With the introduction of conscription in early 1916 almost all available men where called on to enlist and gradually women were called on to fill their roles. Despite concerns that women would take jobs from men they were needed urgently to keep the country running. Already by February 1915 articles were appearing in the St Neots Advertiser supporting ‘Farm Work for Women’, and by June 1916 a meeting had been held in St Neots to organise the employment of women on the land.
A postcard showing St Neots Hospital parade for 1917 with women land workers on a hay cart was sent to a friend by a local woman.
However women were also employed in many other roles during the war, in particular in shops such as the local grocers, the International Stores, which ran adverts explaining that by employing women it had released 2,000 men to join the armed forces. This was seen as so significant in St Neots that a photograph was taken of the new female staff standing outside the shop with their male colleagues.
St Neots also gained its first Post woman in 1915 and for the first time women were appointed to important managerial posts; it was reported that a woman had been appointed a School Attendance Officer in Bedfordshire.
Farm work for women, St Neots Advertiser, 12th February 1915
St Neots Advertiser, 9th June 1916
St Neots Advertiser, 23rd June 1916
St Neots International Stores Advert, St Neots Advertiser 22nd October 1915
St Neots Advertiser, 22nd October 1915 (Mr Phillips ran a photographic studio in St Neots)
‘People Say’ article in St Neots Advertiser, 18th August 1916 – this was a really remarkable salary for a woman in 1916