled daily for fish, potatoes and supplies such as frying oil and fuel and hawked fish around the streets. In the shop, the frying of fish was generally regarded as man’s work but Amy and Georgina – although there is no evidence beyond the 1911 census of how long the servant was employed for – would clean the shop, prepare the fish for smoking and frying, wash and peel the potatoes, open up to start trading and serve customers. Hours were long, from the four am trek to Billingsgate to closing up after the pubs were shut, around midnight. In addition, the daily needs of the family were – of course – Amy’s responsibilities.

John signed up for Army service on September 8th 1914. The first two weeks of that month saw record numbers of men enlisting across the country, more in total than had registered during the whole of the preceding month. By the end of August, almost 35,000 men had enlisted in London alone, followed by 21, 870 in the first week of September. The peak day for London recruitment was September 9th when 4,833 men joined up.[3] Recruits had to be between 18 and 38 but the upper age limit was extended to 45 for those who had previously served in the Army; John was 45 and although 13 years had lapsed since his discharge, he was accepted into the Queens Regiment.

Several reasons for the September spike in recruitment have been considered by historians. It came after news of the retreat of the British Expeditionary Force and heavy casualties at the Battle of Mons and it is thought that this may have prompted men to offer their services to the country, including many who had previously been torn between public and family duty.[4] The authorities were also becoming more organised by September; the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee allowed the War Office easier access to local networks through which leaflets and posters could be distributed.[5] In addition, considerable social pressures were brought to bear on men to persuade them to enlist; aged 45, John might have resisted these but perhaps felt bound to offer the experience gained in his former years of service to his country in its hour of need. Not that he had a particularly distinguished military record; in his first four years, from 1887, he was twice convicted of desertion and petty misdemeanours before finally being sent on tours abroad until his discharge, remaining a private for his entire service. Yet he was just 18 when he had joined up and 14 years is a long time in a young man’s life; perhaps he settled down and made the best of what the Army could offer and believed, at the start of the War, that it was now his duty to return. His wartime service appears to have been much steadier; his conduct was noted as good and he was a sergeant by the time he left.

There were also many, less patriotic reasons why men decided to join up. Interruptions in trade caused unemployment levels to rise steeply at the start of the war, which in turn adversely affected local trade and, with a large family to feed, perhaps John considered that the Army would at least provide a regular wage as well as the separation allowance payable to Amy and the children.

Until he came home over two years later, declared unfit for further duty (he had not been posted abroad and was likely to have been involved in training younger men), Amy, it would appear, had little choice but to keep the home fires burning and the fish shop pans hot. Aside from the shock of sudden separation (whether this caused sadness or otherwise), the wives of those who enlisted were left to continue with lives in which they were expected to carry on as normal and do so with an uncomplaining sense of patriotic duty and pride in those who had gone to war. Running the household with skill and a firm hand was nothing new for millions of women; Elizabeth Roberts writes of women’s heroic efforts to balance the family budget, avoid debt and stretch income as far as it could possibly go by acquiring expertise in where to shop and how to get the best deals.[6] In wartime, as we see in Annie’s story, this still had to be done during times of acute food shortages, rationing, price rises and all in the knowledge that even after the Army separation allowance had come through, there was, for many families, still a reduction in the money coming into the house and a shortfall to try to make good.

Before the War, Amy’s unpaid labour in the shop undoubtedly helped keep the business afloat.  Now, everything depended on her. There is no hard evidence that she did keep the shop open while her husband was away but simply closing up when you were paying rent and rates made no sense at all and this shop remained the family business until the eve of the Second World War. Many of those who did give up their businesses to go away to war were never again able to afford to buy them back in the post war years when landlords demanded much higher prices.[7] Those who had worked to establish their trade before the War thus relied on those left behind to keep things going. This was no mean feat if you also had seven young children. I don’t know whether Amy employed someone to go to market in the early morning but I do hope so: I don’t like to think of her having to manage to run both family and shop in addition to undertaking the daily trek for fish and potatoes. Whoever it was who did go, however, had to be astute and sharp elbowed; all foodstuffs essential to the trade were at times in very short supply and fishmongers and fryers could not afford to be choosy. As the war went on, previously unpopular fish such as catfish (Walton writes that it was sold as the rather more appetising sounding ‘Scottish hake’) and dark-coloured coalfish were used more and more in the frying trade. The price of fish, like most foodstuffs rose steeply, yet customers somehow expected that their local shop should show them loyalty and keep prices at pre-war levels (typically this was a penny for fish and either a penny or sixpence for the chips). It was a difficult balancing act for shopkeepers who relied on their neighbours for trade but needed to run at a profit or at least break even.[8]

Towards the end of the war came some much needed state support as the government recognised the vital place of fish and chips in the diets of the nation’s workers. Not only did they make a cheap, nutritious meal but they saved households from using more fuel than they needed (or could afford) and were of great help to those working long shifts in the munitions factories, unable to queue for scarce food stuffs and often too exhausted to contemplate going home to cook for the family. In January 1918 the press reported that the government had stepped in to ensure the continuance of the trade by taking control of all the country’s oils and fats. It secured a supply of Egyptian cotton seed and a blended mixture of oils was available to fryers, who were nevertheless warned to exercise the greatest economy in its use.[9]

John Walton refers to suggestions that as a result of the wartime importance of the trade, the overall status of the industry was raised and that, in the post war world, it gained a wider respectability, becoming more than just a back street trade. For the wartime shopkeeper, one of the few benefits came with the imposition of shortened opening hours; 10.30 in the evening became standard and as pub licencing hours were also restricted, passing trade was not being missed and Amy could, in theory, get more sleep.

By 1918, Amy’s eldest three children were 15, 13 and 11. Although the school leaving age was 14 (13 in some instances), President of the Board of Education, H.A.L. Fisher, calculated in 1917 that up to that point, around 600,000 children had left school prematurely in order to ease the strain in families where earnings had been reduced because of the War.[10] Local authorities wanted the Board of Education to temporarily suspend the by-laws governing school attendance in order to be able to support families trying to make ends meet. There is a good chance that Amy’s children helped in the shop even if they were able to remain at school, for example, peeling and chipping potatoes, serving or even selling from the barrow (legally children had to be 12 in order to do this, so only the two eldest could – in theory – do this).

The eldest child in the family was a girl. In common with many girls in working class families, her school attendance record was quite possibly worse than that of her brothers. Girls were expected to take on domestic duties and child care within families whenever needed and in Amy’s family, whether or not the servant remained throughout the war, a crisis occurred that would have been even harder to endure without the help of a daughter.

Since the turn of the century, public health in Britain had shown signs of improvement. The pre-war Liberal welfare reforms empowered local authorities to provide free school meals and medicals. On the eve of war, infant mortality rates were, on average, lower than they had been a decade earlier and the death rate from the commonest childhood diseases was also reduced. Of course, whilst anyone was at risk from scarlet fever, measles, diphtheria and tuberculosis, the chances of contracting these remained stubbornly higher in densely populated areas where overcrowding was common. Poor housing added to the risk of so-called ‘filth’ diseases (such as diarrhoea, dysentery and typhoid); where children played in yards with privies shared by many families and where waste lingered, dangers, particularly in warm weather, lurked everywhere. Every family dreaded the appearance of illnesses that, thanks to vaccination programmes, are now, in Britain, either eradicated or less likely to result in epidemics. In the spring of 1915, three year old Nelly, Amy and John’s youngest child, died in a fever hospital in Tooting from measles and diphtheria.

According to the Wandsworth Medical Officer of Health Report for 1915, both diseases were more prevalent than they had been in the preceding years. Because the compulsory notification of measles did not begin until 1916, Medical Officers had to rely on schools to report suspected cases, which then allowed visits to affected households. In Putney in 1915, all of the 165 cases notified in this way came from Hotham Road Elementary School. Opened in 1909, this Council school was the closest to the fish shop and was certainly attended by my grandfather, James, Amy and John’s fourth child. From 1911, a pamphlet was left at every house in the borough after a school notification, advising of symptoms. Measles was most infectious in its early stages but this was before the rash appeared and so parents needed to be on the alert if coughing, sneezing and redness of the eyes occurred. All infected children were required to stay off school for four weeks after the rash came out and their houses were disinfected.

Measles was (and remains) a dangerous disease with risks of complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia and – in Nelly’s case – diphtheria. Such complications were more likely to occur in those under five or over 20. In Wandsworth in 1915, there were 152 deaths from measles (compared with 26 in 1914) and of these, 88 per cent of the deaths occurred in children under the age of five. Measles’ complications often came on very quickly and Nelly’s removal to the fever hospital is likely to have occurred when diphtheria struck. Treatment for the so-called ‘strangling angel’ bacterial infection which attacked the throat, making swallowing and breathing very difficult, needed to be swift in order to save the patient’s life. As with measles, Wandsworth saw an increase in the number of diphtheria cases during 1915, with 89 per cent of these removed from the home to isolation or fever wards.

Accounts of morbidity and mortality rates, of notices from schools and reports of home visits to educate parents about symptoms all serve to remind us of the dangers posed by diseases now controlled or eradicated in Britain by mass vaccination programmes (from the late 1940s for diphtheria and the mid – 1960s for measles) but they tell us nothing about the agony of loss. Amy had to care for her family alone, keep the business going amidst the strains of war, all the while grieving for her daughter. I hope that John was granted compassionate leave to return home to be with his family and I hope also that the local community was tightly knit enough to support them and offer what practical help it could. I don’t write this in a gush of sentimentality but as a historian, conscious of just how much of the past is sanitised by statistics. They are, of course, of vital importance but wherever possible they need the addition of details and stories to give them deeper meaning.

The experience of motherhood, whatever else is going on in the world, however great the dislocation and upheaval, is always unique and personal and this one account of a working class British woman shows that not only did war have an immense impact on her life, she also had to deal with hardships that were all too common in family life and which the histories of war have obscured.


Amy and her son James next to the shop in the late 1920s. Her husband died soon after this photo was taken and the business continued with the help of her children until the late 30s. Amy spent her final years in a Putney almshouse.
[1] Great War London: London and Londoners in the First World War https://greatwarlondon.wordpress.com/
[2] As above, https://greatwarlondon.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/the-1914-recruiting-boom/
[3] For more details see British Library  https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/daddy-what-did-you-do-in-great-war
[4] Elizabeth Roberts, Women’s Work 1840-1940,CUP, 1988, pp42-3
[5] See Walton, pp30-2
[6] Much of this information comes from Walton’s book. It is a valuable social and economic history study – do read if you can.
[7] Gloucester Journal, 19 January 1918; see also Walton
[8] Arthur Marwick, The Deluge: British Society and the First World War, 2nd edition, 1991, Macmillan Press, p 156
[9] John K Walton, Fish and Chips and the British Working Class 1870-1940, LUP, 1992
[10] Panikos Panayi, Fish and Chips: A History, Reaktion Books, 2014

see also Medical Officer Of Health Reports, Wandsworth, https://wellcomelibrary.org/moh/browse-normalised/Wandsworth

Women’s lives in the First World War – Part One

Fragments of history: Women’s Lives in Britain during the First World War

History is messy and frustrating but it can also be tantalisingly exciting trying to piece things together and make a little more sense of the past. It doesn’t always work but we often get just a tiny bit nearer to knowing or understanding stuff. Sometimes, we want things to be true and can be guilty of using what evidence we think we have to back up what we want to believe. That’s probably ok as long as we’re honest about it and leave a trail for others to interpret afresh or provide the addition of some new facts or information.

A few years ago my mum gave me a small pack of postcards and photographs. Most were written to ‘Dolly’ (my grandmother) by her father when he was in the Army during the First World War. They are touching messages of love sent to a daughter at home in London during a soldier’s service that saw him wounded on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and returned to a hospital in the North East of England. On one card, he wrote that he regretted that he couldn’t send five year old Dolly any money but would do so as soon as he was out of hospital. Sure enough, another card stated that he was enclosing one shilling and six pence for her and her older half-sister, Lilian, to buy some sweets. He did not return to live in the family home until his army discharge early in 1919.

Juett 2

Juett 4

Juett 5FWW

As well as the cards that he sent home, there are those that he may have carried with him or that were sent to him while he was away. There is a torn photograph of the family, most likely taken early on in the War and with the words ‘Return to Wife’ scrawled on the back. There are two photographs of Dolly, near the start and towards the end of the War. On the back of one is a message, ‘July 9th, Lil Money Stopped’; on the other, there are two lists of food, with prices – tea, sugar, margarine, cheese, onions, bread and sausages. There is so much missing in the everyday detail of this family’s life and I will never know exactly when the lists were made or who wrote them but they fascinated me so much that I have used them in order to embark on a series of snap shots of women’s lives during the War.

Annie, Amy, Elizabeth and Ellen were my great grandmothers.  Born between 1858 and 1878, all were raising families in south west London during the First World War. Their stories have come to me from my parents in snatches, with details missing that will in all probability remain so, but I nevertheless want to try to write about what is known before that too is lost forever. The seemingly ordinariness of these women’s lives helps to reveal the very opposite, cutting through generalisations and public memories by trying to provide a sense of some women’s lives a hundred years ago, when certainly there were daily reminders of war but when getting on with life was the only option.

Annie’s story


When war was declared, Annie and William had been married for just over three years. Their daughter, Dorothy (Dolly) was nearly three and they were raising Annie’s youngest child, Lily, from her previous marriage, who was about twelve. Her eldest three children had gone their own ways. Like so many working class Londoners, the couple lived in cramped, overcrowded accommodation, renting one or possibly two rooms in a small apartment in Putney. William was a general labourer and house painter and Annie – at least until the birth of Dolly in the autumn of 1911 – worked at the Fulham Sunlight Laundry. It’s difficult to estimate the couple’s pre-war income, partly because there’s no way of knowing whether Annie was able to continue to earn once Dolly was born and partly because inclement weather, short term and casual contracts meant that labouring and decorating did not always bring in the steadiest of wages. Whilst averages can never be relied on for complete accuracy, sometimes they remain our only indicator and the average weekly pay packet for a labourer in 1914 was 22 shillings and 10 pence. Women’s pay rates in commercial laundries like the Sunlight were lower than this and even with union negotiated wage rises during the War, the basic salary for a woman aged 18 or over was just 18 shillings a week by the end of the War. If, because there was no one to look after Dolly, Annie gave up her job outside the home in 1911, their entire income was then lost when William signed up as an army recruit in early September 1914. With her many years of experience of laundry work, perhaps Annie took in washing at home but her ability to do so was always dependent on the family’s living arrangements.  Sometimes renting a room (or rooms) came with agreed access to a scullery or wash house but only the friendliest of fellow tenants (and landlords) would have tolerated a woman using up space, water, tub and drying room (if there was any) to do anything more than her own family washing.

With William away, Annie became reliant on the separation allowances that were paid to wives of servicemen from the start of the War. The weekly amount received depended on the rank of the serving husband; William joined the West Yorkshire Regiment as a private and was promoted to sergeant whilst in France in 1916, where he had been on active service since 1915. The government recognised the importance of making sure that the families of Kitchener’s recruits were looked after and did not have to resort to charity or the dreaded Poor Law. Bureaucratic hold ups and patronising attitudes, however, caused anger, frustration and hardship for many women. In the autumn of 1914, Sylvia Pankhurst’s paper, The Woman’s Dreadnought, drew attention to the humiliation caused by payment delays, by women not receiving the right amount of money and by the ‘meagreness’ of the allowances given. It was wrong, stated the Dreadnought, that as well as having to send birth and marriage certificates to the War Office, women ‘should have to submit to minute and often fussy and impertinent cross examination from officials of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ families association besides. The wives and children of the soldiers were entitled to a fair wage on behalf of the men at the front, and ought not to be placed in the position of suppliants for charity’ – the very thing that government had agreed should be avoided, in the interests of public morale and support for the War.[1]

From March 1915 the wife (and some unmarried couples with children) of a private received 12 shillings and 6 pence a week and a wife and one child 17 shillings and 6 pence, with 2 extra shillings for each additional child. An extra 3 shillings and 6 pence went to wives in the London area if they could prove that they had lived in the capital before the War. The allowance paid to the wife of a sergeant was 15 shillings, 20 shillings if she had a child and 23 shillings and 6 pence if there were two children. Allowances were, with some exceptions, only for children under 16[2]; Annie’s daughter, Lilian, reached her 16th birthday towards the end of the War and this may account for the message indicating that her money had been stopped and leading to the need to re-calculate the family’s income.

From the start of the War, the anxieties facing wives and mothers escalated. As the cost of living rose steeply, working class women struggled to get by on the separation allowance alone. At the start of the War, many businesses contracted as they waited to see what would happen and the market for fashionable and fancy goods slowed as people tightened their belts and stopped placing orders. As a consequence, unemployment amongst women increased, causing considerable extra hardship and leading to charity run relief works where women could work, for a low wage, on tasks such as garment making.[3] As the War progressed, and as more men enlisted, women were needed in the nation’s shops and offices, on its buses and trams, as postal workers and delivery drivers, to name but a few.  Married women with children who were able to do so took on work where they could and, from 1915, munitions factories began to employ large numbers of women. Here, decent money could be earned but shifts were long, the work was dangerous and unhealthy and the practicalities of travelling to work (sometimes very long daily distances), of finding suitable and affordable childcare (for nurseries were in very short supply) meant that many mothers were unable to take on War work of this nature. Those who did often found that rather than being praised for their patriotism, they faced accusations of neglecting their children and even of greed, for surely they should be content with the regularity of the separation allowance? After all, it was argued, this was more than many women had had before the War and here they were now, with a nice reliable sum of money coming into the house each week.

Those who criticised clearly had no idea of how difficult life was for so many working class women. There were price rises right from the start of the War. Before the government introduced rent controls in 1915, women like Annie – husbands rapidly mobilised and gone to war – worried with good reason that landlords might evict them as they waited for their allowances to come through or that they might try to attract new tenants who could, thanks to war work, afford to pay more. The Woman’s Dreadnought encouraged women to send in their experiences of budgeting and it is clear that less than a year into the War, fuel and foodstuffs had risen considerably. In February 1915, one woman gave her account of what she called ‘just poor every day living’ for her family of four:

Before the War (in shillings and pence, eg 1/6) Since the War
14 loaves of bread 2/11 4/8
1 ¾ cwt coal 2/4 3/6
1lb meat 6d 9d
½ quartern flour 2 1/4d 4 ½ d
½ lb tea 8d 10d
3 ½ lbs sugar 5 ¼ d 10 ½ d
I tin milk 4d 5d
Rent 6s 6s
Insurance 1s 1s


If Annie’s sole income was the separation allowance (until William’s promotion, she received 21 shillings, plus the London allowance), the above gives some indication of how money for her family of three was spent. On top of these and other foodstuffs, fuel and rent, there were clothes and shoes to buy (maybe through clothing clubs), soap and detergent and whatever else was needed in the household. Price rises became steeper; according to a 1918 government committee, the average working class household’s weekly expenditure on food had increased by 90 per cent in four years and other household costs, such as fuel and lighting, had risen by 74 per cent.[5]

Before the introduction of rationing from the start of 1918, working class women bore the brunt of food shortages that were caused by disrupted supplies from overseas as well as by inequitable distribution. Queues were long and there were no guarantees that there would be much left even when you reached the front; one woman wrote that her daughter had lost a morning’s schooling in order to queue at a dairy before coming home without the margarine she’d been sent out to get. Another stated that despite a statement in the Press announcing that meat was available, she and others ‘watched load after load of nice fresh joints being sent out on the quiet to the rich; no one else got any’. When the butchers’ shops finally opened towards the end of that day, ‘the promised meat consisted of dirty black bits and dirty animals’ heads and bad liver, which smelt disgustingly’.[6] Sausage meat was sometimes the best that could be got but only then if you were lucky enough to see it on display or were forewarned that it might be coming.

Queueing was time consuming and exhausting and, with four hour queues for meat common, almost impossible for mothers of small children. Working women despaired that they could not shop until the end of their shift by which time shops were often all but emptied of food. Rationing eased the queues; in order to get goods such as sugar and fat, it was necessary to register with a local shop which would provide these rationed items. As well as national, compulsory rationing, local food committees were set up to manage the distribution and prices of goods such as tea, cheese and jam but money remained extremely tight.[7] The lists on the back of Annie’s postcard indicate very careful planning and the buying of the most basic of foodstuffs – with no meat mentioned except sausage – one loaf, perhaps 4 ounces of cheese, onion (always handy for soups, stews and pies), tea, sugar and margarine. The stopping of the government allowance for Lilian ( ‘Lil money stopped’) was a blow; the chances are that Lilian had been working since leaving school, most likely at 14, so although there was already some extra money coming in (plus the increased allowance for the wife and children of a sergeant), the overall household income went down as a result of the stoppage.



These, then, were just some of the practical concerns facing women during the War. In addition, there was loneliness to contend with and deep anxieties about loved ones away at the War. William was with his regiment in France for a year before he was wounded by a bullet that entered his leg at the right knee and travelled up to the thigh. He was transferred to a military hospital near Newcastle. Unless travel permits were granted to the wives of wounded servicemen, the cost of visiting her husband in hospital would have been prohibitive for Annie and even if there was money available, there were unlikely to have been many – if any – opportunities to travel the length of the country with her two daughters. William remained in the North East in the Training Reserve, for the rest of the War. He received the Military Medal from King George V at an investiture at St James’ Park in June 1917, awarded as a result of his bravery on July 1st 1916. I wonder if Annie was even able to attend this event.

There were other people to be anxious about too; although I have not yet been able to find any details, Annie’s eldest two sons from her first marriage both either joined up or were conscripted in 1916. Family memories and a photograph of Tom, the eldest, suggest that he lost all, or part, of an arm during the War.

In February 1919, William returned home to Putney and to the ‘normal’ life that the government hoped would follow the tragedies and upheavals of war. But what did that look like and how easy was it for couples to live together again after years of experiences that had not been shared and now could not easily be understood? There were no promises of employment for returning soldiers like William and finding work as soon as possible was the most important part of homecoming.  Without it, the family’s only income was a disability pension of 6 shillings and 6 pence per week, with an additional allowance for children, although his army record indicates that this was not be relied upon and was up for review in less than a year.

William, however, was one of the lucky returning soldiers; his war injury did not prevent him from resuming a normal working life and he went back to painting and decorating, as well as being very competent in woodwork. Despite this, it was years before the family’s housing came anywhere close to a standard ‘fit for heroes’ and they appear to have seldom, if ever, lived on their own, sharing or taking in lodgers before finally moving into a small mid nineteenth century cottage in Putney in about 1930. There were no mod cons here, just one cold water tap in the scullery (which had a dirt floor when they moved in), an outside toilet and no electricity. From 1933 William and Annie shared the cottage with their daughter, Dorothy, her husband and their children. My mother was born here and Dorothy – my grandmother – remained here until her death in 1987.

Men had no choice but to readjust to life at home. Apparently William, like so many men who had been at the Front, never spoke of what he had seen, apart from just once telling my mother of having witnessed the slaughter of so many comrades in his regiment as they were ordered over the top on that fateful summer’s day in 1916. Families had to learn how to deal with men’s silences, bad dreams, and behaviours that today we are beginning to recognise as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Women had many other things to cope with too, including the loss of independence that had come with being the recognised head of the household. No doubt many women were enormously relieved and thankful at the return of their husbands but at the same time, they had grown used to doing things their own way, having full control over the family budget (as opposed to being allocated money from the man’s wage packet, as happened in so many households), shopping and cooking with what food items were available, without the pressure of making meals for the working man, sometimes relying on the communal kitchens that were set up late in the War. There was a government hope that women would act as a calming influence on those men who came back from war troubled, restless or (worst of all) seeking radical political change. There was renewed emphasis on women’s place in the home and on the sanctity of wifehood and motherhood and a widespread assumption that married women would have no further wish for paid work now that War was over.

Over the next few weeks, more blog posts will, through the experiences of Ellen, Amy and Elizabeth, add some more detail on bringing up children during the War, making ends meet and carrying on a family business when the main breadwinner went off to war.




[1] The Woman’s Dreadnought, September 26th 1914

[2] See Imperial War Museum https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/28448 accessed April 9th 2018

[3] Gail Braybon & Penny Summerfield, Out of the Cage: Women’s Experiences in Two World Wars, 1987, Pandora, pp31-4

[4] The Woman’s Dreadnought, February 27th 1915

[5] Working Classes Cost of Living Committee, cited in Angela Woolacott, On Her Their Lives Depend, Munitions Workers in the Great War, 1994, University of California Press, p 117-18

[6] The Woman’s Dreadnought, January 19th 1918

[7] For a very good description of local rationing, see Rachel Field, Ipswich in the Great War, Pen & Sword Military, 2016, pp 37-9

Peace and Plenty: Coventry leading the way, 1938



Photograph taken from the Midland Daily Telegraph 31 October 1938 www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

 Coventry’s reputation as a city of peace and reconciliation, led by the international work of its Cathedral, is known throughout the world. The powerful images of the charred roof beams fallen in the sign of the cross and of the cross of nails created from the debris of the devastated Cathedral in 1940 have come to symbolise hope and international friendship. In the 1940 Christmas Day service, broadcast from the Cathedral ruins, Provost Howard looked towards a future in which the Cathedral would work with all people ‘to build a kinder, more Christ-like world’.

What is less well known is that Coventry was making its mark as a city promoting peace and equality before the Second World War began. In 1938 the city’s first woman mayor, Alderman Alice Arnold, led a deputation of Coventry citizens to London to present the so-called ‘Peace and Plenty’ petition at the Home Office, addressed to the King, asking for a judicial commission to investigate ways to avoid war and to ensure peace and lasting prosperity for all. The story behind this petition – signed by 60,000 Coventry citizens  – as well as the lead that Coventry provided for other cities, just weeks after Chamberlain’s return from Munich, with his message for ‘peace in our time’, are extraordinary and deserve to be remembered, 80 years on.

The twin anxieties of economic depression and the gathering war clouds were uppermost in the minds of millions of people during the 1930s. Coventry’s ‘new’ engineering industries may have ensured that the very worst of the world economic crisis was avoided in the city but unemployment and short time working had nevertheless left deep marks since the 1920s. In addition, from the late 1930s, there was no escaping the fact that the city was at the forefront of Britain’s rearmament production and that its economic prosperity was bound up with preparations for war.

The organisation behind the petition that Alice Arnold took to London was founded by Mr Robert Scrutton, when he was staying with the popular and socially aware vicar of St Peter’s Church in Hillfields, the Reverend Paul Stacy. Started as an avowedly non-party political movement, it instead declared itself to be a united Christian attempt to seek broad agreement on principles which would end poverty, remove the economic causes of war and in so doing, seek social well-being and security for all people. Named the United Christian Petition Movement (UCPM) it had six broad principles:


  1. No man, woman or child should suffer insecurity or poverty through no fault of their own whilst actual or potential resources existed to meet their needs.
  2. That as long as people were in need of food, warmth or shelter, the restriction of supplies or the destruction of goods because people did not have the money to buy them was indefensible.
  3. To encourage the growth of a Christian Social Order, promoting fellowship and co-operation.
  4. To provide security, liberty and opportunity for all men and women to enrich the State by developing their personalities and using their spiritual and intellectual attributes.
  5. That industries and businesses should recognise that human life is sacred and should ‘cease to be made subservient to monetary, expediency or to industrial or commercial exploitation’.
  6. To encourage self- expression and individual development in order to enrich communities.


Through public meetings and an ambitious programme of door knocking, it was claimed that signatures were being collected at the rate of 2000 a week, with 51,000 by the summer of 1938. By the time Alice Arnold handed the petition to the Home Office on 29 October, the 60,000 names gathered amounted to nearly a third of the city’s population (the equivalent of over two thirds of its electorate).  There were meetings in other British towns and cities but it was decided that Coventry should lead the way in recognition of the fact that the movement had its origins there. Extra poignancy was attached after Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich in late September 1938, waving the piece of paper with which he hoped that war in Europe might be averted. In a letter from Mayor Arnold appealing to Coventry employers to give their workforces time off from work (on a Saturday, which was often a half day in industry) to accompany the petition to London, she wrote that it was felt that ‘the most practical offering of thanksgiving for the untiring efforts of the Prime Minister’, was for Coventry to set an example to encourage other cities to ‘work to obtain the settlement of all national and international disputes by similar peaceful negotiations, based upon justice and humanity’. Alice Arnold did not ignore the fact that this peace had only been secured due to the ‘the great sacrifice’ made by one nation – the agreement allowed Hitler to annex the Sudetenland – and the UCPM noted that the gratitude of thousands and thousands went out to the people of Czechoslovakia.

Support for the Petition was not, however, found in all quarters. An editorial in the Midland Daily Telegraph stated that ‘if every political organisation sought to further its cause by arranging monster petitions to His Majesty the King instead of pursuing the normal channels so deeply ploughed into the fabric of every democratic State’, political structures would need to be redrawn. Despite not wishing to hinder any political movement seeking remedies to major social problems – in this case mass unemployment – the conservative view put forward was that this was a matter for Parliament and for legislation. Arguably, the numbers of signatures on the Coventry petition tell a different story.

A special train was chartered to take the Coventry deputation which had the support of the city’s churches, trade unions, some members of the City Council, the manager of the city’s Labour Exchange and, it was claimed, of some leading members of local industries. At Euston, Coventry folk were joined by over a hundred clergy as well as by members of the Social Credit Movement, together forming a procession that was around a quarter of a mile long, complete with band. Crowds cheered it on its way to Whitehall and the press reported that in Gower Street, Indian students (where the YMCA Indian Student Hostel was located) came out onto the street to show their support.

The leaders of the procession, Mayor Arnold and her Mayoress, Councillor Ellen Hughes, were the first two women to be elected as councillors in Coventry and their prominence on this day in 1938 ought, I think, to be remembered as a landmark feminist event in the city’s history. Together they laid a wreath at the Cenotaph before handing in six bundles of signatures at the Home Office. The Mayor received a bouquet of flowers from two prominent women supporters of the UCPM, Lady Claire Annesley and Baroness Heyking. At a meeting in Horse Guards’ Parade, Alice Arnold expressed her pleasure in supporting the petition and said that ‘we feel that if Christianity existed in its truest sense we should not be in the position we are today’. Despite the fact that wealth could so easily be produced, there were hundreds of thousands of people living in poverty because of the present economic system. This was a subject dear to the Mayor’s heart who herself was born into poverty in Coventry. She began work at the age of 11 and by the First World War, was an organiser for the Workers’ Union, speaking up for the rights of women workers. When she and Ellen Hughes became city councillors in 1919, both campaigned vociferously for better living standards for Coventry citizens, drawing attention to the dire consequences of poverty in their city.  Alice Arnold’s own health was poor and the day in London must have taxed her strength, for it came only a few weeks after a lengthy spell in the city’s municipal hospital for complete rest, whilst her secretary brought in official papers for her to sign, so determined was she to serve her city.

On her return to Coventry after the deputation, Alice Arnold, her mayoral year now drawing to a close, appealed to Lord Mayors and Mayors in Britain to work with the clergy in launching UCPM campaigns in their own cities. Places that agreed co-operation included Birmingham, Newcastle, Sunderland, Oxford, Barnsley, Harrogate, Liverpool, Bexhill, Nelson, St Ives, Tottenham and six other London boroughs. Preparations were made to follow Coventry’s example and in February 1939 it was hoped that the people of Sunderland would soon be able to add their names to the two million nationwide it was claimed had now signed the petition. In April a public meeting in Liverpool appealed for people to attend a public meeting to discuss ‘Peace and the Abolition of Poverty Everywhere’. In the summer it was reported that over 89 British towns and cities and 23 countries, including Switzerland and France were launching similar campaigns.

The Movement was short lived, overtaken by the realisation that there would be no ‘peace in our time’ and the final descent into the Second World War began, just 20 years after the end of the War to end all wars. Yet the support shown for the Coventry petition in 1938, at a time when rearmament was gathering pace and civil defence measures were very public reminders of the fragility of ‘peace’, demonstrates the willingness of a city to work towards a world in which insecurity and poverty could be eradicated and there would be no more war. It was, however, by now evident that Fascism must be militarily defeated before there could be any more talk of a new world based on social principles that would ensure security, liberty and opportunity for all.

It cannot have been predicted that just over a year into that war on Fascism, Coventry would again lead the way with messages of hope, kindness and, in the wake of the devastation of the city, of forgiveness too.

The majority of material used here is from Coventry’s and other local newspapers. With thanks to Coventry History Centre and the British Newspaper Archive www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk












International Women’s Day – a tribute to past and present unsung heroines of our communities.

I have been feeling sorry for myself this week. Flu is a miserable state of affairs and now, although out of bed, I am left with little energy or inclination to do anything. On International Women’s Day I am thinking, however, about the quiet, steely determination displayed by so many women to get on with the task in hand – and to make a lasting difference to other women’s lives. Sometimes the smallest acts are the most effective and so, in the absence of any great statements (too tired!), I just want to say thank you to those women who found their cause, who kept going and who, in the most practical and sensible of ways, set out to put things right in their communities.

Two such women were Coventry’s first women councillors. Alice Arnold and Ellen Hughes were elected for Labour in 1919, in the first municipal elections after the First World War. In a city suffering in the 1920s from high unemployment and inadequate housing, these two pioneers placed the relief of poverty at the heart of their work, often paying close attention to details overlooked by those who saw policy where they saw people. They sought the construction of Council housing that was not just adequate but well designed for families. All houses, insisted Councillor Hughes, should have baths and hot water heating to tackle ‘the incessant chasing away of dirt’. Kitchens needed dressers and built in cupboards, despite the fact that many male councillors thought that they were an unnecessary expense. There must be space for children to play safely, away from the roads and estates should be provided with centres where children over the age of two could play, looked after by trained nurses.

Sporting facilities, said Councillor Arnold, should be available for all, not just the wealthy and in an election speech in 1919, she employed her characteristically direct manner to state that,

if we cannot get land at a reasonable price I am prepared to confiscate it, and return it to the right owners, the common people. We cannot have an A1 nation when the good things of this world are kept from the mass of the people.

John Yates, a contemporary of Alice Arnold’s recalled that,

There were two points she always used to make in her speeches in those days, especially if she could get an afternoon audience with a few fur coats in it. One was the instruction sent out to Local Authorities when Mr Chamberlain was Minister of Health, that baby food could no longer be given away at clinics, however poor the mother, but must be paid for at threepence a packet. The other was the row then going on between the Medical Officers for Heath and the Ministry over starving schoolchildren. The MOHs said that they ought to have power to order free meals before a poor child showed the actual symptoms of malnutrition, the Ministry said, No! You shall only feed the child actually suffering from malnutrition – that is the law.

By 1939 eleven women had served as Labour councillors in Coventry, many drawing on their prior experiences as Poor Law Guardians, trade union organisers and magistrates.  As we approach the centenary of the election of Councillors Arnold and Hughes, I will be writing much more about these remarkable pioneers and the women who joined them on Coventry City Council, but I want to conclude with a tribute to another Labour woman councillor, this time serving in Manchester from 1924. This story from Hannah Mitchell inspires me because here is a woman who gets it completely. No need for fanfares, for statues or public acknowledgments. She identified a piece of land in her ward and persuaded the Baths Committee to build a small wash-house where women could hire ‘stalls’ to do their household washing, making use of hot water, extractors, hot air driers and ironing tables. These buildings, so important all over the country to housewives, meant that the home could be kept free of the damp caused by dripping washing and steam, that less fuel was required and that the exhaustion of wash day could be kept to a minimum.

Councillor Mitchell was not granted the honour of overseeing the formal opening of the wash-house and it was instead opened by a representative from another ward. A little piqued at this (because ‘the males who were before me on the rota refused to give way’ and allow her the privilege out of turn), she wrote,

Perhaps there was a spice of malice in my speech when moving the vote of thanks, but I think my neighbours understood, and applauded very generously. It isn’t a very romantic memorial, but every time I pass the little building, I feel that the women who helped to send me to the Council have something tangible to remember me by.

So, here’s to the women who have worked to provide the services that have not been heralded with grand memorials but which have made such a difference. Their work goes on and I wish them all a very happy international women’s day and my eternal thanks.



The Labour Group on Coventry City Council, 1919. Miss Alice Arnold is on the left and Mrs Ellen Hughes on the right. 14 November 1919, Coventry Graphic. The photograph is taken from my forthcoming book, A History of Women’s Lives in Coventry (Pen and Sword) and is reproduced with kind permission of Coventry History Centre. Not for copying anywhere else.

For further reading see,

The Hard Way Up: the Autobiography of Hannah Mitchell, Suffragette and Rebel, edited by G. Mitchell, Faber & Faber 1968

Pioneers to Power, John Yates, Coventry Labour Party, 1950

A Woman of the People: Alice Arnold of Coventry 1881-1955, Cathy Hunt, Coventry Historical Association, 2008


Ellen and Sylvia: Chelsea 1906

For a short time, between 1905 and 1906, my great grandmother, Ellen and one of my political heroes, Sylvia Pankhurst, lived within 250 metres of each other in London’s Chelsea. Whilst Ellen was bringing up her large family on a very limited income, Sylvia was a crucial member of the London Committee of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) – the suffragettes.

I first became interested when, reading Sylvia’s The Suffragette Movement’ [i](1931), I recognised the name of the street – Park Walk – where she had taken lodgings whilst a student at the Royal College of Art in nearby Kensington. My dad had spent his early childhood in this street, living with his parents in the house rented and still occupied by his grandmother, Ellen. At the time when Sylvia was there, Ellen and her young family lived in Winterton Place, a short street running off the western side of Park Walk.

There were, at that time, lots of lodgers and sub tenants in Park Walk, some of whom, like Sylvia, were artists. Sylvia, however, was juggling life as a student with life as a political activist. The WSPU had been founded in Manchester in 1903 by her mother, Emmeline, and sister, Christabel, but increasingly there was a need for its presence in the nation’s capital. In her two rooms in Park Walk, Sylvia sacrificed her need for quiet study and ‘painting parties’[ii] in order to put up a stream of visiting activists such as Annie Kenney, sent ‘to rouse London’, ahead of the decision, in 1906, to permanently relocate the WSPU’s  HQ from Manchester to London. Members of the Pankhurst family were regular visitors to my great granny’s street and, Sylvia recalled, by early 1906, the press were beginning  to ‘hover around’[iii].

The realisation of how close Sylvia and Ellen lived was pretty seismic news to me. At the time I discovered it, I was a young worker, a history obsessed feminist and increasingly wondering, as my children grew, where my roots might be and what motherhood had been like for my grandmothers and great grandmothers. I knew that, despite Sylvia and Ellen’s geographical proximity, it was likely that, other than perhaps a nod in the street or at the shops (for, despite their different lives, both women had to eat) neither had much idea who the other was. It is unlikely  – though not out of the question, because women have always multi-tasked so brilliantly – that as the work of the London suffragettes intensified, Ellen was out chalking pavements for them or standing on a soap box on the nearby Fulham or Kings Road, trying to persuade people of the importance of women having the vote. I know nothing about her political opinions or affiliations but I do know that by 1906, she had seven young children, one of whom was very sick, one of whom was a newborn, and a husband on a very low income.

Why, then, am I writing this, if I am unable to claim any real connection between the two women or to be able to declare that my great grandmother was a suffragette, or that Sylvia Pankhurst popped round to help her with the laundry? My fascination lies in the fact that these two women, living so close to each other, were equally absorbed by the struggles of life. They had concerns, priorities and experiences that were very different from each other’s and yet…they both lived on strictly limited incomes in rented accommodation and they both sought ways to manage the weekly budget in the face of economic uncertainty about the future.

Ellen was a working class mother, born and bred in Chelsea. Sylvia was a middle class art student from Manchester. But, in the early twentieth century, here they both were; Chelsea was a space in which both women might be able to feel equally comfortable in their surroundings , meeting people who were familiar with their lifestyles – in Sylvia’s case, other artists and political activists, and in Ellen’s, family and people known since childhood. Sylvia was passing through but for Ellen, Chelsea was where she went to school, raised her children, earned a living and stayed on into old age. It would, I think, be extraordinary if Sylvia, an acutely sensitive, socially aware young woman wishing always to employ her artistic talents ‘in the cause of progress’[iv] did not notice the difficult lives of those, like Ellen, with whom she shared her Chelsea neighbourhood. Sylvia later worked closely with working class women in the East London Federation of Suffragettes.

A great deal more is of course known about Sylvia’s life than Ellen’s; her published writings tell us of the difficulties she faced as a student in London. She lived on a scholarship, sold her art work when she could but also sent money home to her mother. She was dedicated to the suffrage cause but, as her two years at college drew to a close, she was uncertain of her future. Should she pursue her art, or devote her time to social causes or politics? As WSPU work – and the demands of her political family – became more pressing, her anxieties led to ill health. She withdrew from the London Committee, gave up her rooms in Park Walk and fled to new digs in nearby Cheyne Walk. She had 25 shillings to her name, worries about paying the rent, a determination to be self-reliant and a great many decisions to be made.

During her Chelsea years, Sylvia lived simply and plainly. Annie Kenney recalled that, when staying in Park Walk, eggs, tomatoes or lentils were the main fare. ‘One day it would be lentils with an egg perched on the top; the day after that, as a change, lentils and tomatoes with an egg perched on the top; and the following day again, to make our meals more varied, an egg with fried tomatoes perched upon it and cocoa or a glass of milk’.[v] Stretching a meagre income to feed a family was also nothing new to Ellen. In a recording made by my dad in the 1960s, two of Ellen’s children recalled her fried Irish potato cakes, which consisted entirely of bread and potatoes. When working class family incomes came under pressure, the amount spent on meat, butter and green vegetables went down, while the dependence on foods that filled bellies, particularly bread, increased.[vi]

One of Ellen’s sons recalled that food was so hard to come by that his younger brother, born in 1902, ‘grew rickets, you know. His legs were like a hoop … and in the end he was taken into St George’s Hospital to have his legs broken. Twice they did it and the bones were sort of re-set to straighten them out’. He piggy backed his brother to school in the mornings and back home at the end of the day; ‘how he ever went to the toilet and that I don’t know, because I used to leave him, you see, I had to be there half an hour before the school opened because I had to run off to [my] school’ . A combination of a diet lacking in Vitamin D (fish oils, animal fats, eggs and dairy produce) and poor accommodation with restricted sunlight, made rickets a serious risk for children, in turn reducing their ability to resist respiratory infections.[vii]

Ellen’s family was certainly under pressure in these years. In the summer of 1905, her 18 month old son (her sixth child) was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital in central London where he spent 75 days being treated for ‘post basic meningitis’.[viii]  It is possible that his recovery was never complete; when he was 12, he died of chronic hydrocephalus and cerebral compression, recognised meningitis complications. Great Ormond Street’s mission was to provide free treatment for the children of the poor but there was still the expense of medication after discharge. As for so many families with sick children, hospital visits and specialist extended the distances Ellen needed to travel, adding costs and complicating the care of her children – and of herself, for she gave birth to a daughter just weeks after Joseph’s discharge from Great Ormond Street Hospital  – and disrupting any chances she had to supplement the family income.

Her husband, John, whom she had married in 1893, was discharged from the Army in 1901 on grounds of ill health. Until then, both pay and accommodation were erratic – some years in Army barracks in London, some years as a reservist, living in some of Chelsea’s poorer streets and working as a gas stoker – and afterwards, there was little improvement. John took work where he could – as a school caretaker, as a valet. The children’s pride in their mother’s ability to cope throughout is evident; ‘It’s marvellous, you know, what the Old Lady done, really. How she got by with all them kids’.

Sylvia left London for a time to study – and paint – women workers in England and Scotland, returning when required by her family to get back to the suffrage campaign. Perhaps if the house in Park Walk – number 45 – had survived (it was cleared away by inter war development), it might have earned itself a blue plaque, marking it as the first home of the London Committee of the WSPU, before the move to Clements Inn.

Ellen and her family stayed in Chelsea, moving into a larger house in Park Walk, which meant that extra income could be obtained by taking in lodgers. By 1911, nine children and four lodgers were crammed into the house. More children were to come, more struggle was to follow. Just as I wish I had known Sylvia Pankhurst and had just an ounce or so of the courage she displayed when enduring prison sentences, hostility and public derision, I wish I had known the woman who has also become a hero to me – my great grandmother. Her courage, like that of other unsung, barely remembered working class mothers, inspires me daily. I reckon the two would have liked each other.

[1] E Sylvia Pankhurst, 1931, The Suffragette Movement (London, Virago Press), edition 1988


[ii] Pankhurst, The Suffragette Movement, p197


[iii] Pankhurst, The Suffragette Movement, p 199


[iv]Pankhurst, Suffragette Movement, p214


[v] Annie Kenney, Memories of A Militant (London, Edward Arnold and Co), 1924. Kenney discusses meals eaten in Sylvia’s rooms, p62


[vi] Maud Pember Reeves, 1913, Round About A Pound A Week (London, Virago) edition 1999,  p95


[vii]Lara Marks, Metropolitan Maternity: Maternal and Infant Welfare Services in Early twentieth Century London, (Amsterdam, Rodopi), 1996 p 101-2


[viii] HHARP, Historic Hospital Admission Records Project http://www.hharp.org Kingston University (accessed January 2016)

See below for some photos to accompany the blog.

Photos for Ellen & Sylvia