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With their men away fighting on the front line women of Britain enjoyed a new found freedom during WW1 and filled public houses, causing moral outrage and calls for the Government to keep them at home, researchers have found.
Through old newspapers available to search online at family history website Genes Reunited, the true extent of the indignation at the sight of women filling the alehouses across the country has been discovered. As the number of women visiting pubs increased they were compared to prostitutes and newspapers reported calls for “drastic” action.
Having control of the finances seems to have enabled the women to socialise more. In 1914 the Aberdeen Journal reported: “Having more money in their hands than usual, there were only too many ready to help them to spend it in the wrong way.”
In 1916 the matter was debated at the Bootle Licensing Magistrates and the Liverpool Echo reported that a Captain Oversby said: “In the opinion of the committee, the great increase in the number of women visiting public-houses during the past year has demanded drastic treatment.”
A number of different measures were discussed by the Licensing Magistrates to stop women visiting the public houses, including a refurbishment of all public houses. “All licensed houses to be provided with clear plate-glass windows; partitions, snugs and other obstacles likely to facilitate secret drinking, be done away with.”
In 1915, the Manchester Evening News reported that a member of the county magistrates, Mr Theophilus Simpson, had been shocked to count “26 women enter a licensed house in ten minutes, with 16 coming out who he had not seen enter.” He likened this type of behaviour to that of a prostitute “Some people said women have a right to spend their money as they liked; they might as well say that they had a right to sell themselves if they like.”
Rhoda Breakell, Head of Genes Reunited, said: ‘‘ Despite the negative press, women continued to enjoy themselves in the pubs. Looking through the records on Genes Reunited can provide a great insight into social history, shedding light on how much things have changed for all of us in a comparatively short space of time.”
Look through Genes Reunited's online newspaper collection from yesteryear, search the 515 million records, 780 million names and community boards to connect with family past and present. Why not see if you can find a long lost family member, unearth family secrets, discover who you get your looks from, or build your family tree. Visit http://www.genesreunited.co.uk