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The Channel Islands and the Great War
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Guernsey Women and the War
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'The Daily Express' of 11th December 1916 stated that "Two and a half years ago the general public thought women unsuited for most occupations other than those of a strictly domestic character. Now it is quite commonly supposed that a woman can do anything after six weeks training." This change in attitude was apparent in the Channel Islands as much anywhere else in Britain. The majority of young women either stayed at home helping their mothers, worked on the family farm or horticultural business, or, in the case of less well off families, went into domestic service until they married and ran their own households. A smaller number of middle class women had begun to train as teachers and nurses, a continuation of the traditional caring role, and wealthier women sometimes undertook voluntary work of a philanthropic nature.

However, except in larger industrial centres, where relatively large numbers of women had been working in factories since the latter part of the nineteenth century, most women's work was still essentially "of a domestic character", and usually ceased on marriage.

The huge loss of life early in the Great War changed all this. It meant that women were suddenly being encouraged to take on roles traditionally only open to men, to release more of them for active service at the Front.

A booklet entitled 'Sarnia's Record in the Great War', by E.V Davis, published soon after the war, notes that "As early as February 1915 …. Sir Reginald (Hart, The Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey) suggested female labour at a conference with the Bailiff and Jurats……Many gently-nurtured girls have since left Guernsey to work in the Land Army, and in our own island girls have been pressed into the service of grower and farmer."

Can women dig?
This is supported by an article in the 'Guernsey Weekly Press' of 3 March 1917, entitled "Can Women Dig?" This states that Mr Gilroy of Pleinheaume applied for men workers but got no response, but when he applied for women, he had 37 replies. It goes on to say that "Two have been engaged, and are doing general work on the farm and in the vineries. However, the two women, Misses Laura Le Page and Elsie Sebire were paid substantially less than the men, the men actually receiving a rise when the women were taken on. They also were only allowed to take a quarter to half a barrow load of earth in each load that they wheeled into the greenhouses."
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